If you find yourself complaining that you’re always super busy, it’s time for a change. A leading adviser to entrepreneurs provides a road map on how to cut back on the craziness – and be more productive.
Shaa Wasmund says she often advises entrepreneurs or those scaling their business to identify the one thing they can do that day that will make the biggest difference.
Not five things. Not three things.
That’s when she usually sees the panic start to set in. People who are always, always busy – multitasking their way through life – often are very resistant to the thought of only doing one thing. They may even get angry.
“Most people seem to believe they need to do more, when really they just need to do what matters,” says Wasmund, author of “Do Less Get More.” “They need to filter out the distractions and focus on the things that make the difference between surviving and thriving.”
Wasmund speaks from personal experience, acknowledging she is often distracted by “shiny objects.” But she had an epiphany when her partner passed away. “I became trapped in a straightjacket of my own making. If my mind wandered I’d just pull the ties tighter with more responsibilities, more emails, projects, people, more, more, more….,” she says.
Learning to let go is not an overnight process, and many will find it’s not an easy thing to even think about, let alone put into practice. Wasmund stresses, however, that once you begin the process you will find yourself focusing on the things that will bring you the greatest success, and the people who will bring you the greatest personal and professional happiness.
“When you’re caught up in ‘busyness,’ – being bombarded by emails and tweets and status updates – it’s literally like a hail storm. It doesn’t stop. There’s no time to slow down and think,” she says. “You think: ‘Oh, I’m so amazing because I’m so busy.’”
The truth, however, is that your “busyness” is crowding out the things you need to do to be successful and happy. With that in mind, Wasmund provides a roadmap for those who want to get off the hamster wheel and take control of their life:
- Acknowledge your fear. You may be afraid of saying “no” because you’ll disappoint someone or lose out on a promotion. “But that stops you from saying ‘yes’ to the things that really matter,” she says. “Your friends may be telling you how busy they are all the time, and you start fearing you’re not good enough if you’re not doing the same. But take a step outside yourself and look in: Where can you get the biggest impact for your efforts?”
- Embrace simple changes. If life is getting so complicated you feel like “it doesn’t even belong to you anymore,” it’s time to “reclaim your power” by prioritizing what’s truly important, she says. It may mean hiring a weekly housecleaner or getting rid of a project that’s showing little return. Once you start taking small steps, you will feel more in control and be able to make bigger changes.
- Shun shiny objects. As mentioned earlier, Wasmund says she can be easily distracted by “shiny objects,” and that includes new technology or apps. “When someone raves about a new app, you may be thinking that you should try it,” she says. “But there’s only one rule when it comes to new products or apps and that is: the only ones that work are the ones that you use.” Don’t get pulled into checking out a new site or app when you know what you now have works for you. Instead concentrate on your priorities, such as boosting sales or contacting new customers.
- Adopt the 80:20 life. Wasmund says she uses the principle to focus on the most valuable 20% of her business, and to focus on “gaining strength and expertise in the most important areas, instead of attempting to improve every weakness.”
- Find your people. Who are those you call upon who help encourage and challenge you and remain positive? “Our most valuable asset is our support network,” she says. “When you feel like you’re walking a tightrope, you build a safety net so that you’re focused on moving forward and not focusing on the fear of falling.”
- Stop knee-jerk reactions. Instead of just reacting to what comes up next (answer emails, respond to texts), try thinking about the consequences of not getting done what you’re working on. “Chances are, almost everything that feels really urgent can wait until you’ve finished your more important tasks,” she says. “Don’t become dependent on the drug of urgency.”
- Make yourself accountable. The American Society for Training and Development finds that the probability of achieving a goal is only 10% is you have an idea, which increases to 50% if you make a plan to do it. The chances of achieving a goal jump to 65% if you promise someone else you will do it and 95% if you have a specific accountability appointment with the person to whom you commit.
- Create a digital sundown. Set a time every evening – two hours before bed is best – when you turn off your phone, texts and emails. You will never reach optimal productivity if you don’t rest your body and mind.
- Personalize your productivity. By understanding your personal rhythms – you may be more creative in the morning or late at night – you’re more likely to accomplish work that has real meaning for you and helps you reach your goals. Adopt and stick to a routine that makes sense for you.
- Look for true value. “Learning how to schedule your life around the people and things that have true value is one of the most important changes you can make,” she says. “These two fundamentally important aspects of your life, who you talk to and what you talk about, heavily influence your ability to change your circumstances and advance yourself.”
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