Armed with an obsessive love of color-coding and all things related to organization, I’m on a mission to help you maximize efficiency in your business and life so you can spend time on what matters most to you.
Equally right and left-brained, I’m that unique business owner who can think like a creative, but act like an administrator. This blog is where you’ll see me bring that dual-brained magic to life, taking the left-brain side of life and breaking it down for your right-brained self.
We’re living in an unprecedented time right now. In a matter of days, life went from business as usual to something that feels like it could be pulled out of a dystopian novel. With everything going from 60 to 0 so fast, and so much of the future uncertain, it’s left many of us reeling.
My emotions have been completely all over the place, with days of high highs, low lows, and everything in between… sometimes all in one day.
As much as we’d love to continue with business as usual, we can’t. Like it or not, this is a season where changes have to be made.
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I won’t pretend to know all the medical or psychological reasons behind it, but the small bit of reading I’ve done has made it clear that because we’re dealing with something completely new for virtually all of us, and there’s so much uncertainty, our bodies and brains are having to cope with insane levels of stress and do things they literally were not designed to do.
The resulting advice? Give yourself some grace.
That’s not easy for me to do, and it took a couple of weeks until it clicked: productivity would not look the same in quarantine life as it did a few weeks prior. And that’s okay.
But what does that look like practically? As business owners, who aren’t out of a job in a traditional sense, who still have bills to pay, and work to do… how do we keep moving forward and doing things when our brains are going haywire and emotions are completely unpredictable from one day to the next?
We have to redefine what productivity looks like.
The first step in redefining productivity for me was updating my weekly workflow.
After a bit of trial and error, I established a weekly workflow for my business in early 2018 that I’ve followed ever since then. It’s made planning out my weeks and workload so much easier over the past two years.
If you’re not familiar with the concept, I explain more in this blog post, but a weekly workflow is a system for how your work week plays out. It defines what tasks are assigned to which day of the week, ensuring when everything gets done and that everything will get done. You may have heard it referred to by others as batch days, but the general idea is the same.
For the last two years, I had a five-day weekly workflow that included internal business tasks on Mondays, client work on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, connection and collaboration on Thursdays, and overflow work on Fridays.
As my focus and the stability of my emotions decreased the longer quarantine continued, I realized I needed to give myself space to process, feel, and just be in a way my current weekly workflow didn’t allow, so I redefined what it looks like.
I cut it down from five days a week to three days a week, and am focusing on the most essential tasks for my business. I now work Tuesday through Thursday, focusing on internal business tasks and growth on Tuesday, client work and collaboration on Wednesday, and product development and special projects on Thursday.
This leaves Monday and Friday as open days for me to do whatever I need, whether that’s a personal project, reading a book, resting and recharging, or additional work for the business.
Action Step: Take some time to think about what your own weekly workflow should look like in this time of quarantine. Your situation will certainly look different from mine, but think through the tasks in your business you can eliminate (either temporarily or permanently) and ways you can restructure your day or week to better accommodate the things you need to do. Define what’s necessary and eliminate the rest.
Like many others, my approach to planning each day and week has been to define my Top 3, aka the three tasks I must do on any given day. Historically, my top three tasks were always related to business and I would have other personal tasks I would accomplish in my non-working hours.
Even with the updates to my weekly workflow, it was still difficult for me to focus for an entire workday sometimes.
For a variety of different reasons, my energy levels are lower than normal and the quality of my sleep has been awful, which has a major impact on the stability of my emotions, focus, motivation, and overall productivity. After a few days of trying to keep up with my normal way of planning my tasks, I realized my expectations for what a “productive” day looked like needed to change.
Instead of focusing on completing three big tasks each day, I redefined productivity to include one big task and three little ones.
The little tasks are daily action items I establish when I create my Powersheets tending list at the beginning of the month. Normally, these daily action items are new habits I want to be building, but in this season, they look like small ways I can ensure I’m taking good care of myself, even when I’m exhausted or overwhelmed.
Right now, that means getting outside, moving my body, and spending a little time writing each day. These are all small things that, when accomplished on a regular basis, make me feel much more like me.
The big task is what would historically be one of my top three tasks on a given day. On work days, it’s business related and on non-work days, it’s something personal. This could be writing my content for the next week, completing work on one specific client project, or making progress on a new spreadsheet template.
On any given day, that’s all I have to accomplish — my one big task and my three little ones.
If I’m feeling focused and productive, I of course have the option to do more, but this structure gives me the freedom to let go of the need to do it all and still feel like I’m making progress during this season.
This does mean I have to lower my expectations about what I can do overall and limit my “must do” tasks in a single week to only five, but it has done so much good for my mindset in this season. Instead of feeling frustrated and defeated when I’m overwhelmed and could only accomplish one thing on a particular day instead of the three I’d planned, I can finish my day with confidence, feeling good about the work I’ve accomplished, and knowing there will one day be a season where I can do more.
Action Step: Take a step back and think about what you can realistically accomplish each day in this season. With changes in schedule and emotions, is accomplishing what you used to accomplish in a single day realistic? If not, think through what you can realistically do each day and adjust your plans and expectations accordingly.
Even in the midst of quarantine time, with changes to my workload and expectations for each day, I still wanted to feel like I was making actual progress on the long-term goals for my business, but that’s not always easy when it feels like your life has been flipped upside down and you’re just trying to survive.
Instead of barrelling ahead with some of the goals and plans I’d made before coronavirus changed so much in our lives and businesses, I decided to take a step back and think about the things I could do that would make life and business even better at the end of this than it was at the start.
What could I do that would make me not just survive this season, but thrive in the long run?
So I sat down and asked myself some of those big questions we often ask ourselves when making goals and plans — with this new frame of mind, where do I want the business to be a year from now? What about two or five years from now? What changes could I make to my business now that would make it easier to run now, later, and when tragedy (personal or large-scale) strikes again?
I already knew I wanted to simplify the business as a whole (hello, word for the year), but I also wanted a list of tangible things I could work toward during this time that wouldn’t just help me survive this season, but would help me continue making progress toward the long-term goals for me and this business to thrive.
I set three goals for the business and one major personal goal for the quarantine season that are all connected to my long-term vision for my life and business. Then I broke those down into action items I can assign as my big tasks on my workdays, alongside the general maintenance of my business.
While I may not complete every action step for all of the goals before quarantine ends, it still gives me a road map moving forward. And on the days when I’m frustrated that I only have the focus and emotional wherewithal to complete one big task on a given day, I can still see the action items that are being accomplished and know, ultimately, I’m still making progress toward building a life and business that I love.
Action Step: If you haven’t already, stop and define your goals for this quarantine. Think about the projects or tasks you could accomplish that will help you still make progress toward your long-term vision and help you not just survive this season, but help you thrive when it’s all over.
Life looks different for all of us right now and that’s okay. Instead of beating yourself up for not accomplishing all the things, show yourself some grace. Redefine what productivity looks like for you in this season, and possibly beyond.
And remember, above all, to take care of yourself, because your business won’t make it through this season if you don’t.
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