Does this sound familiar… you are a doer, you get things done but still you feel you are not accomplishing the success you’d desire? Are you exhausted from the amount of work and feel like you are catching up all the time? There’s no time to think because there’s so much to do!
I know this feeling better than many as I’m a doer. I love to ‘get things done’. I kick ass. I make things happen. Attacking a to-do-list is a walk in a park for me. But as I’m trying to carve out my little piece of success in this universe I have come to question the benefits of my ‘doer’ attitude. I’ve noticed that I’m in my comfort zone when I’m getting things done thus I easily default into simply doing instead of thinking what I’m doing.
I’ve read every productivity guide and article there is, I know the best time to wake up in the morning ( 6 am ) and the ideal time to drink my coffee (between 9.30 am – 11.30 am), and can access list of the best productivity apps to kick start my productivity. Sadly none of this matters if I’m doing the wrong things.
It’s so much easier to be busy than to make a difference.
Therefore I’ve started to slow down. I’m eager to discover the smallest actions that will bring the greatest leverage and the biggest success.
What has changed?
I’ve started to question if I’m doing the right things.
I run two companies, one of which is a start-up and I’m also building this women’s network, DrivenWoman. I’ve got a family and 5 year old twin boys. It’s very easy to get lured into simply doing things as there certainly is no lack of things to do!
Lately I’ve started to resist the temptation of being busy.
Firstly, I didn’t get myself into this situation to stress myself out. I simply want to put my skills and talent into good use, do work that matters and make some money in the process. So I decided to stop being busy. (You can read my New Year’s concepts here.)
Note, it’s a decision. A decision to change your mindset, that’s all you need to stop being busy.
Instead of just picking up the tasks at hand (=the doing) I’m making time to do more thinking. What I have noticed, however, is it’s a good idea to separate the two for maximum productivity. Here’s how.
1) Think, Don’t Do
Create time for creativity and strategic thinking. This applies for your work and for your life. Make sure you stop, take a break and write down what you want out of life or your business or career and what is truly important. This creates clarity and helps to focus on the important stuff.
Don’t be disrupted at your thinking time. When you respect yourself and value what you are about, you will learn to value your time. And ‘thinking time’ is the most valuable time of all. So make sure you don’t let anyone or anything disrupt you. Put away the phone, don’t check emails or social media and don’t try to do any other tasks at the same time. Simply focus on thinking what matters, what is the big question that has to be solved next and write it down.
The aim is to only do the things that create value in your life or business, so don’t start writing a long to-do-list.
On Monday morning I give my week a theme and pick one or two topics or tasks per day I want to accomplish. These are ideally life/business changing things. Example; a to-do-list filler could be ‘Send out press releases to PR list’ instead I’ve decided to find top three journalists that are most likely to be interested in what I’m doing with Mink&Stone and find out what their angle is. A much more painful and time consuming process but if it works it should give the business a real boost.
I can’t do everything so I allow myself to drop everything non-critical. Sure, there are some things such as paying bills you can’t ignore, but you get my point.
The problem is that it’s so much easier to do stuff, the shallow, fluffy tasks, than focus on things that really matter.
Why? Because the deep stuff is normally outside of our comfort zone.
I try to challenge myself to evaluate this weekly if not daily. I know what has to be done, but it’s often hard as it’s something I haven’t done before so I don’t know where to start. The more I do my ‘thinking time’ to more convinced I become of the importance of those things outside of my comfort zone and I’m able to identify ways to get started. And slowly I start moving to the right direction. But this happens only because I stop, think and don’t do.
A key rule for ‘thinking time’ is that you don’t do anything. No emails, no discussion, no nothing. Separate the time for thinking and doing. Get prepared. Line up resources, materials or people. And then make sure that you are well prepared when it’s time to do things.
2) Do, Don’t Think
I’ve discovered that when it’s time to get things done I must be so prepared that I can eliminate almost all thinking and simply focus on doing. Kirsten Gillibrand says the most important thing is to ‘know what needs to be done‘.
If you do your thinking time properly you will know what has to be done. And when it’s time to do it, simply start. Don’t think, just do. Don’t start questioning your thinking at this point. Procrastination and self-doubt are the worst ‘time robbers‘! Worry and anxiety can take up a lot of mental capacity and thus reduce productivity (Here’s a post I wrote earlier on this.).
The more relaxed and in balance I am, the closer I’m to my core purpose, the real me; and the less I worry about the outcome and stuff simply ‘flows’. When self-doubt is eliminated from the process I can pump out the stuff like a little bunny rabbit!
If you have to constantly question what you are doing it’s a good idea to go back to the purpose of your work and if it’s going to make a difference (Go back to step 1: Think, Don’t Do).
So simply just do. Focusing on the work at hand is liberating and meditating. When you simply do and stop thinking or over-analysing you can find stillness, balance and even happiness. If you have to dig, then dig. If you have to build, then build. Simple. There’s time to think afterwards. You can evaluate the quality of your work and see how you can improve. But that’s on the thinking time.
Separating ‘thinking time’ and ‘doing time’ is the single biggest improvement I’ve done to my productivity.
I used to think being more productive was about filling every little nugget of time with a productive activity. I remember some evenings when I was tweeting seconds before I went to bed! That was madness. I got myself stressed out and didn’t have very good ideas.
Your ideas are your greatest resource! If you have bad ideas it doesn’t matter how hard you work. Having good ideas and executing them half decently matters. Now that I’ve started valuing my happiness and being present in my work, I’ve started allowing myself to take time out and guess what, I have better ideas. (Well, it remains to be seen how good my ideas actually really are…eh.)
Try it out this week. Assign 1 hour (or 30 minutes if you feel you really are too busy) for thinking. Go sit on a bench. Don’t bring your phone (you can check your social media stats later!) just your note book and a pen. See what happens. And please report back here. I’d love to hear your comments!