Just last month I celebrated my first year working full time on my online business. While it has been a great ride full of many highlights and accomplishments, I must admit that it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. There were days where I doubted myself and also found myself working a lot harder than what I used to in my very well paying day job!
So, what was the biggest challenge I faced during the first year of running my own business?
Staying focused and productive.
You see, owning a successful online business brings unparalleled financial freedom to those who dare to dream and yet 95% of the people who venture into the online world never achieve that dream. A recent study has shown that the number one reason why most aspiring entrepreneurs fail to achieve stellar results in their online business is because they lack productive focus.
It is simple. Time is money and if you are wasting your time doing unproductive things or getting distracted by the next shiny object, you are wasting an opportunity to make more money in your business every single day.
Now, we have all heard the cliches commonly associated with goal setting, time management and business planning but how can real people apply those in real life to achieve massive results?
I am going to share with you the 5 most fundamental yet highly powerful tips for success I slowly learnt and implemented to achieve success in my first year of business and ones you can start applying to your business not next year, not next month, not tomorrow but right now!
Tip #1: Do not set deadlines
I know what you are thinking. What? do not set deadline? thats crazy!
Ok, let me ask you a question. How many deadlines have you missed in your business? and what do you feel after you have missed a deadline?
Guilt, frustration, incapacity?
If your answer resonates with above then let me tell you, all of those emotions lead to one thing and one thing only. The P word. No its not productive but quite the opposite.
If you are finding yourself spinning wheels with deadlines, then its time to snap out of it and start looking at the bigger picture.
The bigger picture is the end result of what you are working for right now. (a new car, paying off your debts, million dollar launch). Whatever your goal, you need to start using your end result as your primary source of motivation, work at your own pace, forget about deadlines and you will find yourself 10X more productive.
Tip #2: Have a braindump every morning
This is one of the easiest things you can do to get more productive in your business every day instead of just waking up and running around like a chicken with its head cut off when it’s time to get to work every morning.
So, what is a braindump? Simply map out all the thoughts that are going through your head before you get to work. You can use a simple diary, web app or a smartphone app to do this. I simply use my task app on my iphone.
Once you see everything in front of you, then start removing things from that list which are irrelevant to the success of your business on a given day. Then simply prioritize all your tasks for the day in order of importance and always and I mean always aim to complete your most important tasks first.
A word of caution. I am only talking about work productivity here, so if you see coffee, lunch or some “me” time on your list of things to do, please do not remove them.
Tip #3: Block your time
Think of this as a focus exercise. Split every task into small blocks of time and test yourself to see if you can work uninterrupted for that block. I recommend using a minimum of 30 min blocks for every task and go higher as you get better with your focus.
Blocks and track your time using a tool such as the Task Timer, a simple chrome app. If you are not using the task timer, you can also use the egg timer as a stopwatch to create and track blocks of your time.
Resist the temptation to check email, text messages and visitor stats during this time. If you are really struggling with concentration and focus, then I suggest using smaller blocks of time and working your way up as your focus improves.
Remember, the purpose of this exercise is not to set deadlines but to simply improve your focus and concentration.
Try this for a month and you will notice a pleasant surprise. Things that took you all day to finish can in fact be finished within a matter of hours. I challenge you!
Tip #4: Stop being the only YOU in your business
The “guru to the gurus” Rich schefren talks about this in great detail in his strategic entrepreneur analogy. If your organizational chart just has the word “you” at every level, then there are possibly two things that are happening in your business right now.
You are frustrated and not making as much money as you should be or heading for a complete burnout.
So, how to change the YOU in your business?
It’s time to outsource and delegate. Here is a simple method I have used over the months to massively improve how quickly I can get that things done in my business.
Open a fresh Google spreadsheet and list down all the projects you have been grinding away at over a long period of time without ever reaching the finish line.
Then in the side column list all the obstacles that are stopping you from getting to your end goal, highlight them with red and start looking at the ones you can easily outsource to someone on places like Elance or Odesk and trust me it’s easier and more affordable than you think.
Now, if you are saying to yourself, hang on a sec, I can’t afford to outsource! then I only have one thing to say to you:
You really can’t afford not to…
Tip #5: Write a personal journal and get plenty of sleep
Many scientific studies over the years have shown that sleep deprivation is directly related to poor health, stress and unproductivity.
Ok, I have to admit, most entrepreneurs by very nature are light sleepers and if you are anything like me than your mind is probably racing in the middle of the night thinking about all the things you need to do for your business (or at least I used to be like that).
Then, after many months of frustration I developed a very productive habit of NOT taking my laptop and smartphone to bed. Instead I chose to hand write a personal journal with everything I had accomplished on that day just before going to bed. This had a vastly positive effect on not just how well I slept but also how productive I was the next day after a good night sleep.
Remember, you don’t have to grind yourself the ground to achieve great results in your business and if you are find yourself working harder than ever without a lot of success then it is probably time to stop and reassess the way you are doing things. One of the most valuable lessons I have learnt in my first year of business is to only focus on specific tasks that are adding value to my business on a daily basis. Everything else is probably not important and can wait.