Episode #238: HACKS TO HELP YOU STAY PRODUCTIVE
TAYLOR BRADFORD: You’re listening to episode number 238 of the Boss Girl Creative podcast. Today I’m talking about productivity hacks. Onto the episode.
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Hey, welcome to episode number 238. I’m your host, Taylor Bradford. I’m excited that you’re here, because Happy New Year. Happy 2020. Happy brand-new decade. Oh my gosh, we’ve got a clean slate now, and y’all, I’m excited that you’re here that you press play on this episode. We will be diving right into productivity hacks, and I’ll be talking about some things that I’ve been tweaking and trying to set myself up for a strong 2020 right out of the gate.
Before we dive in, I do want to jump right into this week’s BGC community member spotlight. So this week’s spotlight is on Kaitlin’s business, McMillan Creative, which you can find over at mcmillancreative.com. It’s spelled M-C-M-I-L-L-A-N-C-R-E-A-T-I-V-E.com. You can find her on Instagram @mcmillancreativestudios. And this is what McMillan Creative is all about: They are a full-service branding agency offering branding design websites and photography packages to help build your brand from the ground up. And I went and took a peek at Kaitlin’s website. It’s stunning. This is why you need to hire her to be your brand manager, obviously, for a new website design or help with branding. It’s stunning, Kaitlin, props to you guys. So Kaitlin’s the founder and the creative director of McMillan Creative, she has Trevor which is the photographer and videographer that makes up my milling creative, and he’s known as the best rapper And the office I think that’s pretty rad. And then you have Andrea, and she is the stylist and brand manager who also dreams in Italian. I love this I love that you kind of get to know their personalities a bit just on the about page. And Kaitlin, thank you so much for listening to Boss Girl Creative. It means a lot to me that you’re a part of this community and you guys go check her out. Go say hi to her over on Instagram @mcmillancreativestudios.
Alright, one more thing before we dive into these productivity hacks. Remember the Inner Circle? It got a name change, used to be BGC Fan Girl Club. It is now the Inner Circle, and membership is required to be a part of the Inner Circle, and there are three levels of membership. Level One gets you into the Inner Circle, and once a month I do a live Q&A through my Zoom channel and if you’re not able to show up for the live Q&A each month, no worries, I asked for questions ahead of time, so that you can have your question answered in the live Q&A. And then you can watch a replay when it is convenient for you. You do also have access to me through a private group so that if you do have questions that come up within the month, feel free to drop them in there and we can start a discussion and help you get unstuck or whatever it might be. Level Two gets you cool bonuses like a monthly co-working session. So we spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon or evening, kind of depending on people’s schedules, and we just work on our to-do list together. It’s a lot of fun. We, again, use my Zoom channel and where you’re on video, I’m on video, and we’re just knocking things off of our to-do list which is amazing. You also get a BGC mug, and every three months that you are a member at this level, you receive a 30-minute one-on-one strategy session with me. And yeah, that’s every three months that you get that one-on-one 30-minute strategy session. So it’s an amazing level that you all should be a part of. And then Level Three are for those that are actually interested in advertising, as well as the other two levels, with Boss Girl Creative. So that’s newsletter mentions and advertising on the website itself and being mentioned in the Facebook group. And yeah, so if you’re want that next level, that would be Level Three, Level Two, you’re also in the club, the Inner Circle Club. So all of that is available to you. So go to patreon.com/bossgirlcreative. It’s spelled P-A-T-R-E-O-N.com/bossgirlcreative. Our January live Q&A is coming up the first week of January. It’s on a Tuesday evening at, I think 7 pm Central Standard Time is when I have it scheduled. So if you want into the Inner Circle and you want to be a part of that first live Q&A of 2020, you definitely got to go and join. So pop over to patreon.com/bossgirlcreative.
Okay, let’s talk about these 14 productivity hacks because I know we all want to be super-efficient, super-streamlined, super have our systems in place for 2020 so we can just jump and dive right into 2020 and have epic success this year. Okay, so number one is gearing up your day by taking a moment every morning to write down your purpose or the actual “why” behind the efforts that you’re putting forth every single day. And a bonus to that is adding five to 10 things that you’re grateful for because that will just Turn your mindset to positivity. And we all need to start our days in a positive way. And gearing yourself up, it kind of will ramp your body’s energy up if you focus on what your purpose is. So if your purpose in business is to, maybe it’s a financial goal, if you rewrite your purpose down every single day, then you know what you’re striving for. You’re gearing yourself up to be excited about working towards getting to that big goal. That’s number one.
Number two is taking control of your calendar. And I hear this so frequently. I hear people say, “Ah, I’m getting stuck in the muck. I’ve got all these things to do. I’m saying yes to all these things. I’ve got dinner here. I’ve got this there. I’ve got this happening over here.” And at the end of the day, it’s still on you. You’re still saying yes to things that may be holding you back or maybe slowing you down. And are those yeses really that important, at the end of the day, for you to get to whatever goal you’re working towards? If networking is important to you, and it should be, to an extent, then those yeses make sense. But if you’re saying yes, just out of feeling the need to say yes, because you would feel bad if you said no, then you need to check the reality of that situation and figure out how it might work on your terms, instead of feeling like it’d be said no, it might come across weird or bad or whatever. I need you to take control of your calendar. And one way I’m doing that, and I don’t necessarily say yes to too many things. Like I know that I’m networking a couple of times a month, and that works for me. I know that I spend a lot of time in my businesses, and sometimes that’s too much because I’m just kind of like having a lot of squirrel moments and not really working on things that are going to progress me forward. Like, in the moment, it kind of feels that way, but then, at the end of the day, I’m just like, “What in the world did I actually accomplish today?” And I want to try to limit those because that doesn’t, that’s not proactive at all. Like, I might be actively trying to work on something, but at the end of the day, I’ll look back and be like, “what did I accomplish?” And it’s a big, fat nothing because I’ve allowed myself to multi-task too much. And yes, that’s the thing, multi-tasking too much. And which ultimately leads me down to this thing of not really getting anything done.
And so I’m trying to take back my own calendar and trying to figure out okay, how do I set myself up for success, and I tried time blocking, probably about a month ago, and it sort of worked like there were some good things about that time blocking schedule. And then there were some other things, like, if I got off schedule, just the whole schedule went to the rails and that for somebody that is definitely type-A, and I kind of need some structure, that just makes my anxiety go through the roof. So I am trying out a new time blocking strategy. And I actually shared it, so if you’re in the Inner Circle, I did share it with you guys. I took a screenshot of it. I shared it with the Inner Circle and started talking about it because it is something that I’m actively trying to figure out, how do I work with some more structure, but it’s not so structured that if something pops up, I don’t feel like I’m behind.
And so here’s the strategy behind this new method. And basically, you take a two-hour timeframe, so that is 120 minutes, and you block those two hours in your schedule. And for every 90 minutes and those two hours, you give yourself a 30-minute break. And you have to actually take the break. You can’t be like, “Oh, well, I’m going to do this, and these 30 minutes,” you actually have to take that break, which is so incredibly important. So I’ve done this in my calendar where it looks like this. So I’ll have work block one, 30-minute break, work block two, 30-minute break, work block three, 30-minute break, work block four, 30-minute break. And then on a couple of my days, I squeeze in a work block five, and then obviously there’s the 30-minute break would just be I’m done for the day. So this allows me to have structure, which also allows me to focus on one task in those 90 minutes. And if I get through one task within that 90 minutes and still have time left over, I can move to the next task on my list or something else on my list to do to fill up those 90 minutes, and then I take a break. So, now, I have to give myself grace because this is the first week I’m testing this out in the week of this recording. This the first week, I’m testing this out, and I’m also adding exercise back in there. So exercise is now in my calendar, and it’s something self-care is really important to me, and is one thing that I really was beating myself up over for not doing. I’ve been super active my whole life. I wasn’t an athlete, per se, but I was always active, and I enjoy working out. But I sometimes needed a little push.
So anyways, this time-blocking is allowing me to actually block in exercise so that I do it. So Monday, Tuesday, Thursday is when I’m exercising, and I’m forcing myself. Now I’m waking up to an alarm at seven, so it’s only an hour difference than waking up without an alarm and just been up at eight. So it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I didn’t have a problem this morning getting up as I’m recording this, so it’s so far working. But again, I have to give myself grace and see how this will really play out. But what I like most about this schedule is that I’m not forced to do any one thing in those 90 minutes. I decide the task when those 90 minutes come up, and I just start working that particular task. And it was amazing. It was freeing, being able to get up after those 90 minutes and go do something not related to any kind of business or day job. Like maybe I need to catch up on laundry, or maybe I need to clean the kitchen, or maybe I need to go run a quick errand. It is giving me that structure that I crave. And so this is what I’m going to test out and see how well I do beyond the first week, so I’ll keep you posted.
But back to people also taking back control of your calendar. For those people that are constantly asking you, “I just want to pick your brain, I just want to pick your brain,” I was reading a blog post recently, and I actually quoted the girl to my best friend. And basically, she said, “Listen, I allow two coffee chats a month. Two. And those are time spent with anybody that either wants to pick my brain or time with my friends. Because if I allowed everybody to pick my brain, I wouldn’t get anything done.” And A or B, the flip side of that also is that I shouldn’t be giving away everything for free. I personally, Taylor, give away a lot for free in this podcast every single week for the last 238 episodes. That’s actually the last 238 weeks, I have shown up and given you a podcast episode. That’s my Apple Watch dinging, by the way, super excited about having that and I should probably put it on do not disturb so it’ll stop dinging. Where is the, we’re going to put it in theater mode. Yay. There’s a theater mode on the Apple Watch, by the way, if you didn’t know that.
So two coffee chats or coffee dates in the calendar, because if I were to allow more than that, then like, I’m just giving away everything for free, and I already do that with the podcast. Now, you may not have a podcast, maybe you have another kind of service or business or whatever, that people are still asking to pick your brain, you’ve got to limit that. You got to select it, how many you’re going to offer in a given month, and then say to yourself, “if that is a friend needing my help or guidance, that’s one of those sessions.” Or if it goes to somebody that just randomly pops up in my inbox, that goes to one of those sessions. So I want you to delegate that on your calendar. Only allow two, maybe three, but seriously, only two and then say no to everything else, or point people to how they can talk with you or work with you, one-on-one, or what have you. And at the end of the day, it’s just business. It’s nothing personal. I can remember when I first started out in the event rental industry, I reached out to somebody way, way, way outside my market so they wouldn’t feel like I was stepping on their toes, and that maybe I was going to be their competition. And I said, “Listen, I totally respect your time, and if you write back and say, I’m not interested in answering these questions, I totally will understand that. Again, I respect your time. But here is what I’ve done so far, at year whatever it was, where were you, and would you have done anything differently than what I’ve already done?” And they were so so nice, and they did write back and basically said, “Listen, you’ve done everything we did, and these are kind of the things that you might give a shot, moving forward.” It was so helpful to know that, but like, I now as an event rental business, I get those emails all the time now. And I only have brain capacity to book those kinds of things into my schedule, because my schedule is so packed with all sorts of different things. So giving myself room to say yes to two of those types of things a month, and then say no to the rest, you have to actually set that boundary for yourself. That’s really, really important. That’s you taking control of your calendar.
Okay, moving on to number three, turn your smartphone on airplane mode, so you don’t get distracted by notifications, which I just did with my Apple watch because I forgot that it’s a dinging thing. And that will help you stay on track, especially if you try out this 90-minutes/30-minute break strategy/time-blocking that I just spoke about. If you can turn your smartphone off, and I would even consider turning your internet browser off or just focus on the one thing that you need in that moment, and turn all the notifications off everything else, so that you can stay on track, I do recommend that. But turn your smartphone on airplane mode so that you don’t get distracted by those notifications.
Number four: Schedule time when you’re going to check your email. Now, in my line of work with Sugar Creek Event Rentals, getting an email from an inquiry is super-important for me to get back as soon as I can. Because that client is legit, sending out emails to multiple people, and the faster that I respond, the more likely they’re going to hire me or choose me, or at least keep the dialogue open for me longer. And so I don’t turn off my emails. I do allow them to come in, and I see them, I do process them or acknowledge them in my brain, and then when I get to a 30-minute block, then I will respond. But it is important for me to keep that notification coming in or actually, you know, I could hear it, or I can pay attention to it because the quicker than I can respond back to them, the better off my situation is in them saying “Yes, I want to hire Sugar Creek Event Rentals.”
Number five, and I’m not so certain about this I can definitely see it in some certain situations and sometimes not, but number five is limiting your background music with lyrics. I listen to two channels on Pandora. Number one channel is Coffee House Covers. Absolutely love that channel. And number two is 90s Alternative. And yes, I love 90s Alternative. Those are the two channels that I listen to when I’m working, and they have lyrics, and I do sing along because it is not distracting to me to have that kind of music going on. But I do know there are times when I can’t have that kind of music going on, and I have to have some chill stuff, or some piano music. And so I will listen to some show tunes that is just piano music, and I will sometimes find myself picking up words even though there are none because I am from a music background. But sometimes things without words helps me stay focused longer, but during the day, even with these 90-minutes on/30-minutes break, I’m listening to either Coffee House Covers on Pandora or 90s Alternative station on Pandora. So that was number five.
Number six: When you are starting in this time-blocking strategy, or even if you don’t use a time blocking strategy, you’ve got to start with your top three priorities for your day first. And start with the biggest priority one, so you can get that knocked out and then work on number two and then work on number three. That’s super important. So I want you at the start of your day when you are gearing up and talking about or writing down your purpose or your why behind your efforts, and you’re writing down your gratitude list, that’s what I want you to set your top three for the day, so you know what you’ve got to get done in your day, by the end of your day. You know what’s super-important to do in that day. So I need you to tackle your top three first. That’s number six.
Number seven: Once you get those three things tackled, now you start working on those two-minute tasks. And I want you to actually schedule this in, like an hour time frame, or maybe if you don’t have that many of those types of tasks, maybe 30 minutes, where you just bang out those two-minute tasks. So maybe it’s firing off an email, maybe it’s checking the mail, maybe it’s starting a load of laundry, maybe it’s, you fill in the blank. Those two-minute tasks that ultimately make your to-do list 100 pieces long. Figure out what those two-minute tasks are, and actually schedule time in your day to knock out as many of those as you can within 30 minutes or within an hour. It’ll just make you feel better to get that stuff off your list.
Number eight: Delegate and outsource those things that just are driving you crazy, or you don’t have time for, or whatever it might be. It’s, it’s now time. I’m giving you permission to delegate and to outsource. Your productivity will be so much better because of this.
Number nine: I also need you to keep learning. I was listening to a podcast episode this morning at the gym, and he’s talking about the one skill that we all need, and sometimes we don’t have this skill, and the skill is learning and actually learning what it is you’re trying to learn. And he was talking about, this was James Wedmore, and I can’t think of his podcast right now. I think it’s Mind Your Business podcast. Anyways, this particular episode he’s hiding about learning, and he’s going down the road of becoming a, an investor in real estate. And so they’re looking to purchase a piece of property, I think in Arizona somewhere, and he doesn’t know this field, he doesn’t know how to, to invest in real estate. So he’s bought courses, and he’s, you know, trying to learn all the things about investing in real estate because there’s a big learning curve to investing in real estate. There’s a lot of really great things that can happen in investing in real estate, and then there’s some pitfalls that you want to try to avoid, and it’s not just something that you can just go out and do. You definitely need to educate yourself on how to properly invest in real estate. I bought my first investment property when I was 24 years old. But it was because my husband grew up with parents that actually bought real estate and so he has grown up around it and he, you know, knows the positives and knows the negatives, and we bought a duplex and not a single-family home as our first investment property because we wanted to live in one side and have somebody pay our mortgage on the other side. We still own this duplex; we bought a second duplex, about a year and a half later, that particular duplex will be paid off in three and a half years. We bought it back in 2006, I believe and put it on a 15-year mortgage. Real Estate Investing, there’s a lot to learn. There’s a lot to know, and it’s definitely not something you just jump into. You definitely have to educate yourself. So this is what James is talking about. He is a great marketer. He is a great business coach. He is a great fill in the blank with what you know about James Wedmore. But he doesn’t know anything about real estate, so now he’s in the trenches of learning everything he can learn about investing in real estate. So he talks about the task of learning and continuing to learn and being active about what you’re going to learn about. But what you need to be learning about is things that are going to make you more productive and more efficient in your own business. So learning a skill just to learn a skill, if it’s not going to help you grow your business, delegate it, or outsource it. Don’t waste your time trying to learn something, when ultimately it’s just quicker and easier to go find a pro at that thing so that they can do that thing for you. And you can keep moving on, but you still have to keep learning, you still need to know the full scope of what it is that you’re doing. So if you’re starting a brand new field, it’s important to understand all the proponents of the field. For example, with the event rental business, my coach, when they hire a new staff person, that person spends several weeks at a time and every single position that’s available, whether it’s been hired or not. So the person spends time with delivery team, the person spends time with the warehouse team, the person spends time with the sales team, that person spends time with the upper management so that they get an understanding of what everybody’s job is, what everybody’s role is, and how it all works together. Because then you have a bigger picture of how it all works and you appreciate your position, you know where you fit into the puzzle, and everything just fits better. So keep learning and choose the things that are going to allow you a higher level of productivity so that you are more effective.
Number 10: Embrace automation and workflows. This is one thing that I still work hard at is creating workflows. I use Dubsado as my CRM, and I can set workflows, but I’m still trying to really kind of learn the Dubsado system that in a way that it works for me and my business. But embrace workflows and automation, you will be so much more productive when you have those things kind of set in place.
Number 11: Unsubscribe and unfollow. Oh my gosh, you guys, that is one thing that I’ve been doing at the end of the 2019 year is unsubscribing from all of the emails that I don’t ever read and unfollowing. I just did a massive unfollow on my personal Instagram. I got rid of accounts that I haven’t interacted with in who knows how long, and they’re just clogging up my feed, I don’t really know them, and ultimately, it’s not somebody I want to support, so off they went, and it was freeing. So unsubscribe and unfollow often, so that you don’t get bogged down in the squirrel holes of whatever, of non-production.
Number 12: Create a “no strategy.” So what do I mean by no strategy? And I want you to make it easier on yourself to quickly say no to something. I’ve mentioned this in the past; the podcast gets pitched almost daily for people that want to come on the show. And right now, it’s not a guest type show, it’s a solo show, and if I want somebody to come on to talk about a specific topic, I will go out and hunt that person and woo them to come on to the show. But I get pitched all the time and sometimes I’m wondering why people don’t do their research, they just blindly pitch. But if you looked at my last, probably 100 episodes, you will not see an interview in there, so it’s super annoying, but anyways. Create a “no strategy.” Write an email template that you can quickly fire off with a keystroke with those things that are constantly showing up in your inbox where you’re politely declining that thing, but thank you so much for reaching out. Make it easier on yourself because even the nos take up precious time.
Number 13. I’ve talked about this already, but it’s a number. Number 13 is: stop multi-tasking. This is what has eaten me alive for a while. I need that structure like I talked about earlier. And if I think I can do this, and this and this, and this, and this, I don’t get anything done. Because I’m doing this and this and this and this and this and it’s super frustrating. I get to the end of the day, and I’m like, “what in the heck, Taylor?” So I’m telling myself just as much as I’m telling you, stop multi-tasking. Focus on one thing, knock it out, get it done, move to number two, move to the next thing.
And then finally, I need you to take time for self-care because if you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be productive at all. And that’s the end of the story. You have to make time for self-care, you have to put it in your calendar if that is what is going to cause you to take that time for yourself.
Like I mentioned at the top of the show, I have now put in my calendar working out because I definitely need to make that a priority, and I won’t make it a priority unless it’s in my calendar. Now one thing I am really good at is stopping everything that I’m doing. If I’m not motivated, or I’m not in the mood, and I will just pick up a book and read. I don’t have a problem doing that. And I do take Fridays off social media. Like once it gets to like noon or one, I’m done with social media, and so I don’t even check-in. I might just follow things but not actively posting or trying to do like, I try to unplug on Fridays as much as I can. And it is so important for you guys to take care of yourself and so I need you to make this a priority, get it on your schedule, block it in there so that you will take care of yourself because at the end of the day, if you’re not taking care of yourself, you aren’t going to be productive and you’re not going to be good for anything. So that’s really, really important.
Thank you so much for listening to Episode 238. There will be a transcript of the show. If you are a new listener or if you haven’t learned, there are now transcripts for this show. Please, please give us some grace because there are 238 episodes of this podcast, and we are not very far back into the archives with these transcripts, but every new episode will for sure have a transcript. You can get to it by going to bossgirlcreative.com/episode-guide, click on the episode you are interested in, and all the way down before the big picture, and you will see a button that takes you to the transcript. You can either read the transcript there, or there will be another button that allows you to download a PDF for you to put on your computer and save for a later date. So there are transcripts, we are working hard to get them to you and just give us some grace so that we can get through a very extensive back catalog because this show is four and a half years old now or pretty close to four and a half years old. Actually, it is four and a half years old. Happy birthday. Happy half-birthday, Boss Girl Creative, Happy New Year to you. Happy 2020. Happy brand new start to the decade.
And one more shout out to this week’s community member, Kaitlin with McMillan Creative. Again pop over and say hi to her @McMillanCreativeStudios. And shout out again to this week’s podcast episode sponsor, Gusto. Again, get three months free once you run your first payroll, go to gusto.com/bossgirl to try out a demo and check it out for yourself.
I will be back next week with another episode of the Boss Girl Creative podcast. Until then, I hope you have a great rest of your week.