When it comes to wasting time in front of a computer, I’m a triple black belt.
Over the last 4 years of working for myself, I’ve wasted not just hours or even days in front of a computer, but weeks, if not months.
I’ve got entrepreneurs ADD in the worst way possible. Focus has always been a challenge for me, so I’m actually pretty amazed I’ve been able to get as much done with my business as I have.
But I’ve always felt there should be a better way.
I’ve tried accountability groups, productivity apps, and all sorts of other gimmicks for getting more stuff done, but on their own, nothing seemed to work.
Recently I spent some time reviewing and considering what’s important to me in life. I’m a lifestyle entrepreneur, my whole goal with my businesses is to give me more time to do the things I want to do – yet I often find that all I’m doing is spending more time at my computer in a desperate attempt at being productive.
You see our whole lives we’ve had the idea of a 9 to 5 workday ingrained in us. 4 years of entrepreneurship later, and that still hasn’t completely gone away. In fact, it’s gotten worse in someways. Now instead of 9 to 5, it’s more like 6 am to midnight.
There’s always something you could be doing, so there are times I feel that work never really shuts off for me. A big part of this problem is that when I’m actively working, I’m not getting as much done as I should.
It’s kind of like how in a day job where you’re underworked, you drag things out to fill out the day. I do a similar thing, except because I have so much to do, I often get paralyzed into inaction and do nothing instead.
It was this recent re-evaluation that led me to try an experiment.
I told myself, what if I were to only allowed to work until noon everyday?
The hypothesis was I could get twice as much done as an average work day, in half the time.
The results have surprised even me.
I’m one of those people who’s most productive in the morning.
Simply put, the earlier I get up, the more I’ll get done.
So I made the goal to be up and working by 6:30 each morning.
That gave me 5 and a half hours to get stuff done before calling it quits for the day.
I’ve recently stumbled upon an app called Focus at Will, which has been unbelievable for my productivity. It’s essentially a tool that plays specially composed instrumental music that has a goal of getting you in the zone for 100 minutes at a time.
I shoot for 3 100 minute sessions with 30 minutes worth of breaks each day.
For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m actually able to get stuff done without struggling through it.
What’s the secret?
Here’s exactly how I setup my days in order to get more done and have more fun in the process.
Step 1: Wake up Early
How much I get done in a day is often directly correlated to when I get up. If I’m up before 7? Good day. Later than 9? I’m in trouble. Anything in between is up to how prepared I am to get to work.
Not everyone is a morning person, but by figuring out when you’re most productive and always being “on” at those times, you’ll be setting yourself up for a much greater chance of success.
Step 2: Turn on Focus at Will
I’m not sure if this program actually works, or if it’s simply placebo from taking the time to consciously turn it on and make the decision to get down to business.
Either way? Focus@Will is magic.
I’ve introduced a number of friends and bloggers to it, and almost always about a week later I get a thank you message from them. It works that well.
Step 3: Have a Very Clear To Do List Prepared the Night Before
If I have to think about what I need to get done when I sit down to work, nothing will. Each night before I go to bed I have my “top 5″ or my most important things I want to get done for the day.
These should be business building activities. Email doesn’t count, unless I’ve been particularly far behind.
One of my biggest weaknesses is always doing the easy activities that allow me to maintain my business, but not grow it. By plotting out my to do items the day before, I’m able to get a clear sense of what will really grow the business the following day.
Step 4: Do the Hardest Thing First
I know that by the time mid-day hits, my energy is going to start to wane. At that time, it’ll be much more difficult to do anything I don’t want to do, so I always try and do the hardest or most valuable items first.
I’m always tempted to answer emails, but unless there’s something urgent it can wait.
Step 5: Focus Only on Things that Build the Business
Last week I had one of my biggest sales of the year. I’d been wanting to merge all of my courses and do a sale around it for months, but it just kept always getting pushed back.
This process I’m outlining here is the reason I got it done. I mapped out what I needed to do, and spent a couple hours each morning making sure I was pushing myself closer to that goal.
Big projects never get done if you don’t have a framework for completing them. It’s easy to do nothing but write blog posts and answer emails, but is that really growing your business? Not generally.
Step 6: Schedule Something at 12:30
So here’s where things get interesting. For a couple weeks in July, I used this framework and then gave myself permission to stop working at noon. For the first week, this was nearly impossible, but as I started scheduling things early in the afternoon, the need to be more productive in the morning became greater.
It’s summer and what good is a lifestyle business if you can’t enjoy it? I booked tee times at 1pm. Headed out for beer festivals, or simply setup coffee or lunch dates with people I wanted to connect with.
What I found is that when I stopped working around noon, I got more done and had more fun in the process.
Step 7: If Necessary Schedule Another 90 Minute Work Session Later in Afternoon
As much as I’d like to completely quit work at noon every day and go golf, I realize this isn’t always feasible. So I’ll often book an additional 90 minute work session for a couple days a week to do later in the afternoon or the evening. I use this time mostly for emails, preparing for the next day, scheduling interviews or anything else that isn’t primarily devoted to business growth.
Is This Actually Sustainable Long Term?
The more I challenge the 9 to 5 workday, the more I embrace the fact that I can work however I want – and the more I find myself enjoying work.
While it’s obviously not feasible to do this every day, throughout the rest of the summer I’m really focusing on making my work time more productive, and my play time more abundant and enjoyable.
How do you like to work? Have you ever tried something similar with your work day?