Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #113 / Choosing between an impromptu visit and your to-do list

Choosing between an impromptu visit and your to-do list

I was searching through my blog archives last week and came across something I wrote seven years ago that really stuck with me.

It’s about what to do with impromptu visits.

Those “hey, I’m in town today, want to grab some lunch” type of unexpected invitations.

For me, they usually come from family members.

And I’m a planner. I like to have appointments on my schedule at least a week in advance and my tasks for the week outlined before Monday morning.

When I get an impromptu visit or lunch request, it can feel like someone took a large cartoonish wrench and threw it into my well planned and thought out week.

Do I want to spend time with them? YES!

AND I want to get the things I had planned for the week done too.

The problem is if I always say no last-minute requests of my time, I might not have an opportunity to see that person again for a few months.

I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons having my own business was appealing was that I could occasionally enjoy these impromptu visits.

So, if I say no to these visits, am I honoring my schedule and plans or am I being too tied to them?

Here’s what we forget about our to-do lists, schedules, and plans sometimes: they are there to help you and work for you. You do not work for them.

It sounds a little weird to say it like that, but sometimes in our quest to get as much done as we can each day, we forget that there are other things to do.

Life doesn’t always fit in nice little compartments and since you’re reading this, I’m guessing you really don’t want it too. You want a life with flexibility.

This doesn’t mean it’s always easy to put aside my plans for the week and have brunch with family instead. I have things! that must be done! And if I start my day late, those things! Might not get done! (does anyone else’s brain work like this? Or is it just me?)

This is when it’s helpful for me to take a breath and realize that if there are no appointments scheduled, then the things! can be done later.

When I have impromptu visits and my mind is ping-ponging between GO have fun and STAY to complete the things! I ask myself these questions:

  • Are there any appointments or meetings that this will overlap or interfere with?
  • Are there any deadlines approaching that will be negatively impacted?
  • Have I already spent time this week with unplanned visits?
  • How will this impact progress on my goals?

The gist of these questions is: will my business or goals be negatively affected by spending time elsewhere?

If so, is spending this time with this person more important than my business and/or goals?

Notice that I wrote “is spending this time with” and not “is spending time with.” That one little word changes the meaning of the sentence a bit.

Again, your schedule and to-do list are meant to help guide you and make your day flow smoothly.

They are not a ball and chain that keep you tied to your office or computer.

If you’re treating them like that, step back, get curious and ask yourself why.

Leave a comment letting me know when was the last time you said yes to an impromptu visit.

And if your schedule and to-do list feel like a ball and chain or if it feels impossible to say yes to an impromptu visit, then reach out and let’s talk. The easiest way to do that is to leave a comment or fill out the Contact Me form here.

PRODUCTIVITY FOR SOLOPRENEURS: INSIGHTS TO GETTING THINGS DONE #113

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #112 / Are you solving problems that don't exist?

Are you solving problems that don’t exist?

“Solving problems that don’t exist.”

This is an idea that I came across a week or two ago.

When I Googled it to see if I could find where it came from, the top results were about inventions that solve problems we don’t actually have.

But that’s not the way I saw it used.

This is about those items on your to-do list that seem like a good idea, but you actually don’t need to do—it solves a problem, but the problem doesn’t actually exist for you.

I’m guilty of this.

A couple of weeks ago I spent at least a couple of hours updating the passwords that my password manager app told me were either duplicates or not good passwords.

95% of the sites I was changing passwords on were sites that I rarely use, have no important information stored with them, and if they did get hacked it wouldn’t have been an issue.

It wasn’t a good use of my time.

Those sites didn’t actually need their passwords updated.

I was solving a problem that didn’t actually exist.

Instead of spending time on that, I could have been making phone calls, emailing people, or any number of things that are actually important for my business.

So, I encourage you to look at your to-do list for today or this week and make note of the things that solve problems that don’t exist OR that can be done after the tasks that are actually important for your business.

And then, instead of doing them, do the things that are important for your business instead.

When I do this to my to-do list I instantly have a slew of reasons pop into my head about why those things need to be done.

For the above-mentioned password updating it was “but now that app doesn’t complain nearly as much as it did about passwords” or “now my security score is so much better!”

Those things didn’t actually cost me any time before I changed it. They weren’t important.

For some of the other things on my list, it’s thoughts like “but getting those things off my list will feel really good” or “these things can be knocked off my to-do list quickly” or “they’ve been on my list to do for a while now, I should do them”.

But they don’t need to be done. Nothing will be negatively impacted if I do them next week or next month.

What are those things for you?

What are your tasks that really do need to be done?

And if everything feels like it’s important and needs to be done, reach out and let’s talk. The easiest way to do that is to leave a comment or fill out the Contact Me form here.

PRODUCTIVITY FOR SOLOPRENEURS: INSIGHTS TO GETTING THINGS DONE #112

What happens when you work from a weekly list without a daily list

Last week I came across an article that was a compilation of productivity advice from around 10 different small business owners.

The first person they listed advised something to the effect of pick 3 things to do each day instead of having a long to-do list.

A couple of people later someone’s advice was a daily to-do list is too constraining, instead create a weekly to-do list and do the tasks as you feel like doing them.

Soooo, which is it?

I wish these lists would come with a bit more information about the person and their company.

Do they have a personal assistant? Is there a large team supporting them? Does he spend most of his time in meetings? Is his weekly to-do list already very short? Is he marking his weekly list with the one or two tasks that are the highest priority for the day?

If I had to guess, the person who thinks you should work off of a weekly to-do list and do tasks as you feel like doing them has a really great personal assistant who’s encouraging him/her to do the important things that are buried in that weekly list and they might not feel like doing.

My experience with clients and my own personal experience is that when you’re working from a weekly list without a daily list one of three scenarios will generally play out:

  1. You end up doing all the fun and exciting and maybe even easy things that the beginning of the week. Which means at the end of the week you have all the things you don’t care to do or require more energy. And then something isn’t going to be done because it’s exhausting and you didn’t budget your energy/attention very well.
  2. The beginning of the week feels like you have all the time in the world to get the things on your list complete. So, you dilly-dally or spend more time than you need to on the tasks you do decide to work on and suddenly there’s A LOT left to do on Thursday and Friday.
  3. You’re so overwhelmed by your list of things that you want/need to get done this week that you do very little or nothing. Or you bounce around a lot because there are so many high priority tasks that need to be done NOW.

You might have guessed that between the options of working from a weekly list or a pick 3 things to do for the day – I’d go with picking 3 things.

More to the point, I recommend creating a daily to-do list in whatever format works best for you. If that’s a list of three things, great! If that’s formatted some other way, great!

To the business owner that finds a daily to-do list too constraining, I’d love to know how you’ve created your daily list in the past. There are many different ways to create it that allow you to get things done in an efficient way and do things that work with your energy and attention level for that day.

If this topic feels like it’s impacting you personally, and you’d like some help, let’s talk! The easiest way to set that up is by applying for coaching by clicking here.

PRODUCTIVITY FOR SOLOPRENEURS: INSIGHTS TO GETTING THINGS DONE #107

Lots To Do! And Enough Time?

Cup Of Hot CoffeeLast week I wrote about focusing on one task. The three steps to put your focus on the one thing you’re working on right now.

Well, I set up one day last week with no appointments so I could have the day to only get stuff done. Many of the items on my list that day where 30 minute tasks or less. So, I had about 15 items on my list.

Normally, I would tell a client (and myself) that 15 tasks are too many things! However, they were small tasks and I was pretty sure that there was enough time to do everything.

When I sat down at the beginning of the day, even though I knew they were smaller tasks, I wondered how I was possibly going to get everything done. It was a bit overwhelming to look at that list!

I reread my post for the week and decided to pull out my sticky notes. On those, I wrote the tasks that I wanted to complete in the next two hours. I wrote down four things, stuck it on top of my list of 15 and went to work. Somehow just looking at that smaller list was a lot more reassuring.

I didn’t have to have everything done now. I was able to focus on the current task and then move on to the next one quickly.

At the end of the day I didn’t have everything done. However, I learned a bit about what not to do in my day (don’t schedule reading a book, even a business book, after lunch because I won’t put it down after my allotted reading time is complete). And left enough wiggle room in that day’s and the next day’s schedule that it didn’t completely throw me for a loop the rest of the week.

And, when I reviewed what I accomplished, I felt extremely satisfied! I was able to get a lot done and address my overwhelm in a constructive way.

Because I like bullet points, this is the take away from my experience:

  • If your list looks too long and overwhelming, break it into smaller pieces. What will you finish in the next 2 hours?
  • Leave some buffer time in your day. Tasks can take longer than you anticipate or unexpected tasks or other things pop up. When you leave yourself some buffer time you’re able to absorb the unknown without it throwing you for a loop.
  • Review your day and make a note of what did and didn’t work that day. Use that knowledge of how you work best (or don’t work best) in future planning.
  • Review your day for your successes (or wins). We often forget this part. Pat yourself on the back for the things you accomplished, whether they are the tasks you completed, the way a situation was handled or the way you handled or managed yourself.

Basically, a successful day can be broken up into three parts: preparing, doing and reviewing (with today’s focus being on the preparing and reviewing).

Where do you get hung up with getting things done? Let me know in the comments below!

Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Are You Over Complicating It?

exclamation girlHave you ever over complicated something? You realize later, or someone points out to you that you could have easily done y instead of x and saved yourself a lot of time and energy.

If you don’t catch it early, it’s frustrating, right?

Do you do that with your business?

You assume that a task or project is going to be difficult and you quickly prove yourself right. Until someone comes along and offers a suggestion that renders half of your plans obsolete and you wonder, could it really be that easy?

If you haven’t already read last week’s article, “How Do You Want Your Morning to Feel?” go back and read it.

I wrote about two morning scenarios. Some of you might have read the second one and thought, “That’s a great dream, but it’s just not possible for me.”

I get it. Between you and me, I’ve had that same thought before. Mine sounded like “Planning is a great idea, but I just don’t have time for that!”

What if you’re over complicating your business? What if it’s hard to get everything done because that’s exactly what you expect?

Our brains like to be right. So, often just thinking “hey, this is going to be difficult” makes something feel, well, difficult.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you just start telling yourself, “hey, this easy and I’ll get everything done today” Your brain is smart, it’s not going to believe that.

Does this mean that you’re going to get that page long to-do list done today? Probably not, however, what would change if you looked at your page long to-do list and instead of thinking, “Ugh! I have so much to do it seems impossible!” you thought, “Great! I know what needs to happen over the next few days, what can I do today?”

But what if you started asking yourself, “What if this was easy?” And left yourself open to that possibility. Or asked yourself, “What would I do differently if this were easy?”

Allow the possibilities. Invest a few minutes of your time to sit with it and allow yourself to feel the possibility.

And let me know what you discover in the comments below.