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July 4th, 2018

I’m going to go against some popular advice when it comes to productivity and tell you to do the opposite of what many promote in order to stay motivated and get the hard stuff done in your business.

So, if you’ve read much about productivity and motivation and all that sort of stuff, you’ve undoubtedly heard people tout the need to get the big things checked off your to-do list first thing in the morning or at the first of the week so no matter what comes up, you’ve gotten them done. Right? And for the most part, this is great practice, but I think there’s times when it just doesn’t work.

When we’re struggling to stay motivated or we have these big projects or certain things to get done that just make us feel overwhelmed; when we have those lazy days where it’s just hard to get going, or we’re battling some serious stress and our minds are in overdrive constantly, diving into something big or something that requires a ton of serious concentration and thought can actually be pretty counter-productive, because you’re not fully engaging because you have all these things off to the side that you know need to get done…this big to-do list that doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller at all is just sitting there staring you down reminding you how inadequate you are. Or at least that’s the way it seems to me some days.

First, let’s look at that to-do list, or your calendar, or however you keep up with all the things you need to get taken care of in any given day or week. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with having those bigger projects listed out, but try breaking them down into individual small tasks and listing those out instead. So let’s say you have a summer special you’re going to be promoting soon. If you just put down “get summer promotion done”, that can feel like a huge project. Whereas if you break it down into all the small components that make it up, it’ll feel far more manageable and you can work it into your calendar a lot easier.

So your to-do list instead might include things like….write out copy to describe summer promo service, order promo products, design promo graphic, write promo ad copy, write promo email, schedule promo social media posts. All of these small tasks add up to that one large goal you’ve already set, but it’s going to keep your mind from feeling completely overwhelmed. Oftentimes when we look at a big project it seems far more complex than it really is if you list all the components out. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be large jobs on your calendar…I mean let’s say I have to write a class. I can break it down that I need to write a particular section in a day, but that’s still a big thing on my to-do list that can take up a massive amount of time. And there’s plenty of days where the idea of tackling that first thing in the morning is just not going to happen. My mind is seeing this massive list, and yes I know that if I just knock out this writing or whatever other big project it is, I can move on to the others, but I just need a good kick in the pants.

And this leads me to my tip opposing some popular advice… sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, you need to focus on the small things first, not the big things. So when I have one of those big projects to get done, instead of spending the first couples hours of my day only halfway doing it because my mind is going crazy on other things, and can’t fully concentrate and engage, I instead will take that 30 minutes to an hour to knock off a whole bunch of the little things on my to-do list. I mean, there’s this lovely little hit of serotonin that we get every time we cross something off that list, so why not kind of trick ourselves into thinking how productive and awesome we are by crossing off half our to-do list in the first hour of our day. So that may be returning calls and emails, scheduling out a few social media posts, working up a graphic or two, or anything else that only takes a few minutes each. All those jobs on your to-do list look the same when written out, so it feels good to see a bunch of them crossed off. That sense of accomplishment can be just the thing to give you the kick you need to get started on the bigger, more complex, and more time-consuming projects.

Again, this is not a dead-set, all the time sort of thing. You don’t want to use this as an excuse to avoid doing the hard stuff. But when you’re really struggling for motivation, this might be just the thing you need.

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