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How To Be More Productive In Your Biz (And Happier, Too!)

  |   Business Tips   |   58 Comments

How to be more productive as a small business owner (and yes, happier, too!) -- 13 realistic productivity tips that will help you grow your brand with less overwhelm.

 

Do you ever feel like you’re getting very little done for your business during the day? Does trying to grow your brand feel overwhelming and exhausting? Do you read those Use This System To Be More Productive! blog posts and feel like crying because your creative brain can’t manage to follow a “system” successfully for more than 1.73 days?

 

If so, hello. We should be friends.

 

For the first 2 years of my business, I lived in the world you find yourself in now. I know you’re tired. I know you’re frustrated. I know that you compare yourself to the insanely productive biz owners around you and think, “What the heck is WRONG with ME?!”

 

And I also know just how very unhappy it has started to make you.

 

I grew unhappy, too.

 

But through some trial, error, random good fortune, new choices, and — okay, I’ll say it — wisdom that comes with age, I gradually found my way to a better approach. One that has helped me improve not just the running of my business, but also the living of my life. That’s what I’m going to share with you today, in hopes that my experiences (messy failures included) will help you find YOUR way, too.

 

Before you go much further, note this: what you’ll read below isn’t a system, or a method, or any sort of strict, defined way to structure every minute of your day in order to be more productive, successful, and satisfied.

 

Those things are epic for those who think best that way, but I don’t — and thus I won’t, and can’t, preach something I don’t practice.

 

What IS below can more accurately be described as a “Realistic Productivity Guide for Right-Brained (aka Intuitive + Creative) Business Owners.”

 

It’s for those of us who go weak in the knees over new calendars, fancy day planners, and the pretty pens + highlighters to accompany them, but have stopped using them all by mid-January.

 

It’s for those of us who can’t fathom planning out a year’s worth of blog posts ahead of time because even if we tried, we’d decide to make a whole different schedule just three posts in.

 

And, it’s for all of us who hear “Pomodoro” and think, “Yeah, riiiiight.”

 

Nodding your head and wondering whether to high-five me or weep? You’ve finally landed at a post that’s ideal for you.

 

Please read on.

 

HOW TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE AS A BUSINESS OWNER — AND HAPPIER, TOO

 

1 | Opt out of mobile app notifications

 

I put this at #1 on the list because there is no quicker way to kill productivity than being interrupted by a buzzing or beeping phone. (Tell me I’m not right! Yes?! Yes.)

 

Even if you’re a Self-Discipline Master — in which case, teach my your ways 😉 — and can resist looking over at the notifications while you work, the mere sound interruption + knowledge that something is happening that you’re “missing out on” is a significant mental distraction. And studies have indicated that this alone increases our anxiety levels.

 

To help yourself be the most productive that you can be, you really want to turn off your mobile push notifications — and then check in with the apps when it’s the best time for YOU.

 

 

(Because we should be in control of those things, right? Technology is at our service, not the other way around!)

 

Here are guides on how to manage your notification settings on the major social networking apps:

 

 

So you don’t feel nervous about your engagement on social media, try checking in with your social media first thing in the morning, on set break times, over lunch, and/or as the last thing you do before you shut down your work for the day.

 

This approach has been a great help to me — and I can assure you that I’ve found that, despite my initial fears, I don’t miss out on anything urgent.

 

 

2 | Check your email occasionally, not constantly

 

Just like app notifications, the distraction of email is a big one…and often a much harder habit to break.

 

(Because emails CAN be urgent, as you and I both know. And responding promptly to client or customer issues is key in order to keep their happiness high.)

 

But constantly switching tasks from work to email to work to email to work in fact doesn’t help your business OR your service quality. It harms both.

 

You see, not only does task switching hurt your work productivity (by as much as 40% I discovered!), but it also makes you more prone to error, reduces your creativity, and slows you down — all impediments to providing the great customer service you’re hoping to offer when you’re jumping in your inbox at a moment’s notice.

 

The better option?

 

Turn off any email notifications that pop up on your computer and attend to your emails only a few times per day. 

 

A balance that often works well — and that I try to stick by — is to check in with email once every 1-2 hours, responding as necessary to time-sensitive or important correspondence and saving all other replies for a certain hour/day.

 

I’ve yet to find any email so important that it can’t wait an hour or two, and giving yourself that breathing room will keep your head clear + your attention focused.

 

Tip: if you run a business where a client or customer could conceivably have a very serious emergency and need to get in touch with you immediately, you may want to direct them to use a text or phone call.

 

 

3 | Take advantage of (customizable) pre-written scripts

 

In another life, I was going to be a political geek.

 

Meaning, of course, that I really just wanted to be C.J. Cregg on The West Wing.

 

As I explored this career option during my stint as an intern for a U.S. Senator, I found myself in charge of writing replies to all of the constituent letters that trickled — or flooded — into the office each day.

 

Faced with the horror of slogging through the compilation of entirely original replies to what were invariably the same 10 questions + opinions phrased in only slightly different terms, a staff member taught me my very first piece of Business Productivity Advice:

 

Use a script database.

 

When you need to convey the same (or similar) information to clients/customers on a fairly consistent basis (if you’ve been running your business for more than 6 months, you likely have a good idea of what this might be), having a loose script on hand that you can insert + customize is a tremendous time-saver.

 

Side note: I say “loose script” because you don’t want to be so rigid and formulaic that you end up sounding like a regurgitating robot in your writing. 😉 Give yourself room to personalize your responses while still inserting pre-written information! This post has some examples of customizable scripts regarding obtaining payment from clients — feel welcome to add them to your own database if it would be helpful.

 

For further guidance, people tell me that they love this e-guide and collection of 87+ scripts that I released last year: Pre-Scripted: The Small Biz Owner’s Mini-Guide To Building a Customer Service Script Database.

 

 

 

4 | Market yourself less, chat with people more

 

One of the laments I hear most from business owners is how much time they spend wrapped up in marketing activities, from pre-scheduling tweets to setting up automatic pinning on Pinterest to writing email newsletters to [insert the bane of your own biz existence here].

 

It’s not that you shouldn’t ever do these things, but when you’re overwhelmed or need to accomplish more tasks IN your business? It’s okay — and helpful — to let them go.

 

Instead, go back to basics and connect one-on-one with people.

 

When I officially started Olyvia in June 2014, scheduling pins was not a thing. My email list had 0 subscribers. My blog had 1 published post. And I had no products to sell.

 

So, what did I spend my “marketing” time doing?

 

Just this: talking to people.

 

For instance, I’d get on Twitter in the evenings and interact with people’s tweets or participate in a Twitter chat.

 

A few times during the week I’d visit some peer and influencer blogs to offer my thoughts on their latest post.

 

And when I could I’d leave comments on others’ Facebook posts (FB Groups weren’t all the rage at that point, but if they had been, I’d have jumped in to converse with people there, too).

 

Simple chats with people will do more to grow your brand than regular marketing, and it's less stressful, too! @OlyviaMedia

 

This seemingly simple activity is what grew my business faster than anything else, and overall it required very little time on my end.

 

As a result I was able to be SO much more productive with my client work (at that point I was doing a lot of graphic + web design — entirely from relationships I had formed…I didn’t advertise this at all) and build in time to do the things that would add real value to my brand (such as crafting high quality blog posts).

 

 

5 | Give yourself permission NOT to do the same things as everyone else

 

If you haven’t yet noticed, there’s quite a lot of sameness out there when it comes to online business.

 

The Periscope broadcasts, the joint sales webinars, the Google Hangout interviews, the e-courses, the perfectly styled Instagram photos, the podcasts, the numerous content upgrades, the Facebook ads, the Facebook groups, …

 

It’s easy to assume that “success” = you needing to do #allthethings also — but that’s just not true.

 

Success comes to us in a multitude of (often surprising) forms, and believe me when I say that you will be get more done for your business and be more in love with it if you focus on the things you A) like, B) are good at, and C) are actually capable of doing!

 

If you don’t have time to create e-courses, don’t make them part of your business model. 

 

If you can’t get into Instagram, don’t force yourself to post there.

 

If you’re not good at doing live video, pass it up.

 

 

Your business needs your quirky + unique combination of talents, interests, and ideas in order to stand out from the masses, my friends. By narrowing your focus down to what YOU do best, you won’t just be more productive — you’ll actually be creating a stronger, more competitive brand.

 

To be more productive you must reject what the masses are doing and do what you WANT to do. @OlyviaMedia

 

 

6 | Stop attending “free” webinars

 

I can’t tell you how many “FREE!” marketing webinars I watched as I was launching my business, but I can tell you this:

 

Not one of them was worth the hours I wasted and the work I shirked in order to listen to them.

 

Looking back, I cringe at my own naivete…but I cringe more at the manipulative tactics used to persuade me that I was going to get specific, useful help in certain areas of biz building. (A considerable exaggeration, it turns out.)

 

Whereas I could have — and should have — been actively DOING something to advance my brand, instead I was reeled into “reserving my seat” at what amounted to glorified sales pitch presentations.

 

What a massive productivity-suck.

 

You are not missing out on anything if you don’t attend a webinar, team. Here and there you’ll get some basic nuggets of wisdom, but here’s what I’ve found to be true:

 

The things you can learn + accomplish for your business via other avenues are far more impactful + rewarding.

 

Here’s what I recommend instead:

 

1. Look for free or reasonably priced workshops that teach actual methods or skills and will give you some sort of measurable achievement at its conclusion. Here is one awesome example of an online blogging workshop from one of the teachers I respect the most, Regina Anaejionu. You may also be able to find some great workshops held at your local library, university, or a co-working space!

 

2. Join a mastermind, invest in group coaching, or hire a mentor for 1:1 guidance. You’ll learn far more in less time with a small group of peers (or a coach who makes it their job to focus on YOUR specific situation) than you ever will trying to apply general, vague webinar advice. This is the one of the major reasons behind creating My Summer of Sanity: a mastermind, group coaching, and business training experience that is unique in that it values a #balancedlife over crazy, unsustainable, hype-ridden biz.

 

3. Search for tutorials or talks on YouTube. This is especially useful for anything from graphic design to social media marketing, and you’ll find the same level of information here as you would in any webinar.

 

4. Buy a business book or e-book. You can learn a tremendous amount from reading in your spare time, and it doesn’t need to cost you more than $5 – $30.

 

5. Tune into a few (pertinent!) episodes of a quality podcast. << I recommend those listed in this post. They are great to listen to when you’re driving or getting dressed in the morning (so you waste less time just sitting — rather than accomplishing).

 

6. Join a Facebook Group relevant to your niche and get advice from peers that have successfully navigated the areas you need help in. If you put up a post for help in a FB Group, make sure you ask a brief question that is clear and highly specific (limited to just 1 topic). That will get you the best response.

 

7. Study the tactics of other successful people. For instance: if you want to learn what a great Pinterest account looks like, poke around a bit and observe those who are doing it well — and that really appeal to you. (What’s the visual consistency like? What information they include in their profile? Do they belong to any group boards? What kind of content do they pin?) The same approach works well for things like opt-in freebies, blog posts, product descriptions, sales pages, profile photos, web design, and so on.

 

This doesn’t mean you should go out and blatantly copy people (please don’t go there!) or even that those people do EVERYTHING right, but it will give you valuable insight into what can work.

 

 

 

 

7 | Instead of over-consuming, learn something small each week

 

How many times have you completely paralyzed yourself and your business because of content overwhelm?

 

This is something I’ve struggled with since the first day I even began to think about starting a business — consuming too much content is actually what stalled my launch for at least 3 months — and I find that I still must continually + consciously fight it if I want to remain productive.

 

I want to be clear: learning is an essential part of success. I strongly advocate for ongoing self-development and skill-building.

 

However, spending hours clicking on blog post after blog post after blog post on Pinterest, attending those free webinars I spoke of above, reading all 28 newsletters that land in your inbox, and the like?

 

While they hold the illusion of moving us forward, the real result is that we’re held back.

 

That’s because instead of stepping out to try and create for ourselves (experimentation is, after all, where the rubber meets the road…and one of the very best ways to learn!), we get so caught up in the gobs of material out there that we invariably start to feel inadequate.

 

Want to be more productive? Create, don't consume. @OlyviaMedia
And anyone who feels inadequate doesn’t have the freedom to produce to the best of their ability. << Tweet this!

 

To get more done while also achieving your learning needs + goals, I’ve found that pacing yourself is the best option. How do you do this? Here’s a few things I do:

 

1. Use Unroll.me and only let the 2-7 MOST helpful newsletters come directly into your inbox.

 

2. Don’t mindlessly scroll through Pinterest, opening up those 19 tabs as you find posts that look as if you “need” to read them. Search for 1 specific topic that you need, then close it down.

 

3. Read no more than 1 chapter of 1 information/training book, per day.

 

4. Sign up for 1 course at a time. Work through it at a rate of 1 lesson a day, every few days, or even every week.

 

 

8 | Go to bed earlier

 

In my first 1.5 years in business, I was frequently staying up to work on blog posts, emails, or designs until 12 or 1 a.m. — leaving me with only 5 or 6 hours of sleep each night. I felt like I was in a fog all day; I couldn’t clearly plan out my biz responsibilities for the week (much less in the months ahead), I felt exhausted after only an hour or two of working on client projects, and I was grumpy.

 

Like, really grumpy.

 

That’s NO way to run a business and serve clients + customers well. It’s also no way to treat ourselves. (I won’t bother to lecture you about how destructive lack of sleep is to our mental and physical health. I know you’ve read the articles!)

 

If you want to get more done and empower yourself to be a happier, kinder, more effective business owner, getting more sleep is one super smart answer.

 

I now go to bed between 8:30 and 9:30 every night and get a solid 9 hours of rest; it has made a world of difference in what I’m able to accomplish during my workday.

 

 

9 | Give yourself a weekend

 

It doesn’t matter so much whether you take a weekend on Saturday + Sunday or whether it’s on a Tuesday + Wednesday, but it does matter that you take one.

 

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, we humans require rest and leisure in order to be “high achievers.”  Working all the time is a massive drain on mind and body; the more we consume ourselves with our business, the less effective and more unhappy we become.

 

“There is a lot of research that says we have a limited pool of cognitive resources,” says Allison Gabriel, an assistant professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies job demands and employee motivation. “When you are constantly draining your resources, you are not being as productive as you can be. If you get depleted, we see performance decline. You’re able to persist less and have trouble solving tasks.” (Source)

 

I confess that for a long time in my business, all I did was work. My weekends, weekdays, and evenings were entirely dominated by my biz — partially because I genuinely loved what I did, but more because I was driven by fear. Fear that if I didn’t work hard and long enough, nothing would get done, I’d make no money, and I would be a spectacular, incredible failure.

 

This line of thinking finally ended in my taking a mini business sabbatical last summer. I was too stressed, too tired, and disturbed to find that I was growing deeply unhappy with my brand. Once I stepped back for several months (and realized that, oh, I actually could do less work and still survive!), I found the courage to make a decision:

 

If I was going to go back to my biz, my days were going to need to look much different than they had before.

 

I now get more accomplished today between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. than I ever did when I worked 16 hour days — and I very rarely work on a weekend. By committing myself to a (general) balance of work and play (it’s not perfect, but it works), I’ve found I’m more energized about my brand and able to be more creative in my work.

 

And while all of that ↑ is exciting, of course, I want to be honest with you: how much I’m able to accomplish now drastically pales in comparison to just how much happier I am. Getting sh*t done is one thing, but if you want to enjoy your entire LIFE, guard your time off and do so unapologetically.

 

 

10 | Nurture a hobby 100% unrelated to business

 

For many of us, our small businesses originated from our hobbies. Maybe we began designing websites for fun, and eventually we started our own web design business. Or, we loved to create jewelry for ourselves and our family, and so that grew into a jewelry design business.

 

This is one of the things I treasure most about small biz (that is, the ability to make a living from doing the things we love), but the reality is that it also creates problems for us as owners. This is because all too often we keep treating our business as our hobby…and thus it consumes ALL of our free time and creative energy.

 

No matter how passionate we are about our work, to remain whole, happy people, we must have other interests outside of it. Far from reducing our ability to be more productive, pursuing other hobbies is incredible for engaging different areas of our brain — this results in better thinking and problem solving, and, therefore, better work in our business.

 

Want to be more productive? Take up a hobby...unrelated to your biz! @OlyviaMedia

 

For a long while I ignored all my previous hobbies for the sake of work. I didn’t mind at all for a while, but as time went by, my creativity decreased. It got harder and harder to engage in what I was doing. I’d sometimes stare at my computer screen for several hours days in a desperate struggle just to come up with new product ideas or those “perfect words” for an email!

 

I didn’t know the solution back then, but I stumbled upon it when, during my business sabbatical (see “Give Yourself A Weekend” above), I revisited my old hobbies.

 

As I returned to reading (for fun!), cooking new recipes, and hiking through the local mountains foraging for prized mushrooms, new and fun business ideas started cropping up out of nowhere. It became easier and easier to write — and write with personality. …In essence, it’s as if hobbies helped my brain find the ‘on’ switch again.

 

So! What activities did you like to do before you immersed yourself in all things business?

 

Whatever they are, I implore you to work them back into your days again — or, go out there and try your hand at something that’s entirely new.

 

It’s worth it, yo. So, so worth it.

 

 

 

11 | Feed yourself well

 

For years I ate low fat everything (when I wasn’t grabbing greasy, low-nutrition fast food) and usually skipped breakfast and/or lunch. My meals felt unsatisfying and I would swing wildly from starving to over-stuffed.

 

When the stress of launching a full-fledged business as a new single mom settled on my shoulders, my eating habits only got worse. In the first 9 months of running Olyvia I gained 23 lbs. This in turn led to a massive loss of energy and I got sick for 4 months straight with the flu and various infections.

 

Being so ill made me unproductive, anxious, and unhappy.

 

Eventually I got to the point where something had to give, and this last summer I said “no more” to my bad habits. By eating delicious, (mostly!) nutritious food and being sure to eat at least three times a day, I have already lost 13 lbs, barely been sick, and seen a significant improvement in my mood.

 

(This also means I’ve been more productive, and have been able to develop biz challenges + my first big program — something I was just wayyy too overwhelmed to do before!)

 

Food is the only way to fuel yourself; by feeding yourself well you are doing what I think is THE most necessary thing to be strong, alert, happy, and able to get your work done. Here are some easy tips that really helped me:

 

1. Stop being afraid of (good) fats. Use the 2% milk. Snack on the olives. Add the avocado.

 

2. Avoid “added sugar” anything. Swap out white sugar with stevia, agave, or honey.

 

3. Make friends with good protein and plants. 😉 Creamy greek yogurt. Juicy roast chicken. Crunchy cauliflower. Peppery arugula.

 

And here are two nourishing, flavorful meals you might like to try!

 

Greek Lemon Garlic Chicken Salad

 

Poke Bowl with Spicy Ahi Tuna

 

 

12 | Move more

 

Studies show that even small amounts of exercise boosts brainpower, gives us energy, and makes us more productive throughout the day. But when we’re working in our business, particularly one that requires a lot of computer or other desk work, we tend to do nothing but sit. there. all. the. day. long.

 

(And by “we,” what I really mean is “I.” #totallyguilty)

 

I have an aversion against most continuous workouts that push 30 minutes (what about you?), but I’ve found that moving in bursts throughout the day is so very doable for me. A 5 -15 minute HIIT workout here or a 20 minute brisk walk there makes my brain + body feel awake, and my productivity soars afterward!

 

If you could stand to move more, too, you might try a short at-home workout by Melissa Bender. She’s fierce but keeps it real.

 

 

 

 

If an online training program is more your thing, there are dozens of options available — from Beachbody to Kayla Itsines and beyond. In My Summer of Sanity members will have the option to receive all the (free, fast) workouts I’ll personally be doing each week and find fun accountability with each other!

 

 

13 | Revise your expectations

 

On a parting note, my personal observation is that the symptoms of being stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted, and unhappy as business owners almost always has its source with one insidious culprit:

 

Unrealistic expectations.

 

Before you take any of the above tips and run off to “hustle” yourself to attaining some wildly romantic biz goal that you see others (supposedly) achieving, please: take into account your life.

 

Yes, some people are able to regularly launch great new products every couple of months.

 

Some others are able to publish a blog post every day.

 

And still there are others that seem to be able to handle dozens of clients simultaneously.

 

That doesn’t mean YOU can — or that you should even try.

 

There are so many variables that influence whether it’s a realistic idea to aim for X, Y, or Z in our businesses, and it’s NOT a weakness to recognize and respect them.

 

As an example, I simply cannot do what a single, childless, energetic 20-something can do. I’m a 35 year old single mom of three young children and in addition to work, I have the responsibility to devote a great deal of hours to the neverending requirements of parenthood!

 

It took me awhile to accept it, but it’s not realistic for me to put out a lot of “stuff” or to work one-on-one with a lot of people; my life at this stage simply is not suited to that kind of business model.

 

The same goes for you. Are you working a FT or PT job — or going to school — in addition to working in your business? Do you suffer from a chronic condition (depression, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis…)? Do you lack emotional, physical, and/or financial support from a partner/spouse? Are you pregnant or do you have kids? Do you lack access to — or have the inability to pay for — safe childcare? Do you homeschool? Are you taking care of a disabled family member or aging parent? Do you have religious, moral, or cultural practices that you prioritize?

 

All of these things — and many others — create certain conditions for your business productivity. Your success lies in acceptance…and finding all the other #WaysToBeAwesome according to the reality in which you find yourself.

 

Not doing so will only lead you to more overwhelm, anxiety, and, ultimately, total business burnout. I don’t want that for you, and I definitely know YOU don’t want that for you.

 

Real productivity starts with respecting the reality of YOUR life. @OlyviaMedia

 

 

+ A FEW TOOLS TO HELP YOUR PRODUCTIVITY

 

Text Expander – https://textexpander.com

“Imagine never typing the same email address, chunk of code, brand message, directions or data more than once. Store them in a snippet—a keyboard shortcut you create. Use them for yourself, share them with your team, update across all your devices.”

 

Workflowy – https://workflowy.com

“WorkFlowy is a notebook for lists. Use it to be more creative and productive.”

 

Moment (iOs) – https://inthemoment.io/

“If you’re using your phone too much, you can set daily limits on yourself and be notified when you go over. You can even force yourself off your device when you’re over your limit.”

 

Do you have a favorite productivity-helping app? Are you a creative who has figured out your personal secret to being more productive? Please feel welcome to share your tips + tricks below to help your fellow biz owners!

 

 

Erika Madden

(Chief Olyvia)

 

 

  • This post is gold! I have been feeling this way for some time – similar to the way you described yourself as feeling last summer – and I’ve been stepping back and re-evaluating things lately.

    I’m looking forward to sharing this with one friend in particular. Thanks so much, Erika!

    Oh, and I freakin’ LOVE Workflowy <3

    • My heart goes out to you, Kristi — it’s not a great place to be in! I’m so, so happy you’re stepping back and that, perhaps in some small way, my experiences + tips here might help you. ❤️

      Thank you for taking the time to leave such an honest and encouraging comment!

    • How do you use workflow? Will it work for a handmade business?

  • Leigh Curvin

    Wow Erika! Thank you for this article. I suddenly felt a sense of relief as I got mid-way through. This article is full of great ways to be productive without being stressed. Thank you again for sharing.

    • I love hearing the word “relief.” I am so grateful that you found that in this post, Leigh! Thank you so very much for reading. ?

  • Emily McGee

    Love, love, love this! Webinars have always been a pet peeve of mine because I live overseas and they are usually at a very inconvenient time. If someone is going to sell to me, then the least they can do is sell to me at a time that is convenient for me, ya know? I love the eat healthy and sleep advice too. I prioritize sleep, in particular, and worry that I won’t ever be as successful as people who appear to work all the time. But I’m happy and healthy and still in love with my budding biz and that matters too.

    • I hear you on the webinar times, Emily! What irks me is when it’s clearly a sales webinar, but then there are no replays — forcing people to either show up or miss out entirely. False scarcity just to get people in seats to listen to a sales pitch is so very icky to me.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who prioritizes sleep. 😉 Doesn’t it make such a big difference?! I’ll never go back!

      Thank you for your wonderful comment. 🙂

    • I too enjoyed the part about a healthy life style and sleeping. I have Lyme disease and my life now revolves around taking excellent care of myself just to survive day to day.

      • Emily McGee

        Good for you!

  • Kate Kinghorn Spurlock

    WOW! I needed this post! ive been really struggling lately with how to do it all while wanting to start. This was very helpful. Thanks for the personal words of wisdom!

    • Aw! Yay! I’m so thrilled that this was useful to you, Kate! ? You are very welcome. ?

  • Charlotte Bax

    I am reinventing my blog/biz at the moment, and this article is so great! It made me realize I don’t have to be like everyone else, and other points you make actually confirm I’m on the right track. Personally I work with an actual pen & paper bullet journal for planning (just a simple one, no calligraphy or anything fancy) and Evernote for storing blog post ideas and business templates and processes. To monetize my blog I’m just starting to try out Patreon instead of paid services/products as a main thing.

    • Thank you for sharing what is working for you + how you’re doing things differently, Charlotte! I think it’s tremendously important that we biz owners/bloggers realize that there’s more than one successful way of doing things. It’s way too easy to get sucked into the sameness trap, and in the process lose our own individuality and talents.

  • Amy Sillery Carter

    This article is just what I needed. Sometimes I wonder if I suffer from ADD when I’m not accomplishing anything in my day. Thanks for all the realistic points.

    • Right?! That’s such an apt way to describe it, Amy. I know the feeling well. ?

      Thank you for reading!

  • This post is wonderful and so helpful! Thanks so much for the realistic advice.

  • I so needed this Erika, I’ve been struggling with this a lot lately and trying to figure out how to get back on track. Love the different suggestions, they are all small and not-overwhelming steps we can start taking right now. And thanks for the intro to Workflowy, wow that’s just what i’ve been needing!

    • Marianne! Yes, you’re totally NOT alone. I really hope some of this will help you start moving in the right direction! ?

  • This article was written as if you read my mind. I have been feeling this way for some time now. I sell on a handmade platform for 8 years now. I have finally stepped back to see the whole picture. I take free webinar from just a few so called marketing guru’s only to get to the big sales pitch as you mentioned. It is just a rinse and repeat every year to sell their big package deal. I finally stopped reading and following them.
    I also signed up for a blog course which cost me $500 in small monthly payments. While it is good content it is just to over whelming for me to do both my blog and run my webstore. I feel pulled in 2 directions and both have never done well because of it.
    I am thinking how is my blog really benefiting my store. So, that brought me to wondering what should I put on my blog then. So, this year I decided to go back to hobbies that I enjoyed before my business to relax in the evenings.
    I am writing about that and my year of love I call #giftoflove2017. I am gifting handmade products I make to 12 friends and new friends every month for 2017.
    In a nut shell this article gave a voice to my thoughts and my life.
    Thank you for writing it Erika. I shared it on Twitter.

    • Marsha, thank you for having the courage to be so honest here. I hear you — and can relate on so much of it. It sounds as if you’re moving in a better direction and creating a business that works for YOU, which is the most important thing you can do for yourself. I am so glad for you — and deeply grateful for your support. ?

  • Nicolet Groen

    Erika, you nailed it! (Again!) I totally feel you and I recognise all the mistakes that you have made. I make them on a daily basis and I know that I have to change. And you are so right about free webinars. There is one exception and I am sure you will agree on this one: The only free ones that I attended that were truly valuable were the one by Regina.

    • I appreciate you so much, Nicolet! (And yes, definitely: Regina is in a league of her own! ? What I love about her is that she pretty much started the whole idea of a workshop instead of a webinar, giving integrity back to the concept of online learning!)

  • Meghan Hartman

    I totally feel this way. This is exactly the post I need right now. It’s time for me to get real, set limits, and focus on creation over consumption. Thanks for this post, Erika!

  • I seriously love you and your down-to-Earth-ness Erika! My favourite here is #5. I also love that you’re highlighting the fact that everyone has different circumstances that affect the resources we have access to, and what we can each physically achieve. Everyone’s different, and it’s great to have a reminder to tune into our own strengths and limitations to build a business that works for us.

    Hayley x

    PS. I recently took a year-long business sabbatical and while I missed working for myself, the clarity, renewed energy and discovery of a new passion (photography) while I was off was the best thing that could have happened for both the biz and I 😉

    • I think #5 is my favorite, too, Hayley. ? I love it now when I find someone who is doing things differently than the rest — it’s so refreshing! 🙂

      • Feuza

        yes love #5 and have seen my sisters book 100% of their salon clients from IG by doing something different than their competitors, I am huge fan of going against the grain and trying new things too

  • This was AMAZING!!!! Thank for for these practical tips that I will ACTUALLY use everyday!!!

  • This was AMAZING!!!! Thank for for these practical tips that I will ACTUALLY use everyday!!! *saving*

  • PREACH!!! I haven’t finished the whole article yet, but I agree with commentors below. This is GOLD. Also, I’m with you in rejecting sameness! And not watching free webinars. ha. nicely done Chief Olyvia, nicely done.

    • Woop! You’re so awesome, Kristie. ? Thanks for the epic encouragement!!!

  • You seriously have the BEST blog posts everrrrr! I always appreciate your information because everything is so dang helpful! Thanks so much for this inspiring post, taking action on my faults NOW 🙂

    • What a sweet thing to say! Thank you for encouraging me so much, Jeannie!!!

  • Feuza

    Productivity is one of my new favorite topics and I finally feel I am getting things done and have improved so much with productivity and being happier in business. I will be sharing this post with my group. I see that people many times fill their queue with busy work or just flock to whoever is saying they are making six figures and don’t take actions for themselves, so I can see what you mean about stop reading so much and stop attending so many webinars, but it sounds like all webinars are vague and waste of time and I have to disagree with that, I don’t offer webinars every week or even every month but when I Do they are jam packed with info and attendees always. Yes there are many that give it a bad rep and are very salesy so I am extra careful with ones I choose to attend but think it is totally okay to attend a couple once in a while in my opinion. I do love that you are giving us actionable tasks to think outside the box and also to do differently.

  • Eleanore

    Love this, I have emailed it to myself to work through. I am frizzed and frazzled and have been working longer, harder and more swiftly towards burnout. I write this from my bed ? Thank you Erika

  • Yadah Kock

    Erika, I absolutely LOVE your content – be that ebooks, blog posts, basically anything. You’re so real and honest and true. Thank you thank you thank you for fluff-free everything xx

    • Oh Yadah. Thank you SO much for that. What a beautiful compliment. ❤️

  • this is SPOT ON!!! the notification/email distraction, the FOMO of 1,000 free webinars, etc. definitely sharing!

  • You hit the nail on the head, especially #’s 4, 6, 7, and 13–and beautifully written, thank you for this. You’ve made a fan and follower of me ??

  • This is such a refreshing and heartfelt post. I love all of these tips so much. I so agree about the webinar train. I have been guilty of that. The balancing act is real. I’m still working on a few of these. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Aw! I’m so glad you feel this way, Monashee. And you’re very welcome. ?

  • This is an incredible post. I just quit my corporate day job of 6 years to finally really focus on my side business and it is DAUNTING. I really need posts like these to keep my sanity. Thank you. Sharing this with others for sure.

  • The whole time I was reading this post, I was thinking ‘my god, if only I had seen this when I started out in business’. Seriously, I’m going to share this with everyone I know.

    In particular the part about free webinars resonates with me. I wasted so much time on webinars that taught me absolutely nothing. In fact, the majority were just 45 minutes of talking, leading up to the sales pitch.What gets me is that people who are inexperienced, naive and trusting will waste their time in exactly the same way that I did.

  • Courtney Helena

    I think I am in love. I am definitely feeling “friend.” When I read the part at the end about suffering from a chronic neurological condition, it brought tears to my eyes. It’s very hard to keep up with everything; everything for me being the condition, freelancing in this unstable global economy as my “day job,” homesteading on 5 gorgeous jungly acres in rural southern Brazil, and starting a blog and coach to help other women believe they can surmount their challenges, too, and live their dreams! Whew. I feel so much better. Beijos from Brazil!

  • I’m pretty sure you were writing directly to me when you wrote this post! Thank you for the honest tips and giving me the tough love that I needed to hear!! Amen!

    • You’re so very welcome, Janet! I’m thrilled that you found it helpful to your own situation!

  • Hey Erika! Wow, I haven’t been by in some time, but I do appreciate how well-rounded this is. You’ve touched on a little of everything — from productivity to health & hobbies. Not getting enough sleep is my biggest flaw. As a matter of fact it’s 5am and I’m currently at the tail end of an all-nighter. There’s always “one more thing” that can be done in 10-15 minutes (but actually snowballs into another 2-3 hours).

    • OH. Oh oh oh! Yes! That was definitely me for at least a good year and a half. Those “quick” tasks always took another few hours and robbed me of my sleep, too. It was terrible. You feel good that you accomplish things (though how WELL you accomplish them is another story, yes?…), but the resulting physical effects just doesn’t make it worth it IMO.

      Thank you so much for swinging by and leaving a comment! ❤️

  • Hi Olyvia,

    It’s so nice to hear this and so true. It’s funny because I just turned off my notifications on my iPhone earlier this week. It got annoying whenever I was deep into my work to hear my phone notifications constantly go off.

    You’re right at first it felt like I was missing something. Now it’s extremely nice not to be bothered by them. I now make it a point to only visit Facebook and Twitter during lunch and in the evening.

    It is so much nicer to not be constantly checking them every time I get a notification.

    Also, it’s nice to know that it’s okay not to be doing the same things as everyone. I am probably one of the few who are NOT using Instagram. I just didn’t jump on the Instagram bandwagon.

    Great advice about joining a reputable group or program that will help you get on the right track and keep you focused on reaching your goals.

    Thanks for sharing these tips, I am more focused on building relationships than just marketing and I’ve noticed since taking this approach it’s less stressful for me.

    Have a great day 🙂

    Susan

  • Gillian Perkins

    Love this post so much! I’m actually more of a tactical/strategic, left-brain entrepreneur myself, but I still find these ideas extremely helpful. 🙂
    Point #7 (learn small things), reminds me of something I heard Pat Flynn refer to as his “just in time learning” strategy. Basically, it just means that you only learn what you need at the moment.
    Thanks again! Hope you’re doing well.

  • Thank you, Erika! This post was chock full of valuable tips and solutions. Your courage and transparency to write about your ups and downs has helped me realize I’m not alone when I struggle with many of the situations you describe. We continue to move forward!

  • Paigon

    I recently started being more active in social media for my business. I didn’t realize how unproductive I became until I turned OFF my notifications. Social media is such a big distraction!

  • Aimee Promislow

    I love how vulnerable and at the same time helpful you are with this post. I’ve never fully read your emails (true confession) and don’t even know where I signed up, but seeing a person behind the emails made me want to click through and read more about you and your process. Running a business is a lonely activity, and there are thousands of us out there going through similar things. Thanks for being a voice of compassion and support!

    • Oh Aimee. I’m thrilled that you came here and were encouraged! Business can be SO very lonely + stressful, and if I can make even one person feel less so, I feel I will have added something of value to this space. ?

      Also, thank you for being honest, thank you for reading my most recent email, and thank you for taking the time to comment here. You owe me none of it, so to receive it is something that makes me immensely grateful. ?

      • Aimee Promislow

        Hi Erika,
        Thanks for being so gracious. All the best,
        Aimee