December 1, 2017 was my business birthday. Nine years! Sometimes it still amazes me that I’ve been an entrepreneur for so long. You can imagine I’ve made a lot of mistakes and have learned a lot of lessons in that time. By nature, I tend to approach things in a scientific/engineering manner (I would have probably made a great engineer!), which you might have noticed if you’re a long-time reader of my blog.
One thing I struggled with for many years was my damn inbox and planning my days. I’ve long been someone who writes out tomorrow’s most important things before ending today. Things always looked great on paper, but reality often took a different path (as it tends to do!)
This is how my days typically went:
- Sit down at my desk and review the written to-do list.
- Open email.
- Feel my stress levels increase. So. Many. Emails. Did those damn things spawn babies overnight?
- Now what do I do? My planned written list? The tasks within my emails?
- Self-talk: Let’s tackle the emails first.
- End of day arrives. Most of my written to-do list was never touched.
- Self-talk: Beat myself up.
- Write up a new list for tomorrow.
- Every. Damn. Day.
Yeah, I know email can be evil — you’re preachin’ to the choir! However, when it’s the main way you get tasks and work from clients, it kind of becomes a “necessary evil”. I even reframed “necessary evil” to “make money with my inbox”.
In a desperate attempt to become more productive, I tried tweaking many different things with varying degrees of success. I began to notice that I was getting a lot more planned work done on the weekends because I wasn’t checking my email. Interesting. As you might imagine, once I made this discovery, working on weekends soon became my way of life.
Fast forward to November 2016
I realized a lot of my mental shit surrounding the inbox was largely because I was feeling incompetent–probably because I was striving (and failing) at achieving the mythical creature known as Inbox Zero. Compounding the mental shit was that I had gone from mainly operating in Eastern Time to Pacific Time. Now I was starting every day feeling as though I was “already late and playing catch-up”. Not a fantastic way to begin the workday, right?
Then there were two books I read that changed everything: The Power of When and Essentialism. Both books gave me the “aha” moments I had been seeking.
What I realized:
- We haven’t been offering OBM, general administrative, social media, or technical virtual assistant services since 2015. We’re 100% bookkeeping and accounting now, so “rush” work is typically pretty rare.
- Clients know they can always text or call me if something urgent comes up.
- Every single client knows we’re reliable and we don’t drop the ball on getting shit done (on time). Therefore, they don’t expect an immediate response to emails.
- I needed to feel a sense of control over my day.
The Bossy Inbox was getting the boot. I was going to be in charge!
There were six different aspects to my ideal solution.
Part One: Tracking every minute spent at my laptop, whether for business or personal
Part Two: Figure out how much time I truly needed for client work
Part Three: Plan out how much time was needed on a monthly basis
Part Four: Improve my existing daily written list
Part Five: Plan my day using 90-minute blocks of time
Part Six: A trusty pad of Post-Its
This six-part process, while not originally linear, gave me the daily control I needed with less stress and increased efficiency. If this sounds appealing, make sure to stop by next week as I begin to detail each step.
- Buy (and read!): The Power of When
- Buy (and read!): Essentialism
- Explore the reasoning behind working in 90-minute blocks
- Ready to dig into Step Four? Get the Google Spreadsheet planner I’m using to plan my days list
To your increased productivity!
Image credit: Pixabay