Have you ever wondered how the most successful and happy entrepreneurs make a huge impact without spreading themselves so thin that they burn out?
With seemingly endless responsibilities, it is hard to know where to start. The obvious answer is to make a to-do list.
While lists are vital to remind us of things we need to do, they can also lead us down a path of procrastination if we don’t prioritise the items on them correctly.Lists are vital to remind us of things we need to do, they can also lead us down a path of procrastination if we don’t prioritise the items on them correctly. #productivtytipsforsmallbusiness Click To Tweet
If you happen to be a list kind of gal (which by the way I currently am but never thought I would be), then you probably can relate to what I used to do to feel productive.
- Sit down at my desk and write the day’s ‘To-do’ list.
- Read over the list and admire how productive writing the list has been.
- Choose an item on the list that does absolutely nothing for the direct growth of my business (and by growth, I mean profit) but that I am totally comfortable doing.
- Complete task and tick it off my list.
- Admire the ticked box. (Feels good so can you blame me?)
- Repeat with a few other items on my list of a similar nature. Usually, these are administrative, social, or research-based tasks.
- End my day feeling accomplished that my long list only has a teeny-weeny couple of items left on it to push to the next day. No big deal I can do it tomorrow, right?
- Self-five for a productive and busy day.
- Repeat. Bumping the same few tasks to the next day all week.
If this sounds like you too then there is a good chance that you are sabotaging your business growth with busy work. Being busy is a great thing of course, but only when you are busy doing the things that contribute directly to generating revenue.
Busyness rarely takes care of business.Gary Keller
It is hard to accept, but the majority of the items on your to-do list are not going to make you money. Sure, they are important on some level – but they are nice-to-haves and must not consume your day.
Many things may be important, but only one can be the most important.Ross Garber
If you fill your day doing the endless number of tasks that don’t directly result in sales while ignoring the most important one that will, you will never see the financial growth that you deserve.
These leftover tasks show up as unfinished items bumped to tomorrow’s list over and over. They are ignored at all costs, but why?
Chances are, you never completed those few tasks in the first place because they make you uncomfortable. Even though you know that doing them will give you the result you want, humans are naturally wired to move away from pain (discomfort), therefore our brains ignore or avoid them.Humans are naturally wired to move away from pain (discomfort), therefore our brains ignore or avoid them. Click To Tweet
We make excuses about needing to check emails, make our socials look prettier, Marie Kondo our office, whatever it takes to avoid that thing that makes us uncomfortable.
Many of my clients feel this way about writing blogs to improve their SEO, networking, making sales calls, closing deals, having difficult conversations with staff and launching their products to name a few.
If you think about everything on your list right now, I know you will see that uncomfortable task staring you in the face. You will also notice that it is one you have been putting off doing.
How do you get it done with ease, so the rest feels like a breeze?
By doing the thing you least want to do first!
Brian Tracy calls this ‘eating the frog’. In other words, you have to get uncomfortable to be truly productive. Remember when you were a kid, and you knew that you had to eat your veggies if you wanted dessert?
The smart thing to do was to eat the grossest thing on your plate first so it was done and dusted, the meal getting more delicious from then on. Swallowing the frog is kind of the same idea, only you won’t be rewarded with ice cream, you’ll be rewarded with profit.
The magic you are looking for is in the work you are avoiding.
I can’t stress this point enough. The feeling of knowing you got the uncomfortable but high paying task done before your morning coffee break truly is magic. The best part is once you train your brain to do this, it will feel increasingly more comfortable and the results in your business will reflect it!
Another bonus is that you will notice you feel far less overwhelmed, less busy, and more able to actually enjoy the ‘nice-to-have’ items on your list.
Here are my tips for getting the important tasks done first thing:
1. Identify what it is you are avoiding doing.
Be really honest with yourself here. If you can’t get real about what makes you uncomfortable, then you’ll never hack your brain to overcome its clever avoidance tactics. NYT best-selling book ‘The One Thing’ is a valuable read if you are having trouble prioritising your list of things to do.
2. Commit yourself to doing that task – or a part of that task – today!
The HBR outlines that the transition from thinking about doing the thing to actually doing the thing is the hardest part. This transition is the most likely time that your brain will start screaming at you with reasons to do, well, literally anything else!
3. If the task is so overwhelming that you feel it is impossible, then break it down into smaller parts that feel manageable.
For example, if you have to write a blog post, commit to opening word and typing one sentence. Remember the transition from thinking about it to actually doing it is the hardest part. By the time you have actually started, a sentence will turn into a paragraph and so on.
4. Stop trying to multitask!
Once you have committed to your most important daily task, let nothing else draw your attention away from it for a set period of time.
5. Recognise your thoughts and feelings.
As is discussed in the HBR article “Some of the things you may feel in the transition are: discomfort, fear (will this ever end?), sabotage (I should probably check email), and insecurity (I can’t do this)”. Your ability to notice this and move forward with the task anyway is critical to growing your business. It takes a degree of resilience.
6. Repeat this every day.
The more you focus on getting ‘that one’ thing done before anything else, the more comfortable you will become doing the things you once avoided. Your brain is adaptable and with practice, this will become a great habit.
Making a to-do list is an amazing way to keep focused on what you need to achieve in a day, but make sure you prioritise the things that actually propel you towards business growth – and by growth, I mean profit.
We are in business to make a profit and our to-do lists should reflect the tasks that will achieve this as an absolute not negotiable.
If you feel really inspired, you could split your list into two categories, one that drives profit and one that contains more general business tasks. If you do this, obviously always focus on the profit tasks first.
If you need help with prioritising your goals or identifying that thing you are avoiding, book a free 30-minute discovery session with one of our amazing Fempire Coaches!
How do you stay focused and on task? Let us know in the comments below!
And for more productivity tips, check out our articles 6 Powerful Productivity Strategies That Will Help You Get More out of Your Day and Is Your Messy Desk Messing with Your Mindset?
Treah is a Fempire Coach, women’s empowerment advocate, writer, beach lover, wife, and mother to three beautiful kids. Her mission in business is to empower women to step into their greatness with the right balance of grace, flow and grit, and to help all women discover their true potential to create a heart-driven, profitable business that lights them up.