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, uninspired. It felt like I was doing all the things, but getting nowhere fast.
Symptoms of decreased mental, physical, and creative wellness 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 take 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 sometimes it seems much easier to give up on what you need to do before you even get started.
The good news? 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 I feel like I need it in order to think straight.
Here are some suggestions for brain dumping topics:
- Emotions – Write out all the thoughts and emotions that on your heart and 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. 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 multitask
You knew this one was going to be on the list!
I definitely used to think that multitasking 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.
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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!)
Good Example: “Add page descriptions to each page of client’s Squarespace website.” It’s clear, it’s specific, it can be checked off at a specific point in the process.
Bad Example: “Work on client’s Squarespace website.” Well, that could take days, and it will definitely leave you feeling defeated instead of productive, no matter what you get done.
- Put phone on Do Not Disturb, and I put it out of sight and out of reach
- Put in headphones to block out noise
- 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 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).
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Part of focused work is not only focusing intently on what you need to do, but eliminating what you DON’T need to do. With HoneyBook, you can stop repeating the same tasks over and over. We’ll make sure you’re providing each client and customer with the exact same experience, so you can focus on doing the highest quality work in your actual zone of genius. Start free trial.
Habit #3 – Write your to-do list the night before
At the end of the day (I do it before bed), I write down all the things I want to or 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. Then I 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 and 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 and 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.
Want to learn more about how to incorporate self care routines into your daily life and thrive in your business as a result? Get our Ultimate Guide to Self Care here.