How many times have you made a big goal in your life or business and then found yourself thinking, “I’m just going to have to work harder to make it happen…”?
It seems like most of us — especially entrepreneurs — are hardwired to use “work harder” as our default method of goal achievement.
Or maybe your inner voice says things like “I just have to be more productive…”
The secret about productivity is that it is almost never about working harder, but rather about working smarter.
In my world, working smarter means following a few simple rules that help me be more productive by being more selective about my goals and to-do lists in the first place.
Below I’ve listed my top 5 steps to be more productive and turn your goals into reality, and to really drive home the point, I’m also giving you my Daily To-Do Planner for free — click here to download this worksheet that is normally only available inside the Goal Achievement Planner Guide for Business Class Members.
In last week’s article, I talked about the importance of breaking down your big goals into smaller and smaller chunks until you have daily action steps. Once you’ve done this, you should be able to take your Daily To-Do Planner and list out your top 3 action items for any given day.
But — and this is key — if you try to load up your daily to-do list with too many tasks (working “harder”) you’re going to either burn out or think you’re a failure because you can’t accomplish it all.
The smart way to achieve your goals is to focus and ensure that you’re not overreaching yourself at any given time. If you need more help planning achievable goals, my Goal Achievement Planner inside Business Class is a resource that can help.
2. Take Action
Sometimes we can still feel stuck or unsure of where to begin, even when we’ve been deliberate about breaking down our goals.
The beauty of a daily to-do list with no more than 3 items on it is that it should free you from the shackles of overwhelm.
If you’re feeling stuck, review your to-do list and make the commitment to just take action. Even if on the simplest one. Often times the hardest part is just getting started.
If you don’t know what to even put ON your to-do list, go back to your goals and ask yourself what the very next step you need to take to achieve it would be — again, even if it’s simple. Put that on your list and go do it!
3. Identify Where You Are Wasting Time
One of the biggest mistakes I see busy entrepreneurs make is wasting time focusing on the wrong tasks. Often a business owner who is trying to do everything ends up accomplishing nothing toward her biggest goals.
Identifying where you are wasting time in your business is about figuring out where you are most valuable and managing your time to be able to devote as much of yourself to those tasks as possible.
- If you are an Etsy shop owner with back orders, then you probably should be outsourcing your social media work to focus more of your time on product creation.
- If you’re an information marketer, then your priority should be connecting with your community, building rapport, and delivering content rather than, perhaps, working on your website development or setting up your landing pages.
You have to know when to outsource.
You also need to figure out where in your life you could be saving time, not just in your business.
We women are especially guilty of thinking that if we are working from home, we need to be taking care of all the home chores as well as running our business. Yet many chores that eat up your time during the week can be affordably outsourced.
Perhaps that Amazon Prime membership is worth the 99/year, or maybe that organic grocery delivery service is worth the cost if it saves you two trips to Whole Foods per week. Other ideas might be a cleaning service, laundry service, dog walking or grooming service, meal delivery service, etc.
4. Leave Room in the Plan
When you’re focused on achieving big things, it’s easy to fill your entire schedule up with things to do.
But what happens when a task takes longer than you planned? Or when something completely out of your control throws things out of balance?
It might be that an employee or contractor quits or gets delayed, a family member might get sick and need your attention, a shipment of product might be waylaid by a storm, some legal paperwork gets held up by the government… Any number of scenarios can throw you off course, even when you’ve made great plans.
So it’s important to leave a little wiggle room in your plans.
And remember, having big goals and not over scheduling yourself are not mutually exclusive. One of your goals in having a business might be having more freedom or time with family — and working 60 or 80 hours a week isn’t going to achieve that.
Focus on the tasks that will make the biggest impact for you and in your business and focus on those projects first.
And don’t forget to consider your passion projects and “shiny objects.” One business owner I know has adopted Google’s “20 percent time” plan for his own weekly schedule. Fridays are his “20 percent time” during which he can follow whatever creative ideas or passion is currently lighting him up.
5. Be Flexible
If you don’t leave room in the plan, then it will be harder to be flexible when you need to, and also harder to remain positive and goal-oriented.
You’ll end up reacting to your business rather than being proactive and making things happen.
Being flexible and being willing to make adjustments to your plan when warranted will allow you to make the smart decisions that you need to make in order to reach your goals.
Remember: The plan isn’t written in stone! Things change along the way. A truly important part of planning is working in time to assess and rework the plan as you go — say, every 90 days. If things have changed and your roadmap no longer leads where you want to go, change it! You’re the boss, after all.