Humans are animals of necessity. We do only when we have to and if we want to be productive, we need to exploit this critical flaw in human psyche to its full potential.
I had a client once who wanted to start an online coaching business on alternative medicine while still working at his 9-to-5 job (which was the strategy I suggested). In our skype call, I went through our immediate course of action and the things we’ll do in the near future to give him a sense of familiarity.
Everything was going well until he started to lose the initial momentum and actually started to have frustrations and problems about his business. (especially on the technical aspects)
So we did our routine Skype call and I’ve told him the things he should be doing at this process of his business to maximize growth in the long run and I immediately thought he was good to go since he took careful notes and understood clearly what I told him. (Oh how wrong I was)
After that week, I’ve realized that his biggest obstacle was not business, mindset or traffic but actually productivity and getting stuff done. Since he was working 9-to-5, he often told me how exhausted he was after work and then asked if I had any tips on how to become more productive and how to make actual progress daily on such a tight schedule.
He told me how frustrating it is to sit in front of a computer and not being able to do the things he knows he should be doing. The process I’ve developed for him was completely pointless because he wasn’t able to execute anything. At that moment, I’ve realized the importance of productivity particularly in the early stages of one’s business.
I needed to solve this problem once and for all. So in this article, I’ll share with you some of the insights I’ve told my client to help him become more productive and efficient as an entrepreneur.
The first psychological fact we need to understand to increase our productivity is this: Humans are creatures who are intimately tied to their environments. If our situations are relaxed, so are we.
Most often in life, we are our worst enemy. Instead of initiating in the present moment, we tend to dream about the success we’ll have in the future. Since our situations are relaxed, there is no outside pressure which will force us to take action.
Instead of taking action, we derive intense pleasure from planning sales funnels, product models and strategical maneuvers that in theory will increase our traffic, clients and reputation as an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, planning too far into the future comes at a cost that might be just too high a price to pay.
When you keep planning your future moves, you enter a state of paralysis-by-analysis state. You are doing a lot of thinking (which is good) but taking little to no action. As a rule of thumb, It is far better for us to take action now and fix mistakes along the way later.
There is a Stoic exercise you can use to combat the impatience and ego that appears particularly in the beginning of your blogging journey. It is called “trusting the process“. This is my number one productivity tip for beginners. In fact, this one tip made me go that extra mile when I wanted to quit at the beginning.
Increase Productivity : Trust the Process
Trusting the process means to take the steps one at a time at a consistent rate. As successful people do, we won’t motivate ourselves with the money we’ll get in the future but with the micro-rewards we’ll acquire on a daily basis.
Here is what I mean: A future reward motivates us for a short period of time but a proven step-by-step process we follow on a daily basis, gives us micro-wins and keeps us working with enthusiasm for years to come.
So with my client, it was the same problem where he had that initial surge of dopamine when he started his business but then, as it inevitably does, things started to get harder and harder as more responsibilities piled on his shoulders as the founder of a company.
What are Micro-Wins and Why Should You Care As a Blogger?
Let me give you an example of a micro-win.
- You’ve been writing a blog post for 5 hours. The content is incredible. You’ve did your best to make it a pillar post. Now you may be tempted to get some free pictures in it and quickly share the masterpiece on facebook and reddit.
Well, don’t do it!
The billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, talks about this in one of his interviews. To paraphrase him, “If you are gonna create something, make it spectacular. You can’t just make it okay. You have to be at least 10 times better to outperform competition. Make every product as if it is your last.”
As Elon suggests, instead of rushing your blog post it is better to say “I’ve written an amazing post, but let me make sure I’ve constructed the sentences well and didn’t do any grammatical errors. Maybe there are things I can still add.” After checking and making sure that things are smooth.
Tell yourself, “Well, that’s it for the day. Tomorrow, I’ll talk to my designer and create awesome infographics (or pictures) to make the post visually stunning. Maybe I can do a video on this as well.”
You may think that this is unnecessary and it is better to be “just done with it” and hit that publish button but remember that hundreds if not thousands of people will read that post (if you do smart marketing, of course) and most of them will just click away if you do a sloppy work. To any person who reads that article, the fact that you rushed the product will be clearly evident.
That’s why it is important to take these steps day by day without rushing. You’ll start getting more clients and increasing your revenue if you value quality over quantity.
If someone told me which one is better: 20 low-quality 500 word long crappy articles or 1 high quality 3000–5000 word long pillar article? I’d pick the latter any day.
To actually make micro-wins work: when you wake up everyday, write down that one thing you’ll do spectacularly. Maybe it is writing that pillar post, or editing that video. In any case, once the task is completed; give yourself a pat on the back, a reward.
This is not an advice but a necessity. To cultivate a sense of motivation, creative work should always be rewarded with rest/relaxation time.
If you skip the seemingly unimportant rest stage, you’ll burn yourself out and start to become a workaholic which has countless negative effects on yourself and your business. These brief micro-wins ( video games, singing, movies etc.) after doing creative work will fuel your desire to work on a daily basis and actually enjoy doing it.
Taking our time ultimately plays to our advantage in the long run. We won’t try to “hustle” and work 15 hours a day as most “productivity experts” may say on the internet.
As I’m about to talk about soon, this is only a short term strategy we use to exploit the human psyche, not something we can do all the time.
Why? I’ll give you 2 reasons why.
1) Burning out in a year or two is a serious concern for most people.
This “hustle and work all the time” formula can be used short term but since we are just beginning, we need to slowly build our empire. After the first two years, we want to keep the enthusiasm and joy at an even level when we first started out.
2) Always work smart, never hard.
If I hear one more person saying that you need to work 15 hours a day to succeed, I’ll slap them really hard in the face. When you have a process that you trust and if you are doing the right things consistently on a daily basis, you start to accomplish the same work in one month as someone who just tries random stuff on the fly in one year. Working hard is for people who never learned how to work smart.
To sum it up: As a beginner, your only concern is to survive the first 2 years of blogging without burning out or getting discouraged.
My Process That You Can Use
So now, you may think
“What does our process look like as a blogger?”
Here is a simple 5 step process that is proven to work wit most of my clients.
1) Before you start your business, really think about who you are and what blog topic to choose.
(I’m aware that a lot of my clients have problems at this stage so I’ve developed a specialized course on this.)
2) Start creating a good looking home page that clearly states what you are all about and who you service.
3) Start writing blog posts on your blog and shooting videos on youtube to increase authority and establish trust with your prospects.
4) Give away a free report or an e-book in exchange for the customer’s email to further validate the fact that you know what you are talking about. (And you create a communication network that you can use create a relationship in the future.)
5) Make your first sale through email marketing and sales funnels.
The whole idea of this process is to avoid stressing and burning out. Unless we finish the first set of action, we can’t skip to the second. This is psychologically shaping our thinking to be more focused and concentrated.
After you are comfortable with this method of working. It is time for to apply the strategy that will make you 10 times more productive in 24 hours as a blogger.
Advanced Productivity Tip : Parkinson’s Law
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” — C. Northcote Parkinson
Parkinson’s premise is rather simple: Unless you are completely desperate, you can’t get anywhere fast.
In the previous tip, we took a breather to plan our 5 step blogging process. If we don’t know where we are going, it would be pointless to take actions. But since the process is complete, it is time to exploit the most effective psychological phenomenon in human brain to its full potential : desperateness.
Not having options in any given situation is usually unbearable to us. We need the illusion of choices to guide our thoughts and actions.
If your father is wealthy, it is more difficult to create a business compared to a person whose family barely survives financially. The former has a back up plan if things go south and the latter has no other option but to succeed. Failure for the former means to have a talk with daddy but for the latter, it means to have a fight about this month’s rent with the landlord. Who do you think will give everything they’ve got?
If you have a ship and you need to cross the river, sometimes you just have to burn the ship. I know it sounds counter intuitive but it is necessary. Leave yourself with one option: succeed or go down. Make the burning of your ships as real as possible and get rid of your safety net. You’ll be amazed to see how much you are capable of.
The comfort of having a back up plan results in half-spirited efforts and little to no resilience in the face of obstacles. You are almost ten times more prone to take a step back in the face of a problem if you have a safety net. You start giving yourself more free time and keep rationalizing watching movies and TV shows as a way to avoid burning out. There is only one word for what you are doing: procrastination.
Working with almost impossible deadlines is a great way to utilize the Parkinson’s law. In fact, Elon Musk -founder of SpaceX- had often worked with impossible deadlines to get the ball rolling.
Let’s say you normally give yourself one year to start a website, collect emails and start the selling process. Well how about you give yourself only 6 months? Now almost every ticking second is as valuable as gold.
Of course, this is going to be a little extreme and will most definitely put you on some amount of stress. However, as long as you use this mentality in short bursts and with a step by step process, you’ll be completely fine. Just to make it clear: Whether we’ve learned it from a mentor or created our own method, a solid process is integral to make the Parkinson’s law a success.
In this limited amount of time, you’ll feel a sort of energy that makes you feel more alive than usual. We no longer have the luxury to find ourselves lost in our actions anymore. Now we need to do what is necessary, not what we feel like.
We intensely focus on the task at present and this gives us an almost superhuman-like aura and efficency. This sense of urgency multiplies your strengths and gives you the much needed momentum you are looking for.
5 Strategies to Utilize the Parkinson’s Law Effectively
1) Eliminate All Your Options
Most often in life, we tend to do too many things at once. Learning how to create a business, play the guitar, trade the markets and write a book starts to take a toll on you quite quickly.
So take the high road instead. Value intensity over extensity. We do multiple things at once thinking one of them will bring us success, but in these situations our minds are diffused and our efforts are half-hearted.
Take just one daunting challenge and don’t lose your focus until you are done.
2) First Fire and Then Aim
If there is no outside pressure, we usually wait too much. Instead of wasting a lot of time to create that perfect website design, It is better to act now and get some feedback as quickly as possible. That’s why we value the idea of “minimum viable product” in the realm of entrepreneurship.
The minimum viable product is designed to give the main idea to the customers without the intricate details and fluffy looks. Think of it as a book without a cover. It doesn’t look appealing but the ideas and concepts are still intact.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to say that you should rush everything and create a crappy product but only to remind you not to get trapped in the perfectionist mindset.
Sometimes you just have to pull the trigger. You can always aim later.
3) Shake Things Up
When we work on our business for long periods of times, a sense of familiarity, comfort and boredom will set in. If this is your 100th blog post, it might be difficult to find the motivation to do the 101th one.
To shake things up a bit, try a different approach. Enter new waters. Try making a video series on youtube or record one week of podcast.
Change your writing style. If you normally use passive sentences more, try to write without them. Maybe you are the type that gives less examples while writing. This time, try to give more practical and useful examples to your readers. You can still stay on the same route by playing around with your long standing habits.
These temporary (or permanent) indulgences on tasks that’ll prove more of a challenge will give us back the mental energy we’ve lost along the way.
Sometimes you need to leave comfortable situations behind and cut your ties to the past to re-connect with your creative self.
Maybe shooting videos will be more of a challenge for you. Force yourself to march on this path until it becomes easier. Don’t pick the path of least resistence. There simply is no growth there.
4) Cultivate A Figthing Spirit
Sometimes you need a little push from outside to get the ball rolling. If a close friend tells you that you’ll never become an entrepreneur because you don’t have the smarts, you’ll become an entrepreneur just to prove them wrong.
Of course, this is not a healthy motivation. It is much better to motivate yourself with your customers. Just the act of helping them should be enough to motivate you.
But sometimes the fighting spirit needs a little edge. After all, it is not uncommon to find popular singers who have been told, “You can’t sing kiddo” in the beginning of their careers only to make all the nay-sayers cringe after they become a success story.
5) Keep Challenging Yourself
When we are tired, it is most often a symptom of boredom. When no real challenge faces us, our brains relieve its natural tension and no longer pays attention and exerts effort.
This lack of energy is caused by a lack of challenge. In these circumstances, I advise you to take bold risks. In fact, make risks a constant practice in your life.
Once you settle down on a habit or an idea without constant progressing, your brain will adapt to it and get desensitized. This is not a good thing.
This is why long term drug addicts take shots not because it gives them pleasure (desensitization) but because of the addictive nature itself. If you start drinking coffee everyday, you won’t be getting the “caffeine high” after a while.
So how do we prevent this boredom and desensitization from happening? Always challenge yourself regardless of your circumstances. Soon “living on the edge” will become a kind of addiction — you won’t be able to do without it.
Why Focus Matters as an Entrepreneur?
What differentiates successful people from the rest is their godlike level of focus. When it is time to work, these people know how to shut their door and focus intensely on the problem at hand. Maybe you are struggling to get more traffic to your website, or maybe you need the mental energy to write that perfect pillar post. The answer is always focus.
If a friend intervenes in the middle of work; you need to know how to politely say “no” and get back to work. Setting your priorities straight in a world that ultimately wants you to multitask is the most important skill you can develop to become a person of efficiency and power. The ability to say no to the things that doesn’t matter will inevitably give you more time to say yes to the things that do.
Self-Control + Mindfulness = Productivity
Self control is one of the virtues of the Stoics. The dillema of doing the right thing (your work) and doing what you feel like (watching a movie) can be easy in theory but it is somewhat difficult when we actually have to make the decision in real life.
To live in the 21st century means to live with endless distractions. Everything is vying for your attention and you need to make a choice. Will you give in to the distractions or consistently do your work?
Your willpower and attention is limited and if you think you can still do everything, I strongly urge you to work on four different companies where you need to create products and write blog posts for 4 distinct topics: Mindset, Finance, Business and Self-Publishing. Sounds insane?
Well, let’s say I tried doing this exact same thing and failed miserably. As a result of this terrible strategy, I eventually picked the niche where I was most happy with and as a result carved myself a more sustainable path: The hybrid of business and mindset.
Don’t make the mistake I did. Intensity beats extensity every time. Don’t spread your focus, instead condense it together and use it as a laser to hit where it will hurt the most.
Self-Control with Marcus Aurelius
The Stoic Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, talks about how unnatural it is to not do the work you are destined to do and procrastinate instead.
“…Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you are not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?”
What do you have to complain of, if you are going to do what you are born to do? Distractions are just that…distractions. If you are distracted from work, quickly re-balance your energy and continue from where you left off. Being conscious of this process is enough to steer you back to the right path.
The Sherlock Method For Developing Mindfulness and Concentration
Mindfulness is essentially a quality that is developed over time. Just like any skill, you need to establish it as a habit. And if your mind wanders to social media, your ex or a future task while doing work, this is because you have cultivated the habit of mindlessness.
In a study made by renowned psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, it was found that the more our minds wander, the less happy we become. But rest assured, I have the perfect solution for you.
If you’ve ever watched the BBC’s Sherlock (or any Sherlock movie), it is highly likely you’ve thought:
“How the hell Sherlock can make these mind blowing deductions?” (I know I did)
One of the reasons is mindfulness. Here is the simplified version of how observation work in Sherlock’s mind and how it relates to mindfulness.
3 Steps to Successful Observation and Mindfulness Practice
1) What objects can I observe?
When you get into a new room, look at what object you can see and how far away you are from them.
Don’t try to register every object but be consciously aware where the bathroom is or where people usually go to light a cigerrette.
If you are the type of person that forgets where you located your keys every morning, this awareness exercise will impove your concentration skills immensely.
2) What details can I observe?
Looking at people’s clothings and objects around you superficially will become second nature soon.
You need to go deeper into the things you observe. Maybe there is a stain on Jason’s shirt.
Observe it and be aware of it. Don’t try to deduce anything like Sherlock but just become aware of the minute details of the objects that you see around you.
3) What functions these object might have?
If you observe a paint brush and a blank canvas, mentally visualize someone is using a brush to paint the canvas.
If you observe a remote controller, TV, coffee table and couch; mentally visualize someone is laying down on the couch, resting their legs on the coffee table, watching TV with a remote controller in their hands.
These exercises become extremely challenging the more you do it. But this last exercise is the holy grail of concentration and observation tranings. If you make this a game you play, it will be easier to cultivate it as a habit.
To Recap Everything We’ve Learned
1) The Timeless Stoic Exercise: Trusting The Process
To avoid burning out, we need to have a proven step by step process that we follow on a daily basis. We need to look at it everyday and let it guide our thinking and actions which will ultimately make us more productive.
Micro-wins: Remember to use micro-wins after your “one important thing” is completed. This will help you to develop working as a habit by creating neurological pathways in the brain.
2) Use These 3 Softwares to Eliminate Distractions While Working
When you are doing work online, eliminate all distractions. I recommend you to use these 3 free softwares.
- Self Control for Mac and Freedom for Windows to block out distracting websites.
- FocusWriter to write your blog posts in a distraction free environment.
3) Use Parkinson’s Law to Put Yourself in Desperate Situations
If you imagine yourself to be homeless or extremely poor, you’ll instantly change the dynamics of the game. When you put yourself in a life and death situation, you’ll fight like hell to survive. Understand: Humans are animals of necessity. Unless we are obligated to do something, we won’t give our best. Stop viewing blogging as a hobby you happen to indulge in. See it as your only option for financial freedom and independence. Or in other words:
“If you want to cross the river, remember to burn the ship.”
4) Use the Sherlock Method to Sharpen Your Focus
When you find yourself in a new environment. Ask yourself these 3 questions.
- What objects can I observe?
- What details can I observe?
- What functions these objects might have?
In as short as 7 days, you’ll be amazed how easily you can concentrate.
5) Practice Self-Conrol with Marcus Aurelius
I’ve always found somewhat funny that the great Stoic Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, found getting up early in the morning as equally difficult as we do today. To remind himself the importance of self-control, he wrote this in his diary.
“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”
If you want to find your life’s purpose through self development and create a six figure business blogging, then consider becoming a member of my tribe. Enter your email address here: https://teaching-entrepreneurs.com/
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