OK, maybe not quite like Aerosmith. They’re pretty much Kings of the whole rockin’ it thang.
But you can make every day count even when it feels like you can’t.
I don’t know about you but I’ve been feeling like “work” is a bit slow lately. I find myself with not as much “vital I need to get this done to get paid shit” and more of the “less vital I need to get this done because I really want to shit”.
Which leaves me room to slack and tell myself “there’s nothing to do”. Give myself up to the whole less is more mentality… even if in fact, less isn’t really more this time around.
Mayhap you you’re similar. Maybe you feel like there’s nothing much you can do without a to-do list of work projects a mile long. I feel ya… I’ve had some days where I’ve felt at a total loss because I really don’t have anything pressing to get done.
It’s kind of an unsure feeling at first, feeling like you’ve got nothing productive to do. It makes you feel like business is suffering, even if it really isn’t!
So what I like to do is change my perceptions of “having nothing to do”. I mean let’s face it… we don’t REALLY have nothing to do… it just feels that way because all time “sensitive projects” are caught up and there is nothing do or die that’s demanding your attention.
So on days like this, I’ve decided to be grateful to have an extra “free” day and have made up my mind to use it productively by taking care of some routine stuff I might not be caught up on, or some general “home office” housekeeping.
It’s also time I can use to make the stuff that is mine, such as this blog or products I create uniquely kick ass and stellar and continue ramping up my personal brand.
Potential “Routine” Stuff
- Cleaning off your desk.
- Catching up on your blog reading.
- Catching up on your blog commenting.
- Marketing and promotion.
- Catching up on emails.
- Catching up on social networks.
- Planning new business strategies.
- Planning new potential products.
- Refining and improving current products and strategies.
- Planning and/or writing extra blog posts for emergencies.
- Finally reading that book you know will be a massive help to your business.
But Maybe You’re On the Flip Side of “Free”
Mayhap you’re having a really hectic, really hellish time at the office because the work doesn’t seem to stop.
I mean sure, sure it’s great to have all these projects twirling round your desk; it means your business is brisk and even growing. But the reality is you’d secretly give a left pinky toe to have one of those slow, “free” days to catch your breath and get some rest.
Trust me, I’ve had those too!
It helps of course when you love what you do, but there is still a limit to what you can accomplish without burning out. Even when you love it!
All that being said… I’ll let you in on a little secret.
You can be productive and awesome regardless of which type of day you’re having, with a bit of creative self-management and a propensity for lists. And here are a few of my ideas on ways to do it. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.
Be a Nerd- Create a List of Things to Do
I know you’re probably rolling your eyes at me, preparing to totally tune me out when I start talking lists. I get it, lists are boring. Especially when you try to make them all complicated and visualize 6 months into the future with them.
But you know what?
A basic list makes things (for me) 10 times easier and more manageable than having no list. Honestly, when I start off a day with no list of what I want to accomplish I feel scattered and unorganized. When that happens I usually end up surfing the net, playing on Twitter, checking email 50 times a day, and then glancing at the clock at 6pm wondering where the hell my day went!
But if you take a moment to create a quick list of goals for the day… suddenly you’ve got direction! Now you know exactly where to start your day, what needs to be done first, and everything just sort of falls into place.
Good-bye stress. Hello sweet feelings of accomplishment. (Feel free to do a bit of back patting too.)
I mean, haven’t you always wondered why us marketing folks just love making PowerPoint presentations filled with all those lists and bullets? (Hint: It’s not just ‘cause we like to play with cool diagrams and create pretty presentations!)
The day I started making my own lists revealed exactly what all those guru marketing strategy experts have known all along… lists work! Lists rule even!
Yes, even if your list is just a scrap of paper, as long as it contains all you need to know (and do) for the day, you’re golden.
A list is like a map that helps you get from point A to point B. It helps you prioritize and determine which things are urgent and which ones can wait for another day when you’ve got more time to kill.
Personally I like making what I call “brain dump” lists, where I list EVERYTHING I can think of that I want and/or need to do, whenever. Then I’m free every evening to write a “to-do” list for the next day, based on some of those brain dump items.
This allows me to stop them from racketing around in my brain like a ping pong ball, worried I’ll forget about it and frees up my mental space for some much needed focus and creativity.
So scoff if you like at making lists and keeping yourself organized… but no one can argue they aren’t handy or effective!
Be a Chatterbox- To Your Team That Is
OK, let’s just admit it shall we?
You can’t possibly do everything singlehandedly all the time.
Doesn’t matter how good that list is, invariably you WILL forget something that needs to be done or forget something you WANT to be done. No bones about it. (That’s exactly why I like brain dump lists… mine is ever growing as I add new things I don’t want to forget to do! Which incidentally can happen often…)
Especially if you suffer from Old-Timer’s disease. Me, I suffer from early-onset Old-Timer’s disease, so let’s just pretend I know what I’m talking about shall we?
But that’s when talking to your team can help you get things sorted and make sure everything you want and need to get done is… well… getting done. Other people offer new perspective and fresh brain power.
And if you encourage your team to make their own day-to-day “to-do” lists, then you’ll practically ensure nothing slips under the radar! I mean one person’s individualized list is good, of course. But a team-wide “to-do” list?
That’s like Olympic style business practices or something! (Only without the sweating, the panting, or the shiny Gold medals, mores the pity!)
Plus getting a team perspective on things that are important and that need to be done within your organization let’s your team know you value them and that you’re willing to listen to their input. That creates not just team members but loyal soldiers who’ll have your back for life.
We’ll call it shorthand for “I value your work and I need you to help me make a decision for the good of all of us.”
It doesn’t matter what sort of decision you have to do that day—“should we buy a new fax machine? Are we ready to upgrade our equipment? Do you think this product has potential?”—what matters is that you’ve made it possible for your team to chip in their 2 cents on something and made them feel they are important and that what they think is important.
Be an Over-Achiever…Add a Little Something Extra
To your list that is. Who said a list is final? (Remember I said I’m always adding to mine?)
Oh contrare! NO list is final.
Your list is merely a guide, but it shouldn’t completely control how you actually work each day. It can be helpful if you use it wisely, but it can also be crippling if you let it slow you down.
Some people are actually nutty enough to cheat themselves. Yes, they really are.
For example, some folks will write out a very short (although massively detailed) list that ensures that they get off work at exactly the time they want to leave for the day, every day. Sounds fair and nifty, right? Smart even.
I’m glad that you have a list and that you’re following it, but should you follow it so strictly that you leave things for tomorrow when you (realistically) still have plenty of time to finish them today?
I mean, come on. Really.
If you finished your necessary tasks in record time, it only means that you’ve already mastered the art of efficiency.
That’s great, most folks struggle for life with that!
But when you have mastered it, it’s time for you to step up your game and take on a new challenge. The challenge of being an entrepreneur who creates value, not simply one who does “just enough”.
Value is that extra dollop of detail that makes what you do or what you offer the best damn thing since sliced bread.
When working, you need to be responsible and motivated enough to use your time in the best possible manner. If you have some left, sure you can cut out early to go veg on the couch and catch up on some tube time. But is that really going to help you create something exceptional? Is that really going to make you and your business exceptional?
Now don’t get me wrong… if you’ve got something fun to do with family or friends, and you want to cut out early one day that’s fine. The whole reason behind becoming an entrepreneur is to live life on your terms. But you need to learn to recognize and implement high-value ways of spending your time versus low-value ways of spending your time.
A night out with friends or a bit of family fun is high-value. Reading a good book that nourishes your mind or feeds your creativity is high-value. Hitting the gym to take care of your physical self is high-value.
Knocking off early to catch the latest episode of Seinfeld… not so much. Nor is knocking off early to chat on Twitter or load new pictures into your Facebook. Sure you can make time for these things and you should. But they shouldn’t be something you undercut yourself and your business in order to do, and especially not something you seek to do every freakin’ day.
So how about you? Have ways you spend your “free” days that improve your life and your business? Do you find lists help you stay focused? Do you believe in knocking off early every day or sticking around to figure out where you can up the awesomeness? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.