Maybe you’ve been feeling it lately. That overwhelmed feeling you get when your to-do list is long but your worry list is longer? There’s a lot on your plate right now. There are scary, uncontrollable things happening in the world, maybe in your personal life and yet time doesn’t stop for your business. I feel you. Some days the last thing you want to do is answer emails or join video calls. One of the worst feelings is a big agenda and no motivation to work on it.
I work a 9-to-5 job and have created a multi-six-figure online business. Needless to say, my checklist each day can get pretty long, and more than that, juggling both mentally can sometimes be a challenge. But, over the years, I’ve learned that, even though I might not be able to control every stressor that comes my way, whether it’s in my personal or professional life, there are ways I can stay productive even when pressure mounts or stress takes over, and you can implement them as well.
1. Put Your Blinders On
I like to call it shiny object syndrome. It’s when we get distracted with the latest and greatest and lose sight of the task or goal at hand. This is a productivity killer. To prevent this, set plans, lots of them. Have daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and five-year goals written out and share them with someone who can help hold you accountable (team, partner, a coach/mentor, etc.) and put them somewhere where you can see them often. Whenever you are going through your task list ask yourself if it supports your top three long-term goals, if not put on your blinders and keep moving. Clearly set goals also help prevent decision fatigue which is super important in preventing burnout.
2. Add It to the Calendar
Put it in the schedule, always. Whether it’s following up on an email, calling a team member, or an important meeting, add everything to a calendar. Keeping all your to-do’s in one place will help you feel less scattered and less distracted. When we don’t have a clear way to organize our time it can create extra noise. Instead of focusing on one task at a time, we are nervous that we are forgetting something.
3. Work With Your Energy
Prioritization is key. This means I align my tasks with my energy levels so I can’t procrastinate. For difficult items that require a lot of brainpower or for the “I don’t really want to do tasks,” I move to my high energy times. For me, I do the most difficult tasks in the morning to create a free-ing feeling for the rest of the day. By the end of the day, most people have made so many decisions that your brain is exhausted. You don’t want to leave difficult tasks for this time as the quality will be poor or you simply won’t do them- creating a cycle of broken self-promises!
4. Focus on Feeling, Not Just Doing
How do I want to feel today? Do you ever ask yourself that? Instead of running through your to-do list first thing in the morning, ask yourself how you want to feel that day. It shouldn’t be the same each day. One day it may be “productive” or “energized” but it may be “calm” or “sleepy” another. Claim those feelings and let yourself feel them. Doing this allows you to accept the “slow” days, appreciate them, and not beat yourself up if you don’t have the most productive day. Here’s the secret, productivity doesn’t always mean work, often it means taking care of yourself.
5. Start the Clock
Set a timer. The toughest part of anything is getting started. Set a two-minute timer and just start. For me it’s writing content, I have to tell myself that if after two minutes I don’t want to work on that anymore I can stop. It’s your easy way out, no shame, no guilt. But chances are, once you start it will get you into a FLOW state and you can then create for hours. It’s like the Pringles effect; once you start you can’t stop. Turn off ALL distractions (once you get distracted it takes your brain nine minutes to get back on track) phone in another room, not other tabs open, and get in your flow.
6. Automate as Much as Possible
Work and non-work related. Less time on tasks that suck up your energy means more time on tasks that fill you up. This may mean investing in systems for invoicing, tech work, or posting to social or something like meal delivery that takes one more thing off your plate.
Entrepreneurship is challenging. There will be unbelievable pressure and stressors that will take their toll on you if you let them. But, they don’t have to cripple you or stop you in your tracks. I hope that these tips can help you move through the challenges and allow your business to keep growing through it all. And remember to have some fun—the pressure we feel is often the pressure we put on ourselves. Chances are, entrepreneurship isn’t the first time you’ve faced this type of pressure. But it is your opportunity to take it off!
About the Author: Cara Barone is a brand consultant by day and a business coach and strategist by night. She juggles a corporate 9-to-5 job with her thriving online business and helps others do the same. She helps high-performing corporate women and coaches gain confidence and clients, without sacrificing their corporate salary, sanity, and health.