There are a variety of scenarios that come up for business owners that make you feel stuck or question your ability to make the meaningful progress you desire, stalling your productivity.
Many entrepreneurs are alone at the top, owning a clear majority or 100 percent of their businesses. And while they enjoy the fruits of their labor, this situation of sole responsibility can be stressful. If the stress is not well managed, it can lead to unproductive habits, which can be draining on your energy and enthusiasm.
The day-to-day work of business owners is complex and unique to each individual. You wear many hats and your lists are longer than the hours in a day.
If you’re not paying attention to time ticking by, you stop and realize another year has passed and the growth project you had planned several months ago either was not started or it was started but hasn’t been worked on for weeks.
The consequences of getting buried in your work and not coming up for air is to compromise the growth of your business the way you’d planned or other important goals.
There is a simple solution that you can leverage to pull yourself out of a productivity slump.
Before I reveal this effortless method, here are a few symptoms to look for to see if you’re falling into a productivity gap.
Lacking a Sense of Urgency
Is the voice in your head routinely proclaiming, “I’ll do this next week,” or, some similar sentiment when it comes to activities related to larger goals?
Make sure that the voice you’re hearing isn’t a fear protection mechanism holding you back from starting or completing something critical to your success.
Go over the list of projects that you tend to push off until later or next week and take stock to see how long they’ve been lingering. Ask yourself, “What would it mean to my business to get this done?”
If the answer reveals that you’re holding your business back by not making something a priority, that is a sign that you need to adjust your mindset about whether or not this item can wait.
If you determine this item will not make a difference to your business productivity in the near term, perhaps it needs to come off the list, so it doesn’t take up brain space you don’t have to spare.
For the items you determine could level up your game, you’ve found the first clue in the larger plan for improving your productivity. You can now make a concerted decision to classify this item as urgent and treat it as such.
Feeling Overwhelmed with Responsibility
Any time you embark on a growth stage, there will be new challenges to conquer. Whether it’s dealing with more inventory, more client service calls, or an added level of service complexity, at the beginning, most owners feel a sensation of Impostor’s Syndrome: What am I doing? Can I really do this?
While there may be situations that require next level support from a coach, consultant, or other resource, most of the time, you have exactly what you need to figure it out, and it’s really about having the confidence to go for it.
Yes, you may be in somewhat over your head — but you really can do this.
Get out of your head when this occurs and decide you’re all in and start the project.
Finding Day-to-Day Tasks Difficult
It’s quite common for a business owner to write down creative ideas with the belief that they’ll get them done quickly.
Here’s the routine:
- You think of this great idea in the shower, walking the dog, as a side note in a meeting about something else, or maybe you dreamed it up while sleeping.
- You get very excited about the idea and you write it on your to-do list.
- You never get to it.
This happens to everyone. At some point, you must evaluate this creative idea and decide whether you should execute it. Once you decide to execute it, make space to create a plan that is more detailed than your to-do list to make it easy to commit to bite-size steps and get the idea going.
Your Tool for Maintaining Business Productivity
Regardless of your symptom, there is one secret tool that business owners can use to master their own productivity and commit to these decisions of, “Yes, I’m ready to do this.” This tool pulls you out of the details so you can focus on the big picture long enough to work on your business a few hours a week, and it makes all the difference.
I’ve witnessed the power of daily accountability not only in my own day-to-day work habits, but also with multiple clients in my private and group business coaching.
The daily practice of committing to an action that you’ve been putting off by promising another person who trusts that you’ll follow through, makes it significantly more likely that you’ll change your behavior and do what you promise.
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits suggests creating and signing a Habit Contract with a friend or family member based on the concept that “as soon as an action incurs an immediate [negative] consequence there’s an immediate change [in behavior].“
The act of making another person your accountability partner is truly powerful.
Clear’s Habit Contract takes it one step further as you include a negative consequence if you don’t follow through, such as paying money or some other cost that feels significant. The person you’re in contract with is responsible for holding you to the consequence.
For many, this daily practice of reporting to your accountability partner is the difference between transforming your business to the next level through strong focused habits and continuing to run the same business for years down the road.
There is no shame in running the same business for years if that is your goal. But if your goal is to grow, improve, scale, or extend your business in any way, the habit of accountability can be your path to productivity that you need to make it happen when it’s really hard to do.
Effectively Staying on Track
The key to success with this practice is to keep it simple. You identify only one item that you know once it’s done will inspire you to do the other things you need to do.
It’s often that one thing holds us down and keeps us feeling like we’re under the weight of the world while we’re trying to find air.
Figure out the one thing that bogs you down and focus on that.
When you’ve checked that box every day and you check in with your accountability partner, you’ll automatically feel the weight lifted and be more productive overall.
If you have a mutual agreement with your accountability partner and they report their progress to you as well, it could be an even stronger tool. If you’re able to give each other feedback on your accomplishments, that’s a bonus.
By establishing a daily accountability practice with a partner, you set yourself up for consistent productivity outcomes for life.
Belinda DiGiambattista is a serial entrepreneur, business coach, and outsourced financial controller, and can be found at www.belindadi.com.