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Hustle & Heart

Productivity for Busy Entrepreneurs: The Definitive Guide to Finding More Time To Work On Your Business

productivity and time management for busy entrepreneur dads

“Productivity is 10% how to work and 90% what to work on.” – Chase Reeves, Entrepreneur Dad

This chapter is the longest article I’ve written on productivity, but it’s only half of the equation of how to be more productive as an entrepreneur dad.

Believe it or not, it’s easier to find more time in your business than it is to focus on doing the right work.

What follows is everything that I know about about being productive in my business, specifically doing so with a wife and son and while holding down a full-time job.

1. Wake Up Early

Waking up early has been the second most powerful technique I’ve used to get more time in my business. To get the most impactful technique, you’ll have to read to the end of this chapter.

You may not be a morning person.  At least not yet.  But since you have kids, being able to work while they’re asleep will mean a tremendous amount for your business.

How many times have you had the best intentions to work later at night but you were just too tired or too stressed to do anything?

Getting up earlier means your business will get your mind in its most clear and focused state.  Every morning is a fresh start to get your most important work done before the influx of kids, spouse, email, and phone calls.

This doesn’t have to happen overnight either.

Start getting up 30 minutes earlier for two weeks.

Then start getting up 30 minutes earlier than that for the next two weeks.

Important caveat, this also very likely means you’ll need to go to bed sooner.

Rookie Mistake: Putting the alarm by the bed.  Put your alarm far away so you have to get up to go turn it off. Go to the bathroom, wash your face with cold water, and brush your teeth.  You won’t want to go back to bed after that.

2. Clean Up Your Workspace

You aren’t cleaning up to make your wife or mother proud of you.  Decluttering your workspace eliminates all of the potential distractions from taking away what you’ve set out to accomplish.

With distractions minimized, you can focus.

I don’t just mean your physical workspace either.  Clean up your computer’s desktop, your phone’s home screen, etc. Turn off ALL of the notifications.   You’ll be less likely to get lost in your Feedly lists, Facebook groups, or your Instagram feed.  You’ll be clear of your Google Analytics and your Periscope broadcasts you feel like you HAVE to watch before they disappear.*

You’ll have time to do it later if you also use the next technique in this chapter.

*Odds are, somewhere in that list, one of those items reminded you that you need to go check it.  Don’t.  Keep reading.

3. Use the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomordoro Technique isn’t super complicated, but it is super effective.

Using a timer, work for 25 minutes and then take a break for 5 minutes.

Whether you’re working on a new ebook or editing a podcast, break down your work into short chunks or just work as hard as you can until the timer goes off.

You’ll find that your work starts to fit the time you allot for it. You’ll get more done in 25 minutes than you used to get done in an hour.

Don’t be freaked out.  This is actually backed by science. It’s called Parkinson’s Law.

4. Use Parkinson’s Law to Your Productivity Advantage

Simply give yourself less time.  I know, seems totally counterintuitive.  Isn’t this chapter about finding more time for my business? I’ll explain.

In addition to the Pomodoro Technique, use Parkinson’s Law. Parkinson’s Law states that work will shrink and expand to fit the time allotted for it.

When your boss expects you to sit at your desk from 9-5, no matter how much you get done, you’ll take all 8 hours to do your work.  That’s not your fault, but you aren’t incentivized to work faster in most cases.

Despite the fact that you want to spend time with your family (a huge incentive), this practice of “unmotivated work” often finds it’s way from the office to your online business. How you do anything is how you do everything.  Your mind is wired to trudge through work at a snail’s pace and when you get home, the same thing occurs.  For example:

If you give yourself 2 weeks to write a new post and it’ll take 2 weeks.  Now, give yourself 2 hours to do the same and you’ll get it done.  

When you know your time is limited, your focus increases.  When your focus increases, you do better work in less time.  

Win/win for you and your family.

Parkinson’s Law is also the reason I gave myself 1-week to write a 10,000 word ebook (you’re reading part of it – it became this course).  That may not be a lot for seasoned writers, but for the uninitiated, like me and you, that’s a lot.

5. Disappoint People (Yeah, I said it)

We were going to have to talk about this eventually.

Hopefully we’re friends and you have ears to hear this because you’ve already read a ways into the book.

If you want more time with your family, you’re going to have to eliminate some commitments.

This about all of the things you’ve volunteered for and been ‘voluntold’ to do.

I’m saying this from experience. For example:

  • When I ran my first online course, Sidepreneur University (which is no longer for sale), I decided to deliver it live via webinar at a time that was perfect for me, not my customers.
  • I stepped down from a leadership position in my church.
  • I stepped down from a leadership position at my job.
  • I stopped coaching other entrepreneurs.
  • I stopped training jiu jitsu regularly.
  • I stopped going out with friends.
  • I refused lots of offers for coffee to “catch up” or “connect.”
  • I stopped hosting local meetups for podcasters and local entrepreneurs.
  • I turned down a lot of offers to be interviewed on other podcasts.
  • I stopped writing for jiu jitsu magazines.
  • I started shipping the orders for my jiu jitsu brand only on Saturday mornings.
  • I stopped posting in forums.
  • I only answered email once per day.
  • And a whole lot more.

This disappointed a lot of people.

But I made more time to work.

This also means you’ll likely have to…

6. Say No to Meetings

At least at first.

If you want to be nice, you can just say, “I’m sorry I can’t make it. I’m tied up with work right now.”  Let’s be honest, that’s always true, right?  You always have some work you need to be doing.

If you do absolutely have to meet with somebody, make sure you have a clear agenda and end time.  With a strict outcome and agenda, there won’t be any chit-chat or off-topic conversation.  It’ll also allow you to prepare and make the best of your time together.

7. Ask for Forgiveness, Instead of Permission

If you have to make a decision in your business and it depends on the approval of somebody else, often it’s much easier to just make the decision and ask for forgiveness later if it goes wrong.

This is both scary and empowering, but it will save you time, your most precious asset.

8. Martin Brodeur Your Input*

*I don’t know if this metaphor works, but I love it.

I grew up loving the Philadelphia Flyers in the 90s.  This meant that I, by law, hated the New Jersey Devils.

They also heppened to have the best goalie of all time: Martin Brodeur.

Brodeur stopped over 90% of the shots from other teams.

And this is precisely what you need to do with your daily information input.

Discontinue trying to read a new book every week like you get some sort of reward for it.

Stop watching every single 3-video launch promotion and every webinar.  Don’t buy any new courses (except this one, of course – /sarcasm).

For the love of God, stop watching Periscope broadcasts.  If you aren’t up on periscope, it’s just a bunch of marketers asking for hearts so they can brag about their heart count and try to sell you a guide on building a Periscope following. (Whew! Can you tell I think marketers have already ruined Periscope?)

Reducing your input will give you more output, I promise.

The next technique is a great way to decide what input to keep.

9. Just in Time vs. Just in Case Information

So, Brendan, if I’m going to cut out most of my input, how do I know what to keep?

Keep only that which applies to what you’re doing right now.

If you aren’t updating and revising your autoresponder, don’t listen to the newest podcast or read the latest blog post about it.  Save it for later.

To do that, I prefer Evernote.

I have notebooks in Evernote for different topics, for example:

Then, when I’m at that place in my business where I need that, I don’t have to waste time finding it. I just use it as an online filing cabinet.

For example, I have another folder right now on writing kindle books and another on speaking, two things that I’ll be diving into in 2016.

So instead of trying to consume it all now and likely forget it, I just stash it in there for when it’s time.

Recently, I did a digital product launch (Sidepreneur University) and conducted a series of really awesome webinars and during that time period, that’s the only information I consumed.  I started with a notebook in evernote with information about webinars and just put everything in there I found about them that was relevant and from trusted sources.

Now, I’m focused on writing more on the Hustle&Heart blog and all of my learning is focused around blogging and creating courses (how meta).

Whenever you find a great resource you don’t want to lose, just put it in a new notebook in Evernote.  It’s free, super easy, and will keep you incredible focused on the information you need without encountering the fear that you’ll miss out (FOMO) and lose the resources when you *do* need it down the road.

Most problems solve themselves. Stop making an emergency out of everything and cultivate selective ignorance.

10. Batch Process

Most of the work you do is time consuming and repetitive so just start doing them all at the same time.  It’s not the sexy part of entrepreneurship, but it is stuff that needs to be done.  By doing them all at once, not only will you get them done, but you’ll make sure they don’t interrupt you from doing the larger, more important tasks in your business.

Despite what Gary Vaynerchuk advises, I schedule all of my social media posts out for an entire MONTH ahead of time.  It takes about 1-2 hours to do this. I have 12 social profiles that I post to so, on average, I get back about 5-10 hours per month. I still add to it at random times when inspiration strikes and respond to twitter messages as quickly as possible on mobile.  However, I check all of my Facebook messages across all of my groups and pages once in the morning and once in the evening.

That’s it.

I also only ship one day per week now for Ok! Kimonos so this can work for any tasks that you find yourself doing regularly.

11. Work Offline

Work offline as much as possible. I’m typing this ebook for you offline.  By disconnecting my internet connection, I avoid a tremendous amount of distractions.

I’m sure there’s tons of fancy apps to make this happen (I love Gmail offline), but I simply put my phone on airplane mode and click the ‘Disconnect’ button of my desktop’s wifi.

Problem solved.

12. Be Incredibly Boring

You’re a dad, so you know the strength there is in routine, especially for your kids and your family, but the same is true of yourself.  It’s the reason you hear about Zuckerberg and Jobs wearing the same style clothing every day.  Less decisions + more order = more creativity.

Yet, this is precisely the hardest thing for creative people to deal with: to turn off their creativity or their entrepreneurial spirit in one area of their life and let it out in another.  Typically, we are who we are in all areas of our lives.

We see Don Draper go out and get hammered at lunch.  We see him travel and chase women.  We see the moment of enlightenment and the gleam of inspiration in his eye when he makes some sort of creative breakthrough.

But what we never see is when he does 100 drafts of a new ad and throws them all away.

We never see the work.

Doing any type of creative work (especially entrepreneurial work), is incredibly taxing.  You don’t have energy to waste on other things.  This includes things you think you need to “unwind” like drinking, watching television, etc.

This is something I learned from one of my favorite writers, Austin Kleon.

Thankfully, we now know that this idea is also backed by science.  We have a finite number of decisions we can effectively make throughout the day before we start to exhaust our mental resources.

By living a more routine and orderly life, you can save your energy for doing work that matters.  Here’s a brief description of how Kleon recommends to do that:

  • Take care of yourself.
  • Stay out of debt. Live within your means. Save.
  • Keep your day job… for money, connection, routine.
  • Take jobs you can learn from, for your art.
  • Do your work every day, no matter what.
  • Get a calendar. Fill the boxes.
  • Body of work = slow accumulation of little bits of effort over time
  • Keep a log book. (Chart of past events.)
  • List what you do every day… good resource for later.
  • Marry well. (Choose who you want to be around.)

13. Audit Your Time

Doing a time audit was saved for last in this chapter because I’ve found it to be the most powerful thing I’ve done to get more time in my business.

As I’ve mentioned before, it was the saving grace that brought my family, business, and sanity back from the dead after my son was born.

The problem is that we, as humans, are terrible in our own perception of the time we spend (and waste) on tasks.

Doing a genuine time audit helps you better understand where your time is going.  I’ve tried two methods:

  1. Write down everything I do during the course of the day – This was both exhausting and unreliable.
  2. I used a timer and tracked what I was doing every time it went off. – This was still inconvenient, but much better than my first effort.  

I set a timer on my phone to go off every 30 minutes throughout the day.  Every time the timer went off, I went into the Notes app on my phone and wrote down what I was doing.

There is a beautiful chart for tracking this process in the 7-Day Productivity Challenge in my course.

Yes, the timer interrupted me and made my work during that day less effective, but the data that I was able to get from it was invaluable.  I did this for just one day at first and eventually did it every other day just to get a good average.

This process only works if you’re honest.  Since you’ll be the only one seeing this list, there is absolutely no reason to lie.

I then went through all of the tasks that I was working on and labelled them as either:

  1. Very Important – The things that move my business forward
  2. Less Important – The minutiae of work that doesn’t add significant value
  3. Wasted Time – Stuff I shouldn’t be doing at all.

You’ll likely find that most of your time is being spent on numbers 2 and 3 and that’s totally fine.  That’s where most people are.  Again, be honest in your assessment and use the strategies mentioned earlier in this chapter to rescue your time.

In fact, if you’re working online, you can also look into an app like the conveniently titled Rescue Time.

“Be regular and orderly in your life so you can be violent and original in your work.” – Gustave Flaubert

Now What?

First, you will now have more time to work on our business.  Let’s talk about what to do with that time.

If you have tried all of these options, or need to take your productivity to a new level, check our my Productivity course just for entrepreneur dads, Hustle&Heart’s Productivity Fundamentals.

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