When it comes to increasing productivity and accomplishing more, I find that most of the roadblocks are mental. We feel like our schedules are completely full and cannot accommodate any more. When we’re not sure we can finish a project before our next meeting or obligation, we decide there’s no point to even start it and end up wasting time on Facebook or cruising our inbox. We think we need a certain space or set up to be creative or conduct deep work, so we put it off until the conditions are exactly right.
As I write this, I have fifteen minutes until our daily team meeting. Is that enough time to write a blog post? Probably not. I could have easily spent these fifteen minutes clearing my inbox, checking our social media pages, or other things that don’t really make an impact on my business. But instead, I decided to challenge myself and see how much I could write in these 15 minutes (165 words so far.)
I go through a similar thought process when it comes to fitness. Going to the gym requires time and scheduling. Working out at home is easier, but a good workout requires time. So when I overslept or a meeting was moved and I lost my pre-determined workout time, my tendency was to skip it altogether, thinking there wasn’t a point.
That was my roadblock and I’ve managed to overcome it in two ways:
- Understanding that something is better than nothing. If I couldn’t complete the whole swim workout or run a full 5 miles, doing less is better than doing nothing.
- If you really want to find the time, you usually can.
Making progress on a project isn’t as good as finishing it, but it’s better than making no progress at all. Walking around the block isn’t as good as a 5 mile run, but it’s better than sitting at the desk all day. No matter what your goals are – getting promoted, launching a business, creating a product – it’s crucial to make progress every day, no matter how small that progress may be.
I know this tends to be easier said than done, so here are three tricks I’ve used to overcome my own mental roadblocks:
Schedule it out. Feeling like we don’t have enough time doesn’t actually mean we don’t have enough time. Earlier this year, I began scheduling out every piece of my day, in 30 minute intervals. Whether it’s getting my son off to school, working out, or answering email, my days are completely scheduled. This may sound rigid, maybe even a little crazy, but what this awards me is a real sense of what I have time for. I may feel like I have too much going on to squeeze in a workout at 11am, but if I map out my schedule, there’s usually plenty of time to get it done. I also tend to overestimate the time I allot for certain projects (if I predict something will take 45 minutes, I block off an hour) which allows for extra time for those impromptu phone calls or fire drills.
You won’t really know how much time you have until you write it out, so the easiest way to overcome the I-don’t-have-enough-time myth is to debunk it for yourself.
Do it, delegate it, or delete it. We all have pending projects, outstanding emails or other things we need to do at some point. For me, it’s filing (I currently use the strategic system of dumping all my papers in a storage ottoman), for others, it’s things like answering certain emails, scheduling networking meetings, or strategic long-term planning. Having these things hanging over our heads creates a huge mental road block, and to overcome it, you have one of three options:
Do it. Just suck it up and get ‘er done.
Delegate it. Have someone else undertake that project.
Delete it. Just erase it from your to-do list and don’t look back.
When deciding which path to take, I work from the bottom up.
If there is any chance I can delete it from my to-do list, I do it. Not all emails deserve a reply. Not all strategic planning or marketing initiatives are worth the time. If it’s not going to impact my goals – negatively if I don’t do it or positively if I do – I delete it.
If it will impact my goals, but I can hire/ask someone else to handle it, I delegate it. I’m fortunate to have a team that supports my goals, but I understand that not everyone does. Do you have a niece or nephew looking to earn some extra cash filing? Is there a 20-something grad student that can help take photos for your social media platforms? Is there someone at work looking for a growth opportunity and would gladly take on some extra projects? Delegate whatever you can to someone else.
And lastly, if there are things that cannot be delegated – long-term growth plans, in-person meetings, etc. – then suck it up and do it yourself. But before you do, take a long hard look at the project and really consider if deletion or delegation is a possibility. You may think you’re the only person who can handle the bookkeeping or client intake, but you may be wrong.
Prioritize and Accept. As driven entrepreneurs and aspiring leaders, most of us have so many things we want to accomplish that, ultimately, there may not be enough time to get everything done. It’s at this point where you must first prioritize what’s important and then accept that trajectory. When I was writing Your Book, Your Brand, I had a tight deadline and I knew I only had a certain amount of writing time in every day. There were many things I could sacrifice, but I opted for fitness. Rather than working out, I wrote. And I managed to still run my company and not forfeit time with my family while writing that book. I accepted that I would be out of shape for those eight weeks and that I could reprioritize after my deadline.
When I started Kaye Publicity, it was my first and only business, so I could dedicate 100% of my time to growing it. And because of that, I was able to grow it quickly. As I continue to grow Branding Outside the Box, I don’t have that same luxury. I’m running another company, I have a family, and I’m not willing to forego sleep, fitness, and other aspects of my health to grow it as quickly. So I’ve accepted that the growth will be slower because I’m unable (and unwilling) to devote 100% of my time to it.
Once you set your priorities, it’s important to accept them. And if you’re having trouble accepting the sacrifices you need to make, then maybe it’s time to re-prioritize.
We all have time constraints, obligations, and responsibilities that we may feel are preventing us from accomplishing our goals, but in reality, most of the road-blocks are mental. By implementing these three tricks, you can overcome those roadblocks, increase your productivity, and accomplish more with the time you do have.