4 Simple Habits of Productive + Creative Entrepreneurs
I'll be honest - 'productive' and 'creative' would not be words I would've used to describe myself a few months ago. I had hit a mental wall and felt stalled out, un-inspired, and like I was 'doing all the things', but getting nowhere fast. Symptoms included:
feeling stressed-out constantly,
a heart-rate through the roof & a mind that was constantly racing,
not being completely present around my friends and family,
feeling disorganized and frantic,
and creating things that felt...flat, and not 100% my style.
Hold. Up. I finally had to stop everything and took a good hard look at my habits and lifestyle. These symptoms were huge red flags that something (or several things) were misaligned in my life and business. I was struggling with the mental and emotional 'clutter' that often plagues entrepreneurs (especially 'solopreneurs'), but is seldom talked about.
If you struggle with mental or emotional ‘clutter’, you know that it can become so overwhelming that it becomes much easier to give up on what you need to do before you even get started.
The good news is I knew the symptoms above could be solved by a shift in mindset and supported by developing new habits! Through some trial and error, I finally settled on 4 simple habits that transformed my productivity and re-ignited my creativity.
Habit #1 - Clear your mind
If you’re one of those people who regularly feel like they have a pinball of thoughts bouncing around their brain and can’t keep up, then this one's for you!
I like to call this habit "brain dumping". Brain dumping is what it sounds like…regardless of how much you have to do today, give yourself 5-10 minutes to hop into a blank Google Doc (or notebook page) and just let your thoughts pour out. This doesn't have to be a daily task - I only do it on days that I feel like I need it in order to think straight.
Suggestions for 'brain dumping topics' include:
Emotions - Write out all the thoughts & emotions that are on your heart & mind (ranging from excitement, absurdity, fears, grumpiness, irritations, etc.) To be honest, this is the most head-clearing practice. I often pour out the completely unreasonable emotions that are making me feel super constricted. It's also fun to go back and look at these later - I've gotten a good laugh at myself and all the things that were cluttering up my brain - no wonder I couldn't get anything done!
Tasks - Do you have a rapid-fire brain that is constantly throwing around tasks of all shapes and sizes? My ever-streaming to-do list goes something like this: “I need to do create a better marketing strategy…oh! And then I need to be sure to water the plants…ah! I need to send an update email to my client….oh! And I want to look at Airbnb’s in San Diego…”. Whaaaat, girl. Slow your roll. Get all those things out of your brain and down on paper so you can give yourself some peace.
Ideas - Do you have a new business idea, strategy, or problem that has been on your mind? The best way to develop a new idea or start solving a problem it is to write it down. You'd be surprised how much this helps your subconscious develop the next step for you!
No Editing - The #1 rule with brain dumping is - no organization allowed. Just let it flow from your brain onto paper with zero editing.
I like to write my brain dumps on the computer because I can type faster that I can write, and for our purposes, you just need to accommodate the massive flow of thoughts vs. creating a quality to-do list or journal piece.
Personally, I find it insanely hard to be creative OR productive on a project when I can’t concentrate because of mental and emotional clutter pinging around! Getting everything out is a huge relief and once I see it on paper, I can sort through it and intentionally choose what to keep, what to let go, and what to prioritize. Sometimes you just need to let something out and it will give you the mental freedom to let it go and return to being productive. I guarantee that you will feel so much more clear-headed and it is absolutely worth every second of the 5-10 minutes you take to do this.
Now that it’s all out in the open and out of your brain, you can mentally breathe. I like to finish up by making a thoughtful to-do list, and then prioritizing the top 3 tasks.
Habit #2 - Don't multi-task
You knew this one was going to be on the list!
I definitely used to think that multi-tasking was the solution to getting a lot done in a short amount of time. WRONG. So, so wildly incorrect.
Now, when I have a new website to work on, I pull out my website building checklist and focus on finishing one thing at a time, with no distractions.
Here are the guidelines I follow when I'm working:
Choose a task, and get clear on exactly what I want to accomplish. (Be specific!)
example of clear, specific task: Add page descriptions to each page of client's Squarespace website
example of non-specific task: Work on client's Squarespace website
Put phone on Do Not Disturb, and I put it out of sight and out of reach
Put in headphones to block out noise (I told you I get easily distracted)
Close out of email
Close out of Facebook
Close out of all irrelevant internet tabs
Work until task is finished OR I reach a scheduled break time
Focused work = high quality work
Focused work = gives me the warm and fuzzies because I just knocked a task off my to-do list
Another benefit of focused work (besides massive productivity) - I've found that it gives my creative side more room to breathe because I'm not constantly flying from one thing to another (i.e. checking email or instagram).
Habit #3 - Write your to-do list the night before
At the end of the day (I do it before bed), I just write down all the things I want to/need to accomplish the next day. Once I write everything out (sometimes it’s an entire page), I scan the list, and circle the top three, and then write them at the top of the list as the "Must Do's" for the next day. If I can get to the other items on my list, great. But if I can accomplish these top three - *winning at life* (and business).
Writing my to-do list the night before does two important things:
allows me to fall sleep in peace
helps me to wake up with intention and clarity
This one habit has transformed my morning routine and productivity because it gives me purpose, and gives me the clarity needed to do focused work.
Important Side-note: if you're a business owner, look at your list after you've finished writing...and ask yourself which ones will most contribute to the bottom line (i.e., profit, cash in the bank, sales, etc.) of your business. Make sure 1-2 of your priority items are related to doing so! One of the reasons I used to feel so stuck was because I was getting caught up in busy work and not prioritizing actions that would actually make my business profitable.
Habit #4 - Schedule 'play time'
We humans need space to play, think, and enjoy this one life we’ve been given.
So...schedule time to break away from your computer and your business to do something you enjoy. The goal is to give your body and brain some fun! Play time fuels love of life, which always translates to better relationships (with yourself & with others).
For me, I’ve been wanting to take hip-hop classes (I know, I know, but I’m not even ashamed to admit it anymore!) Why? Dancing makes me feel alive and so joyful, which puts me in this super confident, creative, and ambitious place.
Classes are great because I can definitively schedule it on my calendar. But if classes aren’t in your budget or wheelhouse, then find something that will help you experience curiosity, joy, or makes your brain light up. If you’re an extrovert, this will probably mean getting out and engaging with people – a concert series, group classes, or joining a club. If you’re an introvert, this might mean painting, visiting a coffeeshop, or exploring a new park & journaling. The blanket rule for both groups is: no checking your phone, social media, or working on your business. Let this be time to step back, breathe, relax, and take the moment in.
Playtime is important because of two main reasons:
it reminds me that I am more than just my business (so easy to forget sometimes!)
it is often (although not always, which is fine) the source of inspiration and a catalyst for new ideas
So, boom! Get yourself some fun, and don't be afraid to see the world with the fascination and joy of a child.
What do you do for fun? I'm so curious! Comment below, or send me an email! (Especially if you want to join me for hip-hop classes) :)
What habits have made a difference in your business or personal life?
Let me know in a comment below!
Like this post?
Then you might also like...