Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #130 / What you don't see

What you don’t see

Before we start, I want you to know that I’m not covering a typical productivity topic. However, this can negatively impact your productivity and the goals we set for ourselves. 

I was talking with someone this morning and the state of her desk came up. She shared she was frustrated by the piles all over it.

We talked about this for a bit and I shared that when I was a kid, my mom referred to me as her “pile child.” She always knew where I had been sitting in the living room because I had a pile, or two, of what I had been working on near me.

We chatted a bit more and then I was asked: “do you have piles on your desk now?”

Yes. I have a couple of piles on my desk now. 

The piles are receipts and credit card statements for this year that I haven’t processed and put away yet.

That’s generally what my pile is, one or two piles of bills, receipts, or statements that I haven’t put away yet.

I have three drafts in different states of completion on three different topics for this week’s article.

I’m not happy with any of them.

The message in them isn’t clear to me. They’re good starts, but I don’t know how to end them.

Last week I was talking with someone who shared that she felt unprepared when networking. Everyone else seems so together and confident. 

I compared networking to those perfect Instagram pictures you see.

In those Instagram pictures, you feel like you’re getting a glimpse into someone’s perfect life. 

What you don’t see is all the time it took to get their hair and makeup to look perfect. And in some cases, someone was hired to do their hair and makeup.

You don’t see how long it took to get that perfect picture.

You don’t see the screaming kids in the background, the stress and frustration, the things that went wrong, the things that they’re worried about, or their bank account numbers (sometimes they’re not anywhere near as healthy as they pretend).

You see what they want you to see.

Networking can be much the same.

You don’t see all the events they went to where they talked to no one.

You don’t see them taking a break in the bathroom stall to regroup (I’ve done this!).

You don’t see all the ways they miffed that 30-second elevator pitch or felt awkward as they got more comfortable doing it.

You don’t see the time and effort they spent playing with and perfecting that elevator pitch.

You don’t see any number of things happening behind the scenes of their business or life.

You see what they’re sharing with you and how they’re showing up that day.

Which is fine, but you can’t compare all the things you’re feeling below the surface and the things you know are happening (or not happening) in your business to what others are choosing to share with you.

This is why I started with sharing about the piles on my desk. In the videos, my camera is situated in a way that you see me, not my desk. You’re seeing what I’m choosing to share.

This is why I shared about the three unused topics. It might seem like I just magically have a topic every week, but that’s only because you don’t see the unused topics. I wrote today’s topic about two hours ago because I didn’t have a topic yet.

Where you are is perfect.

Some are ahead of you and some are behind you. It’s all good.

You have the inside track to all the things working and not working for you right now. But you can’t see those things in other people unless they give you a glimpse in. And even then, it’s only a glimpse, while you have a front-row seat to your life and business.

Keep this in mind when you’re comparing yourself to someone else.

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to Getting Things Done #130

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #129 / Are you as organized as you think?

Are you as organized as you think?

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with someone who set up a time to talk with me. She shared that she was already pretty organized and productive, and was hoping to up that game just a little bit.

She shared all the things she had going on and what she was hoping would go a bit better (and this lady has a lot of spinning plates up in the air).

I asked her how she was keeping track of everything.

Her answer was not uncommon “I make a list every night.”

I hear this a lot, and it’s a great answer. I do this and recommend others do this too.

I probed a bit deeper and learned that the list is on whatever piece of paper is close to her at the end of the day.

I hear this all the time. Todo lists written on whatever paper or scrap is close, and a day or two later, it’s lost. So, if you didn’t get to something one day, you’re just hoping you remember what it is.

I recommend people have three lists.

  1. Quarterly/Monthly list
    This holds your goals for the current quarter and month and what projects and things need to be done so you can reach your goal.
  2. Weekly list
    The list of what needs to be done this week to be on track to meet your quarterly and monthly goals.
  3. Daily todo list.
    This is the one most people have. It’s what needs to be done today so you’re on track to meet your weekly goals. 
    Sometimes it’s not as detailed as it needs to be. You might have a small (or large) project listed on your todo list as one item and get frustrated that you couldn’t get it finished. Instead, make sure you break those projects up into their individual steps.
    For example, one small project might be “writing your blog.” Instead of putting that on your todo list alone, you might write it down and then fill out the steps underneath.

Sometimes people will ask me to tell them how I keep track of everything.

I always hesitate to share because the system I use now is not exactly what I did a year ago, and my system a year ago is different than two years before that.

Two years ago, the system I use now would not have worked for me. I didn’t have the habits and processes in place that make it a success for me now.

Your systems and processes for keeping track of your business and life will change over time, just as you and your business shift and change.

The key is to notice when something isn’t working as well as it used to and tweak it.

One way I can tell if something no longer working for me is if I’ve been diligently using it and then find I’m not doing it anymore for no particular reason.

The common thread behind all the ways I’ve kept track of my intentions and goals is the three lists above.

The way those lists are formatted and arranged has changed a lot over the past few years, but those three lists have always been at the core.

Going back to the women I mentioned earlier, we decided to map out her projects for the next couple of months, so she had a really good idea of what time, if any, she had for any new things that might pop up.

As we created the lists, she got a bit overwhelmed and wondered aloud how she’d ever get everything done.

I paused and said, “you mentioned earlier that you always get everything done.”

She assured me that she had this kind of workload before, and everything always gets done by focusing on one thing at a time.

My response was, “That’s great! So, tell me, if you get everything done without it all being written down, why would having the list change anything?”

She laughed.

Having a list of what needs to be completed each week this month for each project you’re working on means you’re not caught off guard and playing catch up one week.

With the list, you know that you’re not forgetting something. And if you did forget something, you can add it to your list when you realize it.

These three lists free up your mind to not worry about the projects and tasks in your business on your off-hours.

If you’d like some help setting up your three lists and determining what format works best for you, I’d love to help you with that (seriously, it’s a lot of fun for me!) You can set that up by heading over to my contact page here and filling out the form. Just share what you want help with, and we’ll get something set up.

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to Getting Things Done #129

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #128 / Why you should create your new habit in phases

Why you should create your new habit in phases

One part of creating the productivity and results you want in your business (and life) is creating habits that support you.

When someone is creating a new habit I often see them jump right into it.

Then they get frustrated when it doesn’t get easier after a few days or it might even get harder.

Then the new habit is abandoned.

Think of it this way, if you wanted to start lifting weights and decided the place to start was curling a 50-pound weight, you’d probably fail.

You need to build your muscles to do that (and potentially talk with an expert to find out if that’s a reasonable goal for you).

The point is, you’re probably not going to be curling that 50-pound weight on the first day of you lift weights.

Yet, this is how most of us approach creating habits. 

We think the way to create a new habit is to start it immediately, and if we do keep doing it, the practice will stick.

Then we get frustrated because it’s hard to keep up.

Let’s look at the habit of waking up at 6 am every day.

To create it, you set the alarm for 6 am every day.

A couple of days in, and it feels like there’s not enough coffee in the world to keep you focused all day.

One of the rules for creating a new habit is to make it easy.

How might you make getting up at 6 am every day easier for you? By going to bed at 10 pm every night. This way, you get 8 hours of sleep, and it makes getting up at 6 am easier.

How do you make going to bed at 10 pm easier? By starting your bedtime routine at 9:30.

If you’re like me, you start creating this whole new routine that includes around getting ready for bed at 9:30, going to bed at 10 pm, and setting the alarm for 6 am.

And you still might be frustrated because at 10 pm you’re NOT tired and so you lay in bed tossing and turning for an hour or more before you fall asleep and when the alarm goes off you’re still exhausted.

In James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, he talks about habit shaping, part of it is creating a new habit in phases.

If the habit is getting up at 6 am, you could start with just getting ready for bed at 9:30. Once you’ve mastered that (which might take a week or a month), you move on to the next step.

Phase 1: Get ready for bed at 9:30
Phase 2: Get in bed at 10 pm and read, chat with your partner, or play on your phone.
Phase 3: Get in bed at 10 pm and put the phone away.
Phase 4: Go to bed at 10 pm.
Phase 5: Set your alarm for 6 am.

You’ll notice I added a couple of steps between getting ready for bed and going to bed. It goes back to asking yourself what will make the next step easier.

What habits have you tried to create in the past that are still on your mind?

How might you create that habit in phases?

Keep asking yourself what will make this step easier?

I’d love to know what the phases of your new habit are! Share in the comments below.

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to Getting Things Done #128

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #127 / A quick way to tackle your messy desk while focusing on progress and not perfection

A quick way to tackle your messy desk while focusing on progress and not perfection

Messy desks. They’re a distraction that you want to clean up, but it feels like a HUGE project.

And honestly, it probably is, or you’d already have cleaned it.

A couple of years ago, my desk was in quite a state. It has a large surface area, and every bit of it was covered.

I wanted to clean it up because I knew it was distracting me, but I felt these things stood in my way:

  • I needed a system for the business cards that were piling up on my desk so they wouldn’t start piling up again.
  • I needed to remove old papers from my file cabinet to make room for the new ones.
  • I wanted to update how I filed things in the file cabinet.
  • I needed to make decisions about where I was going to store some larger items.

The list goes on and on.

To sum it up, there were systems, processes, and lots of decisions that needed to be made in the process of cleaning off my desk.

Cleaning off my desk felt important, but all those other things didn’t.

In a fit of frustration one day, I grabbed a laundry basket and put everything that I didn’t want to stay on my desk into the basket.

It felt so good!

My desk was clean in under 10 minutes.

Yes, basically, I had moved my mess to a different location, but it worked for me. The main problems where addressed: my desk was clean and I didn’t spend 2 hours cleaning it that I felt would be better spent elsewhere.

For the next month or so, the basket sat behind me. If I needed anything, it was easily accessible.

Then, one Sunday afternoon, I spent a couple of hours going through the basket and putting things away. 

When I’ve shared this story with people who have told me they’re frustrated with the state of their desk, it’s like a weight has been lifted from their shoulders. Or a big project they felt like they should do, but didn’t have time to do, was removed from their to-do list.

Sometimes we need permission to do something imperfectly and still enjoy the result we wanted!

If you need this, I give you permission!

In this example, cleaning my desk perfectly involved lots of time and decisions. Yet, I was able to get the ultimate result I wanted in a fraction of the time by not being tied to the way I thought it had to be done.

Yes, I still did that work over the next couple of months, but I was able to do it without the guilt and give myself time to figure out systems and processes that worked for me.

Is there an area in your business or life that keeps nagging you? How might you more quickly get the result you want by doing it imperfectly? Share in the comments! 


Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #126 / Do you feel like you're spending too much time working?

Do you feel like you’re spending too much time working?

Maybe you’ve recently thought something like the title, or “I should be spending more time doing x,” where is something outside of work.

If this hasn’t come up for you recently, it probably has at one point or another.

The word to notice here is should.

Notice the “I should be spending more time…”

There’s probably one of two things going on when you think or say that.

One thing is a knowing inside of us, our intuition, telling you that maybe it’s time to adjust how you’re spending your time and reset boundaries around your time.

If you need to reset boundaries, there are a couple of things to ask yourself.

The first one is: What blocks of time are absolutely, without a doubt family time, self-care time, or whatever it is that you need to set boundaries around.

Some of the blocks are one-time things. They’re special events or occasions that you want to make sure you’re there for. You put them in your calendar, and they are untouchable.

There are also more routine things. What are the times you’re there every single week or day? Maybe Thursday night is family night, and you watch TV or a movie together or play a game or have dinner together.  

There isn’t a right or wrong way to do this. It is about finding what works for you.

The second question is: What blocks of time are absolutely, without a doubt business time?

Like family time, this might be one-time special events: maybe there is a networking event one evening that is important for you to attend or some other activity. Or it might be something like “I’m working from 10-3 every weekday” That doesn’t mean that you don’t work before or after that, but you know that this time is reserved specifically for business.

Again this is about what works for you.

Here’s the thing about working for yourself: YOU get to set your hours. 

And it might be that you work 30 hours or you might work 50 or more. It’s about what works for you. And it probably changes from week to week or depending on what’s going on in your business.

This leads us to work-life balance.

Some say work-life balance does not exist. It’s a mythical unicorn that simply doesn’t exist, so don’t waste your time searching for it.

But it’s all about how you define work-life balance.

If you’re expecting to have equal parts work and life like a perfectly balanced teeter-totter (see the image below), then yes, that doesn’t exist.

Now, think of that triangle as your expectations of what your work-life balance should be. 

If you shift that triangle to the right, it allows one of the circles to be larger, and everything is still balanced.

However, if you think of the triangle as your expectations and you shift it a bit to the left because you know you’re in a season where you want or need to spend more time in your business.

Work-life balance is more about your expectations than it is about finding some equal balance.

When you shift your expectations for work-life balance, it allows it to balance.

When looking at your work-life balance, what are your expectations?

We all go through seasons in our business and personal lives where one area needs more time and attention. And that’s okay.

If there are people in your business or personal life that are affected by this shift, you’ll want to make sure that they’re on board with the change.

And if you’re spending more time with your business, make sure you’re still taking care of yourself. This includes getting enough sleep, spending time with the people you care about, and that you’re still doing the things in your personal life that are important to you.

Again, decide what work-life balance looks like for you right now and work toward that. There is no one right way to do it. It’s about what’s right for you right now.

I share a little bit more about this in the video below.

One thing is a knowing inside of us, our intuition, telling you that