…getting up at 7:30 a.m. feeling like a truck is parked on your head…but you’ve got to get the kids on the bus…
…you’ve got two big projects due that day, and you’ve only started one. (Started, not finished…)
…you rush the kids to school, work feverishly until it’s time to pick them up at 3:30, then stay up until 3:00 a.m. trying to squeeze both projects past the “Finish” line.
A True Story
That wasn’t a scene out of a movie; that was actually my life!
As much as I love being a full-time blogger, as I confessed in my 10 truths about being a full-time blogger after losing my “day job,” things didn’t get any easier going full-time.
I was still slowly (or was it quickly??) killing myself, as I confessed in a previous YouTube video.
I just didn’t have a “day job” to blame it on anymore.
The problem was all me.
Until two weeks ago, that is.
A Few Big “Aha” Moments
I’ve been talking about my recent trip to Amy Howard’s painting studio recently, showing you some of my favorite furniture painting techniques, but what I didn’t share with you was all the behind-the-scenes conversations that took place between my blogger buddies and me.
It’s hard to nail down just one “Aha” moment, but I’ll just say that it wasn’t just me who was staying up until the buttcrack of dawn trying to “get it all in.”
It wasn’t just me who was so focused on working in her business that she barely had time to work on her business (…business plan?? What’s that??).
Not to mention how inspirational Amy Howard is (especially in her amazing book, A Maker’s Guide, where she mentors creative people into starting their own creative business).
As we sat around the table staring up at “Mama Amy” passing on her wise-woman entrepreneur messages, she said, “Edit and focus” and when we get home to “track where you’re spending your time, in 15-minute increments.”
Well, I suck at tracking anything so that worked for only about 1 day. HA!
But I went even deeper than that.
Getting Rid of the Noise in Your Life
I realized that if I cut out the things that don’t matter (the noise), I wouldn’t need to track anything because everything that I did would only be that which is most important.
I know that sounds confusing, but it’s like not having to track calories if the only thing you’re eating is salad. You can’t get fat from veggies, my friends! HA!
If you’re eating donuts, pizza (omg, I loooooove pizza), potatoes, milkshakes….then of course you have to track what you eat!
And for me, my “junk food” was:
- Playing Words with Friends
- Mindlessly scanning Facebook
- Checking email an obscene amount of times per day
- Clicking between 10 million browser tabs and windows
This kind of “clutter” diet caused me to moan and complain that there was never enough time in the day [insert whiny voice here, LOL], and that I’d neeeeeever be able to stick to a posting schedule of 3 times per week; life was just too busy for that…
But the truth is that I was stuffing my day with virtual donuts and not eating enough virtual salad.
Flipping Time Management Upside Down
It wasn’t just Amy and my blogger buddy talks. It was what I was listening to, as well.
I’m a part of Audible.com (owned by Amazon), and every month I download an audio business book to listen to for inspiration.
And my latest book is The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss.
It’s not new, but it’s a classic. If you ever want to change your way of thinking about killing ourselves with work, then read this book. It’s game changer.
It made me realize that if people just cut out the noise in their life, they’d actually get their work done faster so that they’d have free time for all the other fun stuff they enjoy: traveling, learning a new language, more family time, etc.
Something he said knocked me off my feet:
“Slowing down doesn’t mean accomplishing less. It means cutting out counter-productive distractions and the perception of being rushed.” ~ Tim Ferriss
He summed up my biggest problem in just one sentence. I was blown.
Getting Up at 4 a.m. To Do My Best Work
If you would have asked me even 3 weeks ago if I’d be waking up hours before my family woke up, I would have responded, “Why yes….I actually already do that: I go to bed at 2 a.m. and they wake at 6:30 a.m. Does that count??” LOL
I was actually proud of that; like I was some Midnight Warrior Princess with infinite energy just because I (thought I) could function on 4 hours of sleep.
That was stupid.
I had also listened to another favorite book of my called The One Thing, by Gary Keller, which teaches you how to focus on just ONE important thing at a time. It’s my all-time favorite for transforming your life and business!
So I figured if I could get up early… work on my ONE THING first thing in the morning… By 7:30 a.m., I would have accomplished so much more in those 3.5 hours than I could accomplish all day!
Gradually I started waking earlier….first 6 a.m…..then 5:30 a.m….. and I’ve found my sweet spot at 4 a.m.
Naturally, I get sleepy between 7:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
I don’t fight it.
And sometimes my three boys, ages 9, 5, and 4 (Kojo turned 4 this week!) have to wake me up in the middle of story time (HAHA), but at least I’m sleeping, right??
Finding Mental Peace
Focusing on everything makes you feel a chicken running around with its head cut off. Nothing gets done. And that causes guilt.
When you cut down on the mental clutter, you feel mentally at peace.
You’re able to focus on that one project or task without worrying about what you’re missing out on over Facebook…
You’re not worried about the other 999,999 projects in your garage that you haven’t finished.
Because you’re only focused on that one.
And you feel so motivated and peaceful!
The Things I Don’t Do Anymore
Here is a list of things to cut out and you’ll be surprised you have more time for the things that matter.
- I don’t sleep in.
- I don’t check email first thing in the morning.
- I don’t have mindless IM chats.
- I don’t check my phone first thing in the morning.
- I don’t check my phone while in bed.
- I don’t work past 6:30 p.m.
- I don’t check email as much.
- I don’t scan Facebook.
- I don’t run around like a chicken with my head cut off.
- I don’t skip the important parts of my business (e.g. business planning, marketing, etc.)
- I don’t keep 10 million tabs and window open. I work on ONE thing at a time, and ONE thing only.
Because I don’t do these things anymore, I’ve been able to post more. I’m trying to stick to a Monday, Wednesday, Friday posting schedule, and so far, it’s been great!
How to Be More Productive and to Stop Making Excuses
People tell me all the time, “I’d love to learn how to [fill in the blank], but I just don’t have time.”
That’s not true.
We tell ourselves that we have no time for DIY….no time for projects…no time to fulfill our passion because our days are crowded with noise.
If you’ve always wanted to learn to paint furniture, stop mindlessly scanning Pinterest. Go pick up a paint brush and use the info you just read.
If you’ve always wanted to start an Etsy shop with your crafts, stop mindlessly chatting with friends on Facebook and just go do it already!
If you’ve always wanted to write a book, get up at 4 a.m. after a good night’s sleep, while the house is quiet and the world hasn’t yet come alive, and start putting words on a page.
Here are some tips for being more productive:
- If you’ve got a day job, get up 2 hours earlier and make this your “you” time to work on that ONE THING you’ve been wanting to do.
- Meet your friend for coffee on Saturday afternoon (2 hours) instead of spending 8 hours during the week mindlessly chatting with her on IM.
- Remove all the notifications on your phone for email, chat, etc. You’d be surprised how often they interrupt!
- Start a project today and don’t worry if you can’t finish before dinner. Work on it tomorrow. Not all projects can be done in 30 minutes, ya know.
There is time. You just have to choose wisely how you spend it.
A Long Way to Go
One caveat is that this has only been two weeks since I’ve been so “enlightened.” I’m not an expert in time management. I can only say what’s been working for me, and to share my favorite resources.
I still eat too much junk food. My gut has become uncomfortable in my jeans. And I have less muscle tone than a jellyfish.
But something I learned from The One Thing by Gary Keller is that you can only focus on ONE THING at a time. For me, right now that one thing is time management.
Once I get that down pat and it becomes habit, I’ll move on to blasting the fat.
What About You?
Do you always feel like you’re suffering from not having enough time in your day to get things done? Let’s chat about it in the comments section! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!