Meetings. Events. Deadlines. Audiences. How’s a person to get it all done and still have time for all the “good stuff” like family, friends, and personal time? Impossible? Not at all. But you do have to develop a strategy, a structure, and a system—and be sure that they dovetail with your specific business and you as a person, so you can work at peak performance without tipping over into exhaustion.
Take me, for example. As an attention expert and keynote speaker, I spend a lot of time on airplanes, walking convention floors, meeting clients, coaching, creating, and sharing ideas and strategies with the people in my mentoring program—and of course, running a business and all that entails. The easiest way for our team to accelerate productivity is to systemize the week and protect weekends as recovery time whenever possible. Here’s how we structure a typical week:
• Monday: meeting with mentors in mentoring, networking, client appointments; writing, strategy, and often this is a travel day to speak at an event.
• Tuesday to Thursday: speaking, media interviews, and traveling.
• Friday: more speaking, meeting with mentors (mostly in the morning), writing, setting up the next week, and catching up.
While the structure doesn’t work every week, it is a good, simple guideline that allows us to balance what we do with how we do it.
Ready to get down to structuring your own success plan to take you into the new year? Here are a few things to consider:
1. Put first things first—and that first thing is you. “But Neen, there’s no time,” you say. I answer, “Make the time. You can’t pour from an empty cup.” If you’re not healthy, happy, and looking after yourself, you’ll never be your best for your business, your members, your family, or anyone else. So book an appointment every day that is focused on you. This might include exercise, meditation, quiet time, reading, self development—or all of the above!
2. Get crystal clear—it’s hard to hit a moving target. When you’re unsure of your plan, your goals, or your vision for the most important things you’re eager to achieve, it’s fairly hard to knock it out of the park. The good news is when you’re exceptionally clear on what you want, where you’re headed, and what your highest vision is for your future, you’ll jump out of bed each day with a passion to make those things happen—you can’t lose. For me, I love to speak on productivity, helping people make room in their lives and to pay attention to the things that really matter. That’s my focus, my very simple “why.” The simplicity allows me to determine where I want to spend my time—it becomes a filtering system for time choices.
3. Block time for business. Admin work—seriously not my favorite thing, or most other people’s favorite thing either. But businesses require administration, attention to details, and—dare I say it?—paperwork. I’m grateful to have a wonderful virtual business manager, Maria Novey, who does much of the heavy lifting for me, but some of it still needs my undivided attention. So, I block time for that.
I try to do it on Mondays when possible. Which makes me laugh because it reminds me of Mark Twain’s story about being given a list of tasks that you have to accomplish by the end of the day, one of which is eating a frog. Yuck! But, as Mark Twain said, “If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worse thing that is going to happen to you all day long.” What’s your “frog”? It may be the biggest thing on your plate, or the most daunting, or the most boring, or the scariest—it’s that thing you’d least like to do. Knock it out of the way first thing (like on a Monday), and the rest of the day, or week, is your oyster.
4. Block time for your projects. Ours is a busy, demanding world. There is always a list of projects that require our attention, but it can be intimidating to find the time to get it all done.
Let me share an example of how my team tackled this, and see if it works for you as well. Like many of you I serve on some boards, including the National Speakers Association board, and I once was tapped to co-chair an event. This was a super time-intensive commitment that easily could have become a full-time job, although not one that would increase my revenue directly. So managing the time I spent on it was a priority. We decided, as a team, to restrict the allotted time for the project to Monday afternoons and Friday mornings. If we needed to speak with my co-chair or reach out to participants, we had to do it in one of these time blocks. Time blocking is a beautiful thing. It provides clarity, and structure, and takes away stress. Just like when your work space is orderly—with a place for everything and everything in its place. When there’s a time for everything and everything is in its time block, you breathe a little easier. Have time for the good stuff. Ask yourself, “What projects am I working on that I could time block this week?” Then do it!
5. Manage interruptions. Stuff happens—wherever you work, interruptions are inevitable. For some, that one little blip in the daily timetable throws off their groove for a week! Instead, take a proactive approach to how you handle interruptions. Try wearing headphones while you complete tasks, stand up when someone comes in your office to help accelerate the conversation, or create a do-not-disturb sign (that the whole team understands) while you are chin-deep on a deadline, prospecting, or otherwise working on an intense project.
6. Try systems on for size. While change is amazing, getting used to a new system, strategy, or structure can cause a few detours along the way. Not everything will work, and that’s all right. Be willing to give it a try. Select a week, advise your team of the goal you want to accomplish, block the time for training and implementation, then review at the end of the week to see if it’s a keeper of an idea, if it needs tweaking, or if it’s a dud for you and yours. Keep trying new things, and you’ll find that your business will expand proportionately!
The best of luck with: Systems that work for you … Tools that make sense ... Structure that helps eliminate stress … And time to pay attention to the things that matter most in your life. I wish you every success in the new year.
Please feel free to reach out if you get lost on one of those detours—I’m here to help!