It's so easy to get bogged down in tasks, to feel overwhelmed with things piling up on you, and to find yourself "working" way more hours than you ever would at a 9-5 job.
I've found myself in this place recently. Again, I should say, because I've been here before. It happens. One day you just look up and realize your online business simply isn't FUN anymore.
Is work meant to be fun? Dang straight! It is in my book, at least. The whole point to starting my own business was to create and have a lifestyle I enjoy. Period. So when I'm not enjoying it, I fix it...
First, Identify What's Going Wrong.
If things aren't going right, or aren't going the way you want them to, the first step is to figure out why. For some crazy reason, my first thought is usually "I really need to get organized." Have you ever said that to yourself??
In my experience, "getting organized" is not the solution. Not for me, anyway. It's usually a simple case of justified procrastination. It's much easier to clean off my desk and organize drawers and filing cabinets... than it is to just buckle down and do the tasks that need to be done.
It's easy to "wallow" in the reasons you are where you are, but that's pointless too. You are here. Period. For me personally I was very sick, and then down for a couple of months after major surgery. There's nothing I can do about that now except get caught up and move forward. It doesn't matter how you got into a mess, all that matters now is how you're going to get out of it.
This brings us to the real issue of what's wrong in our business right now, and why it's not running as smoothly - or not as profitable - or why we're feeling overwhelmed and/or burned out. Identify the sources of discontent:
- What do enjoy most about your business?
- What do you NOT enjoy doing?
- How are you spending your time - are you spinning your wheels, or are you working consistently and strategically toward your true goals?
The first step is knowing what you want your life and business to BE.
Have a very clear objective, and a clear image of where you want to be a year from now - and ten years from now. Once you have that nailed, everything you do should move you in that direction.
If you're not 100% (without a doubt) sure, spend some time doing a "brain dump" or journaling that out. Imagine your ideal life, how you would prefer to spend your time, and all the elements it would take to be completely happy.
Next, keep a Time Log for 72 hours and document how you're really spending your time. How much of your daily activity is spent on priority tasks that actually move you toward your goals - or your ideal lifestyle?
Create a Routine That Works For YOU.
Structure is good. Some people work best with a strict routine, while others achieve more with a loose schedule that allows their entrepreneurial side some breathing room. Figure out which works best for you, and create a routine that works with (instead of against) your individual personality type and personal strengths.
(This is all core set-up stuff. We'll get to the FUN part in a sec. But it's important to deal with the mental blocks and bad habits first, and create a solid base so you can dig in and start enjoying your business again!)
I actually prefer a fluid lifestyle, with plenty of room for creative inspiration - and spontaneous social time. Of course, that only works if you're actually productive and you're consistently growing your business...
Turn Your Priorities Into A Game!
True productivity takes serious self-discipline. It's about getting things done. And not just getting anything done, but the specific tasks that bring in revenue or move your business forward - period. Nothing else really matters.
You're going to create your own routine or business/life structure based on your vision of *your* ideal lifestyle, and the steps and tasks it will take to get there. Start with the basics: what do you need to do or achieve to make it so? Then break those things down into daily steps and micro-tasks so you can dig in and start moving toward that goal strategically.
Are you familiar with the term gamification?
Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context in order to engage users and solve problems.
Gamification techniques leverage people's natural desires for competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism, and closure. A core strategy for gamifying is to provide rewards for players for accomplishing desired tasks. -source
I've turned my own priorities and goals into a "game" with the use of Time Blocks. I have daily, weekly and monthly Time Blocks set up as checklists in Evernote.
As just one example, "exercise" is a daily time block. It doesn't matter if I go to the gym and do a full hour workout, or sweep the entire basement - as long as I break a sweat and get some physical exercise that day I get to "check the box."
I keep it super simple, because I am more of a free-flow personality myself.
My time block method allows me to do whatever, whenever - as long as I check off each block before the end of the day. I tend to try to do those as early in the day as possible though, because then the rest of the day is "free" for creative thinking or whatever else I may want to do.
Obviously my Time Blocks are directly related to my highest personal and business priorities. They are all things that consistently move me toward my ideal lifestyle.
This method turns boring old "self-discipline" into more of a game, and I find it really works for me. It's a personal competition, and a race to the reward.
Sticking To Your Routine:
You may have tried routines and schedules before. Maybe they weren't right for you. Maybe they were routines you tried to adopt from someone else, or concepts you read about in a book. The key is to run your business in a way that suits your individual style and your specific strengths. Otherwise you'll always be working against yourself, and it will never "stick."
In your "structure" set up a Time Block once a week where you spend an hour or two evaluating your progress and your priorities. Use that time for brainstorming and planning, and to map out the week ahead. Scheduling in this time consistently (every week) will help you stay on track with your priorities and objectives.
I do this on Friday mornings simply because that's when I have more free time and less on my brain. It's important to schedule your planning/brainstorming when you have a block of free time where you're not rushed or stressed.
While you have long-term goals, and it may take years to achieve your ideal lifestyle and see the level of success you're after, you have to stay grounded in the short term goals and the consistent daily tasks in order to make it happen. Setting aside time each week to keep yourself on the right track is key.
Do Whatever it Takes. This is YOUR Life.
Being stressed is not fun. Never achieving your goals is discouraging. Life is short, and it is flying by, so it's time to take control and make things happen.
Figure out what you most want, figure out what it will take to have it, and create a plan that works. Other people are doing it, and so can you.
But keep in mind it's not ALL about the end result. It's about enjoying life along the way too. Get back to what you love about your business, which may require a little "housekeeping" first. Get it done, get back on the right track, and you'll find your motivation and creative inspiration kick back in full force.
I would love to hear your thoughts. What do you feel holds you back most - is it being unorganized, a lack of self-displine, not focusing on the RIGHT tasks that make a real difference in your online business, or what exactly? And more importantly: what can you do to change that, and start moving forward faster?
p.s. I highly recommend Zen to Done if you haven't read it already. And if you have a copy, it may be time to read it again. It offers very simple (actionable!) concepts that anyone can easily implement. They aren't techniques that go against your normal flow, forcing new habits that are hard to maintain long term, just very simple concepts you can incorporate one at a time.
It made a huge difference in how I manage things - everything from mail to tasks to how I spend my time. I highly recommend it. It's an easy read, super-practical and easy to put into action.