Productivity – what’s the secret and how can you have more of it?
The saying goes that we all have the same 24 hours in the day and it’s how we choose to spend those hours that counts.
While I agree that it’s important to prioritise what really matters to you, I also understand that you may have 1,001 demands on your time right now. Children, older parents with care needs, work commitments, pets, health problems, etc. can make you feel like the 24 hours a day you do have aren’t your own. Or just that your priorities are split.
For this reason, avoid comparing your training business and services to that of others. Everyone has different circumstances. What matters is what works for your life right now and in the future.
You want a training business that can adapt and grow with your life.
Make the most of the time you have for your business
Of course, that means making the most of whatever time you do have available for your business so that you can build and grow it in the direction that best suits you.
Three things will help you to achieve this:
Create a productive mindset
One of the most important things you can do to make the most of your work time is to look at your current mindset.
So often, we’re held back by a lack of clarity, procrastination, comparisons, distractions, perfectionism and reacting to other people’s agendas without setting our own.
Could the following beliefs be holding you back?
- My business/reputation/marketing isn’t good enough to put out into the world yet
- I’m not good enough
- I should say ‘yes’ to everything
- I have to do everything myself because… outsourcing won’t work/I can’t afford to outsource/no-one knows the business like me
- I can’t take time off
You’ll notice these beliefs are all framed negatively. Words like should, have to, not, isn’t and can’t will all hold you back.
Many self-employed people (trainers included) worry about these things and find it difficult to be productive because they get caught up in the detail of trying to be perfect.
Personally, I’ve found one of the most powerful steps towards a productive mindset is accepting that done is better than perfect.
What do you want to achieve?
It’s not just having the right mindset that will boost your productivity. You also need to know what you want to achieve. In other words, you need goals!
I always think of goals as a way of setting way points on a road map so that you can work out where you want to go and how you’re going to get there.
Goals are good for productivity because they help you to plot your actions and give you a clear route from A to B to C, etc. rather than letting you drive your business aimlessly from one place to another.
Let’s look at an example below.
The secret of setting goals
Maybe you have an overall goal to grow your mailing list by 100 potential clients this year.
That’s your destination, at least for now, for this particular goal. But how are you going to achieve it?
You might set shorter-term goals such as “I want to write, produce and promote an ebook about X, Y or Z to offer on my website as a freebie in exchange for email signups”.
But what are the steps you will need to take to do this? Your immediate goals could be:
- Write 500 words of my ebook every day.
- Commit to contacting three graphic designers this week about how much it will cost to create the ebook as a PDF with a branded design.
- Contact the administrators for five Facebook pages per week for the next four weeks about hosting a page takeover when the ebook launches.
These short-term goals are deliberately specific and measurable and give you a clear understanding of what you need to do within your available time.
You can have several goals running alongside each other. If you do, you should look at ways of prioritising your to-do list so that you keep each goal ticking along nicely.
Adopt good habits for better productivity
Productivity is also about setting good habits and breaking the bad habits that eat into your time.
I’ve blogged in the past about 10 daily good habits that I think are great business boosters. They are:
- Plan your day
- Set and stick to your goals
- Have a dedicated workspace
- Clear your inbox
- Track your time
- Take breaks
- Check your finances
- Post to social media
- Keep in touch with your industry
- Follow up with clients
Whether you adopt these habits or set your own, the point is that having a routine or habits that you commit to will help you to keep focused and block out distractions.
As with goal-setting, habits are about using your time consciously. They enable you to look at every activity with the question, “Will this take me closer to achieving my goals or further away?” If the answer is further away, you know it’s not where you need to put your attention.
Missing your mojo and how to stay motivated
We all lose our motivation and focus sometimes. This has a big impact on productivity.
Having goals and a routine based on good habits is a great for kickstarting your day but I also find you can keep motivated with strategies such as:
- Rewarding yourself for hitting goals and milestones
- Expecting setbacks and embracing mistakes as learning opportunities
- Learning to say no
- Taking time off
- Making yourself accountable, e.g. tell a mentor about a goal and what you’re going to do to reach it then get back to them with the outcome
I like to schedule time for thinking about the ‘big picture’ stuff rather than the day-to-day running of The Trainers Training Company and Trainer Talk. This helps me to identify and plan my goals. I can also balance my time more effectively across different areas of the business. For you, this might mean better balancing your training delivery time versus marketing time.
Ring-fencing time for the different aspects of your business is important for motivation. There’s nothing worse than that nagging knowledge that you’re neglecting things that really matter to your business just because you haven’t found the time.
Scheduling in ‘big picture’ thinking is the perfect antidote.
Time off is good for productivity
As counter-intuitive as it might sound, the ability to take time off is crucial to staying motivated and using your time productively.
Freelancers often feel that they have to work around the clock and say yes to everything in case there’s a dry spell in the future. But push yourself too hard and you can burn out, a state of being from which it takes a long time to recover.
It’s also important to plan for how you can keep your business ticking over if you’re ill or on holiday. If you know you have things in place, such as automating your marketing emails or batch scheduling your social media, it’s easier to take a breather when you need one.
Want more work time? Be open to outsourcing
As my business has grown, I’ve become more open to outsourcing some admin tasks to third parties who can do them much better and much faster than me. This frees up my time to focus on building a business that delights, inspires and stretches me.
A wonderful Virtual Assistant can make light work of tasks such as diary management, event planning, invoicing, updating the website, moderating blog comments or formatting an ebook. Although I can do all of these things, they’re not the most productive use of my time.
At first, outsourcing felt risky – could I afford to pay someone else to help with my admin? Quickly, I found that I could use the time I’d been spending on admin to bring in and deliver paid work, which made outsourcing increasingly affordable. It was a win-win situation that has enabled me to grow the business in a way I couldn’t have done if I was still trying to do everything myself.
Productivity takes practice (at least for most of us). Some days you’ll feel like your get up and go has got up and gone. That’s OK – you’re human. You’ll make up for it on other days.
Hopefully, this productivity guide will give you some strategies to get back on track and make the most of your work time. I’ll popped plenty of links to other articles I’ve written about productivity in this blog so you can read more about the different areas in more depth, depending on what you need help with.
How productive are you? Do you struggle to find time for your training business because of other commitments or do you lack focus? What hints and tips do you have about making the most of your time? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments below.