When I learned to ride motorbikes, the idea of “leaning” the bike over and it being much safer to lean into a corner felt completely counter-intuitive. We’re hard-wired with our centre of gravity and to lean into the torque of gravity felt unnatural and damn near impossible. I never thought I’d ever get my knee on the ground and when you watch the pros, they make it look easy.
Leaning into priorities
Working less and achieving greater impact is possible. I’m a work in progress, as with my motorbike riding, but if you’re not progressing then what’s the point right?
The first half of this year was absolutely crazy, full throttle to the stop. I finally got to have some much-needed downtime in Zakynthos and time to really enjoy the island with my husband. Things are starting to ease up now that the foundation blocks, the systems are in place but there’s something strange about this new phase and easing off the throttle… it’s got my entrepreneurial brain completely freaked out.
Back to this theme I’ve noticed we are all so busy with business, day-to-day, stuck in the forest. Is there truth in the idea that if we’re less busy we’re not achieving as much?
I really believe that we can achieve more than we thought possible and by doing less. With all the work I have done with my businesses, with coaching and working with so many business owners, I have recognised the “seasons” of business and the ebbs and flows that come along with the territory. It’s essential to be able to take a step back, to evaluate what’s important to give your focus to and recalibrate from time to time. I do that every 90 days. Why 90 days? It’s what works for me.
Plan in 90-day sprints
Let me ask you a question. It’s not for you to answer but to reflect upon and challenge your own beliefs.
If you slow down, if you don’t work all the hours and do all the things, you won’t hit your goals. Yes or no?
If I were to tell you to slow down, what would your instinctual reaction be? Friends and family have often told me to slow down and the thought of it scares the life out of me.
It’s only a belief. The good news is that we can change our beliefs.
How you do that is up to you.
Twin sisters, productivity and priorities
I’ve just searched “Productivity” on Amazon. In the Book department, there are over 60,000 search results. There’s no shortage of help, advice, strategies, tactics, and content out there on productivity and getting things done. We all know that information is not the problem. It’s what we do, the actions we take that count, the habits we form.
Your actions and prioritising your time to work on the highly leveraged activities to move you towards your goals are the only things standing in between where you are now and where you want to be.
Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time
Why am I bleeding on about this? I know what it’s like to work yourself into the ground and wake up one day not being able to see. I went blind from some severe inflammation in my retinas which went undiagnosed but chalked up to stress. Luckily, it all sorted itself out. But at this moment in time, I have clients who are working so hard, I hear about stress, anxiety, worrying all the time. And I bet if I got them to punch in and punch out, we’d be looking at 50 or 60 hour weeks minimum getting racked up consistently.
Research has found that working 55 hours or more is associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke, 17% higher risk of heart disease compared to working 35 to 40 hours. This was research carried out by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Let that sink in for a moment.
Owning a business is a mental game.
It’s tough and it breaks my heart when I hear people talk about the stress, lack of sleep, waking up with knots in your stomach. Business ownership should be enjoyable, rewarding and most of all give you freedom and prosperity. Rather than tell you to take it easy, tell you to slow down, let's talk about some of the practical things we can do to achieve more in less time.
Why the 9 to 5?
First of all, I pay homage to the one and only Dolly but why the 9 to 5? This is an outdated practice that the Ford Motor Company introduced in the 20s. I get that some businesses need to be open and available for clients during certain working hours. As a business owner, you have a choice to pay attention to your own energy and to protect that energy. When you are at your best, your peak, don’t use that time to be on zoom calls or doing things that drain the life out of you. That time should be blocked out to work on the highly leveraged activities in your business that are going to move the needle.
In the summertime when it’s light and sunny, I love getting up early and before the inbox starts pinging or the calls start for the day I spend an hour and a half, 90 minutes working ON my business. As we head into winter I find that shifting. Apparently, there is a DNA test to find out if you are a night owl or a morning lark. I wouldn’t say go that far but pay attention to your energy and when you’re at your best and do your most important work then.
I have never been able to listen to music and work at the same time. It’s a bit of a running joke that when I “go deep” on a task I can get really irritable when my concentration is broken. It’s probably because that amount of concentration is so precious and it’s hard to get in and out of it. If you’re interrupted or trying to multi-task then more mistakes are inevitable, things will take longer and it doesn’t save time in the long run.
The Harvard Business Review talks about how this feeling that there’s never enough time is a major source of stress. We try to do more, be more efficient, squeeze small tasks into gaps in our schedule. This trap of “time management” is adding to the stress and overwhelm. The Review compared time management to ‘digging a hole at the beach’ - the bigger the hole the more water rushes into to fill it.
So let’s quit multitasking, let’s quit trying to squeeze everything in. Doing less multitasking and switching from one thing to another or context switching is exhausting. Quit doing that.
Get crystal clear clarity
I know that with everything going on in your business (and life) right now that doing less and cutting back your hours doesn’t sound realistic and you might even be rolling your eyes at me. You know what I’m about to tell you. It’s really important to get super clear, crystal clear on your goals. What is your specific goal? A goal that can be measured in space and time and one that is aligned with what you really want to go after.
It’s easy to fall back on revenue goals, that’s fine. Why are they so important? What are other goals that can be broken down into metrics you can measure to see how close you’re getting to the goal?
It’s not just important to get clarity on this, it’s life-altering. I read a book once which changed my financial life - it’s called Your Money Or Your Life by Vicki Robin. In fact, side note I might read that again soon. The point is, the book got me looking at tasks, activities, and effort not only by the time it takes but by its true cost. Read the book, I’m not going to try to lecture on the concepts but the point is this. Let’s say you currently spend several hours a week writing content, creating graphics and posting to Instagram but you get little to no engagement or your best-aligned clients aren’t on Instagram. Is this something that you should be putting time and energy into if it won’t move you towards your goals? Now, what if you recouped those hours and spent them on something else?
Having clarity on your goals is only a part of the story. Clarity on your goals AND the activities that will move you towards those goals tells a better story. Otherwise, you’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall.
Create boundaries for massive success
I’d love to go on and talk about boundaries but I’ve already covered that in huge detail in a previous post, ‘why you need boundaries to create massive success’. It’s worth another 10 minutes of your time I promise.
What I will say about boundaries is that they are the guardians of our sanity. You will have people asking to pick your brain, you’ll have people asking you to do a talk, participate in their summit, go here, do that, do this. Sometimes we say yes to things only to have instant regrets. Sometimes you’re in a meeting and you hear yourself volunteering for things and only want to beat yourself up afterwards. Whatever the case is, create boundaries and that includes learning to say no. We do that graciously, with love and respect but if something isn’t going to serve you or it’s going to create undue stress depending on the season you’re in, it’s time to respect your own boundaries.
If you want to know what to focus on daily in your business, I have a post on that too but I would say pay attention to the 80/20 rule. 80% of your results come from 20% of your activities. Find where you already have momentum, do more of the things in the 20% category so that it can help you limit your activities and simplify things.
I feel like this is a lot to take in so let’s break it down into simple steps.
Pay attention to your energy and when you’re at your best. That’s when your schedule your most important work.
Quit multi-tasking and start chunking activities so you’re doing similar things together and work on your flow.
Get clarity on your goals AND on the activities and metrics that will move you closer to the goals.
Do less by saying no. That includes saying no to yourself!
Focus on the 80/20 rule, limit and simplify your activities around the 20%.
And my parting note is to focus on progress, not perfection. If you work on making tiny, incremental improvements to your systems and processes and the impact areas in your business those little things become big strides towards your goals.
PS. When creating systems to scale your business is important to save time, be efficient, and lean. Check out the post on systems for scaling if you’ve got time.
As always, if I can help you out with any of this send me a DM or email email@example.com anytime. I've got your back.