Chances are, the honest truth is that you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog post right now.
You probably have more important things to do. There’s no doubt there are certain actions you could be doing right now which would grow your blog and your business. But, instead, you are here and reading this post.
Now, don’t go away! 😉 Because, my intention is to make this post definitely worth the few minutes it will take to read it.
I know from my constant interaction with my readers that the biggest constraints to growing your blog and business is usually not things like niche, traffic, email list, etc. No, the problem is US. You and me.
See, everything that we do in our businesses is a system. But, it just so happens that WE are a pretty big part of that system. So, if we’re sitting around in a self-induced stupor of information overload and overwhelm, then WE are the constraint to the growth of our own business. This means that we have to handle ourselves first before trying to embark too far into the business end of things.
We all – each and every damn one of us – could work more efficiently than we do. It is a gradient scale. Some people get quite a bit done, but even they could improve. Sadly, most people don’t get very much work done. They just think they do. So, how bout we do a little something about it, heh?
Make Me A Promise
Before you continue reading, I want you to make a promise to me. Actually, make it to yourself. And, it is…
Truth is, there’s not anything in this post which is going to break new ground. I doubt there’s much in this post which you haven’t seen or heard before. Most of us KNOW we need to do these things – but we don’t.
But, you must make the commitment now. Don’t try to bite off the entire thing at once. Going from mental chaos to a model of efficiency isn’t going to happen immediately. So, cut yourself some slack. But, you DO have to make a commitment to do something about it.
Pick one of these things – and make a particular point to change your ways and implement it fully. M’kay?
OK. Let’s go.
#1 – Put On Your Executive Hat
Most people who try to grow their businesses are doing it single-handedly. This means that you’re usually wearing your “worker” hat. You’re sitting there cranking, and basically just PLOWING forward as much as you can.
Problem is, most of that plowing lacks any direction at all.
Back up and look at the way most organizations run. There is a hierarchy. And, it is an executive of some kind whose job it is to look at the big picture, to determine strategies, to create strategic plans, then set those things into motion. The act of creating those plans is DIFFERENT than the work involved with doing it. They are two completely different modes of operation.
This means that you MUST begin to wear your executive hat and do it separately from your worker hat. As the old saying goes, sometimes you have to work ON your business rather than IN it.
Is the extent of your planning to write down a to-do list in the morning? Is that to-do list mainly a list of things you hope to get done? Does that list align with any other weekly/month/yearly strategy lists? Do you even have a strategy that you’re working by, or are you just sitting down and taking mindless action every day in the hope it will work?
#2 – Stop Trying To Be A Hero
You don’t have to be that person who takes the entire world on your shoulders, tries to do everything by yourself, then sit there and try to convince yourself how special you are because you’re so busy.
Truth is, if you’re so busy that you feel like you barely have time to breathe, then you’re doing something wrong. You have nothing to feel special about. Some people wear the badge of overwhelm like we’re all supposed to think you’re important. But, it really just tells me that you don’t have good systems set up and you’re a constraint.
When I see new bloggers spending weeks on little site tweaks or trying to make their own logo, I wince a little. Stop trying to be the hero.
You should be focusing on those things that you can do. We’re all different and each of us have different skill sets. Some people are good with technical stuff while others are more creative. Embrace who you are and stop running from the idea of simply having others do things for you. They’ll do it a LOT faster than you and it will free you up to concentrate on more important things. I can guarantee you that you’ll grow your business better if you are free to concentrate on what you’re good at. You’ll actually hamper yourself by trying to be the hero.
Of course, for many, this brings up the dreaded word “outsourcing”. And your knee-jerk reaction is that you don’t have the money for it.
Well, my readers know I’m a straight-shooter, so I’m not going to pull any punches. My response is “bullshit!”. You have the money. You’re simply choosing not to spend it because you haven’t realized how important it is. How many people out there say they can’t afford to outsource, yet they went out and bought an iPad or some other gizmo. Point is, it is very rarely about lack of money. It is about lack of priority.
In a world where Fiverr exists, there is no excuse to not hire people to do things for you.
#3 – Organize Your Efforts
Most of us know that organizing our stuff is important. Keeping our workspace clean and organized just helps us get more done.
But, what about effort?
Does your work often seem like one big, confusing ball of effort? You have the goal of “grow my blog and make some money with it”. You’re clear on that. But, when it comes to doing it, you’re sorta lost without any real direction. You just kinda throw effort up against the wall and hope something sticks.
Effort is a very real commodity. It is work. It is attention. And it must be flowed in an organized way for anything to happen. When there is no FLOW to your effort, then it would be alot like blasting a water hose into a wall. The water just hits the wall and scatters and nothing happens.
The way to organize your effort is to begin breaking your activities into systems. I did a whole series on systems. Check out these posts:
What you’ll notice is that I’ve taken the big ball of effort and I’ve broken it down into certain categories of task. Those groupings represent major areas of similar effort. Then, they can be broken down even further.
What this does is gives you structure. When you sit down to do a particular task in your business, then you can more properly focus on that task without sitting there thinking about all the other stuff. Because you’ve effectively separated it out into its own thing. The system takes care of ensuring it all flows together. When you take this concept out further, you have the makings of how you make a business which can operate whether you’re there or not.
#4 – Stop Taking Hits On The Attention-Reducing Crack Pipe
Our attention is one of our most important assets. And, most online entrepreneurs do a shitty job of managing it.
Consider this: Have you ever been really focused on something and had your thought process interrupted by a phone call? When the call is complete, it usually takes several minutes to re-gain the mental focus you had before the call. The average is about 20 minutes. That’s 20 minutes of wasted time all because you picked up the phone.
With most of us, we’re repeating this mistake all day. We either don’t practice any control on our environment and therefore let things interrupt us constantly… OR we actively INVITE distraction into our days by sitting on Facebook, checking our email constantly, watching TV, etc. We’re in a constant state of unrealized focus.
Most of us are acting like drug addicts!! Facebook and our email are the hits we need to maintain the addiction. I could have sworn I saw a study at one point which said that Facebook activates the same parts of the brain as a crack hit. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit.
Afraid you’re going to miss something important? Hmmm… sounds like a drug addict who is afraid of not getting his hit.
Well, we know that the first step to getting off of addiction is admitting you have a problem. So, let’s just admit it. OK? We have an addiction. 🙂
Ultimately, it comes down to self-control. Being in the business we’re in, getting off of social media altogether might not be very smart. Abandoning your inbox wouldn’t be either. But, let’s not use that as an excuse to maintain our self-defeating ways. The solution is to design routines and procedures which will keep the bad habit from happening.
BTW, I opened this blog post by saying you probably shouldn’t be reading it. It was ironic, I know… but let me make this point…
Have you ever had the thought that going around and reading blogs about blogging was somehow useful to growing your OWN blog? Chances are, you have. But, ask yourself… has it worked? Chances are, you already know of several things you should be doing to grow your business. You don’t need me or any other blogger to tell you those things. And, the time you spend keeping tabs on all these blogs is just time spent NOT doing those things to grow your business. Sure, you can get ideas. But, your attention is valuable. Do you need more ideas when you already have a ton of ideas you haven’t implemented yet?
I once heard Jason, from Internet Business Mastery, use a term called “just in time learning”. It means you only learn a particular thing when you need to know that thing for a specific goal you’re working on. You’re not endlessly reading and learning. Instead, you learn with a specific outcome in mind.
I know it seems self-defeating to tell you that. After all, I’m in the business of content and I really want you to come here and read what I have to say. 🙂 But, all I can say is… be in control of your attention. I’ll try to make everything I release super useful and effective for your time, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
#5 – Know Thy Outcome
It is a bit hard to set out to do some task when you don’t know what the outcome of the task is. That’s like being sent out to drive somewhere and not being told what your destination is.
Not knowing the exact outcome you’re shooting for is what leads to busy-work. It is what leads to overwhelm and confusion. And, then we end up going after the low-hanging fruit like… Facebook. And we’re right back into the addition circuit again (See above). Really self-defeating.
Every single task you set out to do… you should be CRYSTAL clear on exactly what the outcome is supposed to look like. And, when that outcome is gotten, STOP! Don’t sit there and tweak it. Just stop and move on.
Ever gotten into the endless loop of tweaking your blog’s design? You set out to do one thing, then before you know it you’re sitting there screwing around with pretty much every design element there is on your site. In the world of software, they call this “feature creep”.
The reason this happens is because they weren’t crystal clear on the exact outcome. The outcome was vague and that opens the door to feature creep.
If we back up and re-visit the idea of systems (See “Organize Your Efforts” above), then it should now be obvious that every single system HAS to have a clear, known and specific outcome to it. Every section of your business needs to have a clearly stated end product. Your business has to have a clearly stated end product. No matter how high or low you want to go – from the global view of your business all the way down to that little 5 minute task you do in the morning – ALL of it needs to be toward a clearly stated and known outcome.
When you don’t do this, you introduce feature creep. And you introduce that big ball of effort I talked about earlier. There’s nothing more overwhelm-inducing than action not guided by a known outcome.
#6 – Practice Your Personal Kaizen
The Asian culture is built on a philosophy of patience. And there is a Japanese management strategy called “kaizen” which demonstrates this. It refers to the idea of slow, continuous improvement.
In many ways, kaizen is very closely related to the Theory of Constraints which I have talked about here before. But, the idea remains mostly the same. It starts with systems (noticing the theme here?). Then, from the baseline system and measuring the output of that system, you seek continuous improvement. From the perspective of theory of constraints, we would be finding and removing constraints from the system in a steady fashion.
In everyday practice, then, we focus on that steady, slow improvement. Instead of focusing on the entire enchilada, we focus on a little piece of it which we know will get us a little closer to the overall goal.
You might have 5 things which you know need to be handled. You could sit there and be overwhelmed by it all. Or, you instead put 4 of them out of your mind and focus on one of them at a time. Then, even within that one thing that you choose to focus on, there might be one little piece of it that you can get done today. So, you do that. Then, the next day, you get the next thing done.
In other words, don’t focus on everything. Focus on one thing. And, you may even only assign yourself one thing per day that way it makes it easier to confront.
That’s kaizen. Slow, steady progress. Continuous improvement. Continuous removal of constraints to the end of the system working better.
So, there you are. 6 strategies. I’ll end with this point…
Each of the 6 strategies in this post are pretty basic. From any one of them could be derived any number of little tactics and specifics. But, if you really apply the basics, you’ll find the clarity increase in your day to be amazing.
You may also notice that there’s overlap in these strategies. And I think that’s because the real solutions for avoiding overwhelm are really simple. The principles are simple. Power lies in simplicity.
Lastly, apply the idea of “kaizen” to this very post. Like I said at the beginning, you can simply pick one and work on implementing that. Don’t try to do everything at once.
This stuff is always a work in progress for any of us. I’m always working on it for me, too. Don’t assume that just because I wrote this post that I must be a model of efficiency. I’m most certainly not. 🙂 But, I try. I put these 6 strategies to use in my own life all the time, but my effectiveness at it ebbs and flows. Just ask the guys in my mastermind group! 🙂
Lastly, if you want to move a bit beyond the basic principles into some more specific ways to apply these 6 strategies, then download this short PDF: 22 Time Management Tactics To Start TODAY To Begin Mastering Your Time.