Have you ever wondered how superachievers seem to get so much done? Their businesses are booming; their marketing is on point; they’ve built an incredible, supportive team; and they have professional vision and clarity. What’s their secret? Don’t we all have the same number of hours, minutes and seconds in a day? The only thing you can manage is how you use those minutes, and it’s not about doing more and working harder. In fact, the simpler you make things, the less you’ll work and the more you’ll get done.
There are some very practical steps you can take to make this happen for you—but keep this in mind: You can read and study all of the productivity hacks in the world, but none of them will work unless you implement them.
When Are You Most Productive?
Are you a morning person or a night person? When do you feel mentally sharp? What time of day is your “go” time? For example, I’m sharper and more productive first thing in the morning. If I sit down to write an email or a blog post at 6 a.m., it takes me only about 30–45 minutes. But if I try to write the same thing at 3 p.m., it takes me more than an hour and a half.
Rearrange your schedule to free up this productive time. Yes, this is easier said than done, but if and when you’re ready to take your business to the next level, it’s a must. I used to love coaching my early morning sessions. However, coaching in the morning took up not only my most productive time of day but also a lot of my energy. When I had a block of time to sit down and work on my business, I wasn’t as focused or as sharp as I needed to be. So I made the hard choice to let other coaches take over for me. It wasn’t easy, but my productivity skyrocketed and it shifted my business.
Action step: Evaluate when your most productive time of day is, and free up this time.
Identify Your 5% and Eliminate the Rest
Here’s the thing: 95% of what you’re thinking, doing and worrying about doesn’t matter in the long run. Those things keep you busy and occupied, but they don’t improve the quality of your life, grow your business or bring you closer to your goals. The remaining 5%? That’s where the magic happens!
Exactly what that 5% includes is different for everyone. In a nutshell, if it’s not something that you absolutely love doing, and it’s not progressing your business, then it’s probably not in your 5%. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is the one thing I need to be doing to move my business forward?
- What is the highest and best use of my time?
For some fitness pros, Facebook marketing is part of their 5%. Some focus on writing and shooting videos, others prefer coaching, and some obsess about program design. For me, the 5% includes refining my vision, developing strategies/planning, creating content, building products, presenting, starting and nurturing relationships, managing my team, marketing, and, of course, coaching.
Action step: Determine what your 5% is. Evaluate anything that doesn’t fall within it, and determine if those items that fall outside can be eliminated, automated or delegated.
Chunk Your Activities and “Block” Your Time
The first step to managing your tasks is to “chunk” them together. This means you’re not multitasking, even if you’re convinced that multitasking makes you more productive (it doesn’t). Many fitness business owners struggle with this.
If you’re not blocking and chunking your time, you’re probably missing your deadlines and wasting time being “busy.” I get how you might feel that blocking and chunking are too restrictive. However, after my mentor threatened to “fire” me if I didn’t start time blocking, I finally decided to do it—and it changed everything!
I realized two things:
- I was setting myself up to fail daily by putting way too much on my plate, and I was constantly moving unfinished tasks to the next day (and the next).
- I was wasting way too much time moving between tasks and being “busy,” which hindered my company’s growth.
Creating time blocks freed me to make real progress. Now, every Sunday, I take about a half-hour and “chunk” my weekly tasks into manageable, bite-sized blocks. This way, I can be fully present and concentrate on those tasks. I use the Pomodoro Technique. I work on shorter tasks in 30-minute blocks, which means I’m working for 25 minutes and then taking a mandatory 5 minutes to stand up, grab some water and recharge. If I’m tackling bigger tasks that require more focus, I’ll work for 50 minutes and then take a 10-minute break. Time block your emails, social media and phone calls.
Time blocking works best if you work on a task in its allotted time block. To do that, you have to focus. Turn off your email, Facebook, phone, Skype, anything that dings and every other distraction. Clear your desk. Devote yourself fully to the task at hand. The more you’re able to do that, the more you’ll get done.
Before I sit down for a block of time that I need to be fully present for, one of my favorite things to do is to meditate for 5–10 minutes. This helps me clear my mind so I can be more present and focused.
Action step: Create time blocks and stick to them.
This all sounds great, but how do you implement these new habits in your business?
Step #1: Do a Brain Dump
Write down anything and everything that’s on your mind—every little task you’ve been thinking about, any major project and everything in between. Get it all down on paper. If it’s in your head, it’s taking up valuable space and energy! Coming up with more items to add to this list is normal; in fact, it’s a never-ending process. But for now, just sit down and do your initial brain dump. Next, write down every activity that you’re doing on a daily basis. Keep a notepad next to you so that you can track exactly what you’re spending your time on each day (yep, even that smoothie break).
Step #2: Organize Your List
After you’ve written your list, eliminate anything from it that’s not essential to your business. If it’s not something that adds value or creates leverage, or if it’s something that you don’t enjoy or that doesn’t move your business forward, get rid of it. Keep in mind that this is about working smarter, not harder.
Next, divide your list into four categories on four separate sheets of paper. Label them as follows:
Today: urgent or important tasks you must take care of
This week: items that can wait a day or two to be taken care of
This month: tasks that you want to do within 30 days
Back burner: anything that isn’t a high priority, but that you still want to get done
Highlight what only you can do—the tasks that are in your ideal 5%.
Delegation is key when you get to this point, and that’s why I love creating systems. It’s one of the most critical things you can do, and it will free you from the day-to-day tasks that you (the business owner) don’t need to be working on.
Step #3: Time Block, Chunk and Schedule
Take action and schedule those tasks in whatever calendar you use. I use Google Calendar, and I color-code my tasks so I know at a glance what basic topic each falls under: coaching, emails, phone calls, writing, product creation, etc. When you chunk “like” tasks together, block off 30- or 60-minute intervals.
Remember to schedule your workouts, meal prep and time to eat, and also include buffer blocks that give you a little extra time in case you underestimate a task, or in case your schedule gets hijacked. Don’t forget to plan downtime and moments with your family and friends, too.
Tweak, Refine and Grow
You’ll get more comfortable with this process as you go along. You’re building new habits, and with time you’ll see what works for you and what doesn’t. It’s not about creating the perfect schedule; it’s about finding ways to make the best use of your time so you can be more productive and successful.