As a business owner, there are never ending, myriad ways to help make our business more successful and push it along. There are tools we can use, products to buy, mindset shifts to make, and the list goes on and on. As an enneagram Type 5 (the Investigator), I’ve spent countless hours reading and researching to find the things that work best for me, and I wanted to share the ones that have made the biggest impact with you. So without further ado, here are the five things that make my business successful!
1. Tangible items that make my business successful
This is a (genuinely) distraction-free writing device that broke through the walls of my years-long, perfection-fueled writing blocks. Earlier this year I (very wisely, honestly) realized that trying to write on a computer was proving to be too difficult, no matter how much I simplified the process. Even if I set out to open one single browser window of Google Docs, or my computer’s native ‘offline’ word processor, I found myself still too distracted just by the mere availability of the rest of the internet and snazzy computer programs at my fingers. It was too easy to open another page or app and pretend that I “couldn’t” write, so might as well move on to something else. *Insert shrug here* Too easy to fuss with something else – ANYTHING else – instead of taking a goddamn chisel to the wall of my writer’s block and making any effort.
So, I turned to Google. I asked it to find me something that would enable me to write distraction-free. Results were not great. I tweaked the keyword searches a couple times, trying to articulate what I was looking for (something I wasn’t even sure existed). What I did NOT need, thankyouverymuchGoogle, was a browser extension or tips on enabling Do Not Disturb. I’d done both of those already.
Finally, I found the Traveler. It is as analog as it gets, without any purpose other than writing. It’s so analog that it’s reminiscent of the first computers in the 70s. No fancy LED screen, no games, no internet access. In other words: it was exactly what I was looking for. If you find yourself struggling with the same writing problems, buy one for yourself and thank me later. Seriously. (and if you click over and gawk at the $499 pricetag like I did, let me tell you: every single penny was worth it. The experience of finally getting through writer’s block that this small tool provides is literally PRICELESS)
2. Rescue Time
This is a software that lives in your computer’s menu bar and works in the background, tracking how you spend all of your time as you work. It breaks your tasks down into a couple categories: focus work, meetings, ‘other work’ (think: email, calendar, etc) and personal activities. You have the power to dictate which task goes in which category, which is really nice. My definition of ‘focus’ activities may not be the same as yours, so you can customize away.
There’s a couple features that I absolutely love, most notably setting a daily focus work goal and being able to easily check on my progress throughout the day – just by clicking once on its menu bar icon. You can also set deliberate “focus sessions” in lengths of your choice (15, 25, 30, and 60 minutes are pre-programmed options, or you can choose your own custom length). Opting into a focus session shuts down access to all of your distracting websites (which you dictate in your settings) for the duration of the session, so you have no choice but to get to work.
This simple tool keeps me on track with whatever big project is at the top of my priority list at any given time, and makes sure I’m on track putting in solid hours of focus work every day, which is so helpful.
3. Time Genius
Marie Forleo is the master behind this time management course, and let me tell you: not only was it one of the few courses I actually started and finished within a month, but it was POSITIVELY GAME CHANGING. By this point in the article, I’m sure it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch for you to imagine that I’m pretty obsessed with reading #allthethings about productivity, focus, streamlining systems, and the like. But for all the new tools I found, the new insights I learned, the new habits I tried to adopt over the years, nothing felt as truly transformative as this course did. Seriously.
She presents information that is simple enough to apply to anyone in any life or job circumstance, but all still grounded in behavioral science – so you know what she’s saying will actually work if you put in the time to implement it. She was the one to introduce scheduled focus blocks to me (I’ll talk more about that in a moment), and also taught me how to restructure my workday to maximize my daily mental energy capacity (did you know you only have so much in a day, just like a car’s gas tank? Neither did I until she told me) – in ways that I had never considered before. She also taught me small tweaks to things I’d heard of doing before or previously tried, but in ways that would make me way more successful in completing them (and thus, seeing more long-term results).
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This course is more than just a couple items on a checklist to do every day; it’s an overarching life philosophy to live by. Mere days after finishing the course and putting a handful of things into practice, my life (both work and personal) had already completely changed for the better.
2. Intangible items that make my business successful
This one’s in caps because it’s that important. I almost wrote that if I could tattoo this on my body, I would – but, I wouldn’t. 😂 Anyway, the fact remains: I LOVE boundaries. We all need them, and honestly – we could all probably stand to use more of them. Boundaries show up in a myriad of ways, but the bottom line is that they are lines we draw around ourselves to protect our time, energy, and/or money. We cannot be all things to all people, and boundaries help to establish that bottom line so you can do more of the things you’re being called to.
If you’re wondering what types of boundaries I draw in my biz, you’re in luck because I’m more than happy to share mine to help kickstart your imagination in creating your own. Head to this post for a deep dive on my specific work boundaries.
5. Deliberate mono-tasking + focus blocks
Can you see a trend here? The name of the game is eliminating distractions and finding every possible way to hack my brain so I can produce the best results possible.
For this one, let me simply say: DEATH TO MULTI-TASKING. Seriously, I am never, ever going to list this on a resume or brag about my skills in it again. Why? Multitasking is a myth. It is literally not possible to do two things at once. What is actually happening is your brain switching from one task to another extremely, extremely quickly. So fast that you don’t even notice it. You might think, “Fine, okay, it’s technically not multitasking. But that’s semantics. Juggling multiple things at once is still better than one at a time.”
That’s also not entirely true, and science has backed this up. Studies have shown that when you’re context switching (quickly going from one task to another and back), it can take a full 23 minutes to regain your focus. Damn, what a waste of time that is just trying to get back into flow state!
Enter: scheduling focus blocks into your day where you mono-task on just one important item at a time. For me, it’s usually writing. Making a commitment (and using my Rescue Time focus sessions) to sit down and focus on one task, with enough time to get in a groove, has proved to be infinitely more productive than attempting to “multitask.” *mic drop*
Running a business is no small feat for any of us. There are always going to be a million things to do, accomplish, and check off; and equally a million things pulling you away from those important tasks, distractions that demand your attention. The key to success is making a commitment that you’re going to put in effort to work toward it every day, no matter what. These items are the things that have helped me do that.
I hope this list of the things that make my business successful was helpful to you in your endeavor to maximize your own time (and sanity)! It’s by no means an easy journey to do so, or a destination that you finally “arrive” at. It’s an ever-evolving process and journey as you learn about what works best for you so you can set yourself up for continued, ongoing success.