I was reading a great blog the other week which detailed what CEOs do each day to help them stay productive.

Sounds great, right?

Well no, because it left me feeling depressed.

The first tip was getting up at 6am. (Are there any successful people that don’t get up at the crack of dawn?) As soon as I see that, my heart sinks because I’m a night owl not an early morning kinda girl. I know there’s people who will brag that they’ve done 2 hours’ work before most people have had breakfast, but that’s not me and never will be.

I’m more the kind of person who’s still working at 10 o’clock at night, with a cup of tea (or occasionally a glass of wine!) by my side. Who cares as long as you get the work done, right?

So instead of being motivated by reading this blog, I just spent the rest of the day kicking myself because I didn’t jump out of bed at 5 o’clock in the morning, go running for half an hour, come back for a quick cold shower and then power through my to do list all before most people have had their first cup of coffee!

As I mentioned in my previous blog 7 Productivity Myths that can Stop you Getting Things Done, we can get so hamstrung by other people’s opinions and advice that it stops us in our tracks.

From my experience of working with small business owners and speaking to them about how they can best manage their time whilst running a business, I know that this is something that many people struggle with and are desperately looking for advice on.

And yet so much advice will tell you that the author’s way is the right way and that this is what you need if you want to be successful, more productive, etc. And there’s some truth to all this advice but fundamentally it will only work if you buy into it; if you can realistically follow the advice and take action.

Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself – Cicero

Everyone is different.
Remember we are all different, we all have different priorities in our lives. Some of us may be partners, parents or carers, or have other commitments or interests outside our day to day business.

There are people who get up early and get straight work, whereas others have to feed the kids and get them ready for school, or are like me and do better work later in the day. You may get inspired when working out in the gym, whereas I find it better to take a walk in the park to get ideas. Perhaps you like to do your tasks in sequential order whereas I’m happy to do them depending on the time and environment I’m working in; catching up with emails first thing in the morning, writing blogs when I’m in the park, managing my tasks lists while I’m on the move, making calls when I’m somewhere quiet.

Alternatively, you may be quite switched on when it comes to technology so find reading blogs about the latest time management apps extremely helpful to you. However, if you’re a Luddite when it comes to anything techy then getting your head round time management apps can be another stress factor to add to your to do list! In fact you can spend so much time learning and setting up a productivity app that it defeats the whole purpose of helping you save time and effort.

Finally, we all have our own definitions of success. For some that may be earning a lot of money but for others, it could just be to have the freedom to do what we want when we want.

Setting up a routine to suit you
You need to find out what works for you depending on your own circumstances, priorities and values.

Recently I was at a networking event where somebody was talking about time management and there was a guy there who explained how he blocked out time for every activity in his day whether it was work stuff or time he spent with his family. Every single second was accounted for and timed. It sounded like he was in the army!

It worked for him but there was no way that I could work or live with such a rigid system. My only thought was when does he have time to live? To actually just enjoy the spontaneity of doing something rather than having everything planned out.

Now I’m not saying don’t plan and leave everything to chance. Planning is essential when you’re setting out your most important projects. It can be something that gets you fired up and excited or it can be another chore on your to do list that fills you with dread. If it’s the latter then look at it from another angle.

Here’s one way of how you can adapt productivity advice to match your own ways of working and thinking.

So much planning advice will be around writing out a project plan with tasks and deadlines. But this is hardly going to make you feel excited, is it? Instead you may want to create a mind map or vision board when planning your projects. This will tap into your inner creativity which in turn can spark ideas and inspiration.

Too much planning can also trap you into a corner where you feel like you can’t move anywhere else and it has to be this way. If you change it then everything collapses! So plan but be prepared to be flexible with your plans.

So take such advice with a large pinch of salt – and while you’ve got the salt out make yourself a margarita!


Finally… the only productivity tip you need!
The only productivity tip you need to remember is to take time out for yourself and celebrate your successes. I’ve personally found this to be one of the best ways to give a real boost to my motivation and energy levels.

So don’t feel like the black sheep because you’re not following every piece of productivity advice; do whatever works for you, and learning what that is can come with trial and error.

Just don’t spend your time reading productivity blogs, and then kicking yourself because you haven’t been for a run, showered, read your emails and done three things off your to do list before the sun has managed to peak over the horizon!

Images courtesy of Pixabay

About Valerie Eaton

Valerie is the founder and owner of Smart VA who provides virtual PA services to self-employed professionals who are feeling overwhelmed by their workload and want more time to focus on growing their business.

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