It’s time for the Productivity Paradox Listener Q&A! I wanted to give the rundown on my blog as well, and this is part 2 (the last section) for the questions for the Q&A. You can read the other three questions here for even more business & life tips!
QUESTION: “Inkwell Press is an incredible company. And as Steve Jobs once said, ‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.’ So when you were first starting out, what were the three most important things you did that you believe led to the success of your company?”
-Pagnia, Raleigh, NC
Answer: Running a business is something I’m truly passionate about. But it is a lot of work. And I love that quote from Steve Jobs because I think it’s so true. Hindsight is definitely 20/20. So if I were to pinpoint the three most important things I did when I was first starting out, I would say first of all, I treated it like it was a big goal.
I created a timeline very similar to the goal action plan I talked about back in episode 003. The big goal, of course, was launching, but there were so many little mini goals I knew I needed to hit along the way. Things like learning graphic design because I had no training. I had to give myself mini deadlines for everything: learning, finding a manufacturer, finalizing files, etc. I didn’t worry about the big goal. That would’ve overwhelmed and scared me.
Secondly, I made sure to block off time in my day to work solely on my business. I gave myself 90 minutes in the morning, 45 minutes after lunch, and a good 3 hour chunk after the kids went to bed each night. That time was non-negotiable in my mind. If I didn’t treat it as such, I wouldn’t have kept myself on track with those goals I mentioned.
Lastly, I always treated my business like it was larger than it was. And by that I mean I created and wrote down a policy as I made decisions. Even when it was just John and I doing everything, that allowed me to take a lot of the thinking out of it. And when you’re doing 20 different roles, you need to do that as much as possible. So when I helped answer a customer service question, I would write down the answer. That way I didn’t need to rethink it the next time it was asked. I’d already spent the time thinking it through. So when I figured out the fastest way to package orders, I wrote down the process. Even if that help was my mom or my dad, I could give them a sheet of paper showing them exactly how to package up an order. And that allowed me to scale up and bring on new people as needed, especially during hectic times like launches, or holidays. That way everyone knows exactly what to do without me having to stand over them. That way I can focus on other tasks, and we’re doubling up our work.
QUESTION: “Do you have any tips for managing interruptions that cannot be turned off, like children when you’re working from home when you are a stay at home mom with kids?” -Kate, Seattle, WA
Answer: Kids are tricky. But the good news is, they can be trained. Although sometimes it may not feel that way. One of the things that I did was I had two different phone numbers for my cell phone using Google Voice. So my phone had two different ringtones. One for business calls, and one for personal. My kids learned that when the business ringtone went off, I was in work mode. And that meant no interruptions – even when they were little!
When they were little, I had a little sheet hanging up with images of what they could do because they couldn’t read yet, so they were pictures. Reading a book, watching a TV show, playing in the backyard, and when my phone rang I would point to the activity for them to do. And if they came to me while I was on my call, I would silently point to the activity again. After my meeting, I would give positive reinforcement on how grown up they were for not interrupting. Honestly, the kids thought this was great fun. I would pretend to get a phone call, we would act the whole thing out. I would totally ham it up and overact – The whole nine yards. And they thought it was funny. But sure enough, when the phone rang, they knew exactly what to do.
The other way I taught them not to interrupt was this little trick I learned. When I’m talking, or working on something, and they needed me they would come and put their hand on my wrist. And I would acknowledge that they were waiting by silently placing my hand on theirs. Then I’d wait for a pause, praise them for waiting so patiently, and then ask them what they needed. This worked really well when you’re meeting with other adults. And to be honest, my kids still use it today and they’re 10 and 14. It takes work, they won’t get it right away, but keep at it and it will stick!
I promise you this can be done so that you can work without interruptions. It’s going to take a lot of redirection. It’s going to take a lot of training, but it can be done.
QUESTION: “What tips do you have to stick to a planning routine and forming new habits for those of us that deal with chronic procrastination and an almost A.D.D. brain?”
-Jasmine, Zurich, Switzerland
Answer: Start thinking differently. Change the question you’re asking from, “What do I need to do?” to, “What do I want to do?” This helps frame tasks more positively and makes them more enjoyable. This is especially true when thinking about sitting down and watching TV even though you know there’s a thousand other things that are more important to do.
You can put an answer to that question with one small task. Like when the whole kitchen needs to be cleaned. Decide that you want to put away dishes. When finished, ask yourself, “what’s one more task I want to do to get it cleaned?”
Procrastination and overwhelm are closely related. Their like a pair of evil cousins. You know you have a lot to do, but all you see are these big tasks in front of you. So you end up not wanting to do anything. The best thing is to break those tasks down into these little bits. To make this work, consistently stop and reward for yourself for every couple of steps you get done. This can mean a piece of chocolate, going for a walk outside, reading for 10 to 20 minutes, watching TV, etc. Help yourself stay positive, so that you want to do the things you need to do, and the rewards help push you along.
Try using the a daily download to help celebrate the things you worked on and got done during the day. One of the biggest things that can help is using an app that tracks your phone usage and notifies you when you’ve used too much. This way, you’re very aware of that. For many, cell phones are the biggest source of procrastination. I’ll be talking a lot more about this and the solution – banking up time in episode 022 coming up in a couple of weeks!
Thanks so much to Pagnia, Kate and Jasmine for asking me such great productivity paradox listener questions! I really enjoyed hearing them and answering. I’ll be looking forward to the next set of listener questions! If you want to submit one for another round in the future, visit inkwellpress.com/question!