I don’t know about you but I’m all over the place.
And judging by this post you’ll have to agree. But freelancers, Solo-preneurs, solo flyers, free agents… you know who you are and I think you’ll understand. You see when you have a family, two kids, a dog and two guinea pigs your life tends to be closer to chaos than to anything resembling what the productivity experts would have you believe.
So here, I’m nowhere near qualified to be spouting productivity hacks. So I won’t. But there are a couple of islands in my day that I run to whenever I feel things slipping. And I’d like to share them with you.
Discipline & Routine
I like my morning before the rest of the house wakes up. It’s my time for work. Real work. The kind of work that you don’t get paid for doing. The kind of work that gets you up in the morning. I like to write. That’s my thing. It’s my meditation, sort of. And any excuse not to write will do. That’s also my thing. Procrastination.
But I’m happy in the knowledge that my own brand of productivity – discipline & routine are as good as they can be in my own life. For now. I like them when they’re there and I’m learning to accept it when they’re not. But without a sense of the value of discipline and routine, your entire day will be spent flitting from sparkle to sparkle without really nailing any one particular thing.
Without these two little fellas you won’t get anywhere near half what you need to get done. But you knew that right? This is where my own struggles come in. You see, I’ve know these two little ideas work for me. But wherever I look someone has a productivity hack that just makes mine look downright pedestrian. Slow. Simple. And then I feel that maybe I should be doing more. Maybe I should be more superhuman than I know I am.
So how do we work within this beautifully human conundrum – being told one thing but knowing the ugly truth is a little different? How do we move ahead when we don’t even come close to the superhuman feats the productivity experts are showing us. And for me, this is where the third guest at my little party walks in – guilt.
Guilt lives in the space left by the occasional decline in self discipline and the sporadic practice of routine.
One before one
Ok, so here’s how I believe we can fix it. I’ve worked out that when I start my day doing the shit I really don’t want to do, I feel great. Seriously. This is a little miracle act that I’ve learned about my own productivity. It’s one based on discipline & routine. It’s my own take on the ‘One before One’ idea shared by a mentor friend of mine. It’s a simple principle of doing one thing everyday that has the greatest impact on your work and life – all before 1pm.
I think it’s one of the coolest productivity ideas yet. Because the truth is, the things we really don’t feel like doing are usually the things that really need doing. Simple. And once it’s done things are starting to look up. Time to jump out of that chair, grab yourself a coffee or take the dog for a walk.
And when you sit back down, treat yourself to something a little more palatable.
My one thing is different to yours
Administration tasks. I really don’t love them. Like a recent proposal for a big client I just landed with all the promises and woo hoo and now you’ve really got to stop procrastinating and finish the quote and proposal so you can begin the gig. I’ve noticed there’s so much effort put into landing a gig, followed by the mini celebration we have with ourselves after the meeting but then reality hits that now we need to deliver on the promised brief and proposal and then, god forbid, we have to deliver on the job itself.
There’s a kind of mild panic that crawls into bed with you around 3am and you begin going through the logistics of exactly what you’ve committed to. Over selling? Maybe. Maybe not. But we all do it. If you’re the salesy type you’ll know exactly what I mean. If you’re not, then it’s time to learn a little hustle to help move things along.
So back to routine and discipline, it’s your guardian.
It’s the thing that helps you become the professional you know you really are. It keeps guilt at bay. It makes you happier. But it’s a bit like quitting smoking – sometimes it takes a few tries before you succeed.
As a free agent, working alone won’t help your self confidence any more than working in your pyjamas.
But when you start playing around with these two things in your day you’ll be a long way toward feeling the part. You’ll be a long way to becoming the professional you know you really are.