102: How to Increase Your Focus with Organization
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In this episode I'll talk about why being organized is critical to achieving a focus you need in your business so you can get stuff done.
Read the episode transcript:
1:00 — Does the idea of being organized stress you out? What solo’s struggle with when it comes to being organized is that it becomes yet another thing ya gotta get done. There's a lot to think about and manage when you're running a business on your own, even if you have a small team to delegate things to.
1:18 — So this episode what I want to cover is how being organized— and when I say organized, I mean your level of organized. Everybody has a different parameter when it comes to being organized. But when you actually bring organization into your business, you will realize that you can get so much more done. Sometimes it's as simple as having a planner, or having a way to work through a list of to-do’s where you're doing something as a routine every day as opposed to just what I call ‘pantsing it’ where you're basically flying by the seat of your pants. Now of course, there are always going to be situations where you find yourself having to react to a client request, or something maybe didn't get done on time, or something happened that pulled you aside that you had to deal with and react to in the moment. That's life, and that is life in business as well.
2:18 — We're always going to find opportunities that we're going to get pulled away and come off of our “organized plan” for the day. What I really want to do is actually just give you some coaching around what organization can actually do for your focus. Now what opens up in your business and life when you can clearly focus? When we run a business on our own, we're easily distracted by squirrels and shiny objects. Look at how easy it is to get sucked into the vortex of social media? I can't tell you, it's like every time I go on Facebook, or LinkedIn or Instagram, it's just like I feel like there should be some Jeopardy music playing in the background, it's like looking at everything going, “Oh, what's Marcy doing there? And on LinkedIn, it’s “Oh, Gary Vaynerchuk’s got a new video! I just got to watch that!”
3:14 — Every time I get in front of the computer I’m easily dazzled by content. I'm curious. I want to learn. I want to feel inspired, and the next thing I know, it's an hour or two later and I'm not getting what I need to get done done. It's just one of the things that we have to step back and take a look at, what opens up in your business and life when you can clearly focus? Using organization as a way to create space so you can focus is really critical. I can remember when I worked at Marriott, it was like cube city. There was this the whole floor we were on that was just nothing but mid-rise cubes all the way around. So when you were sitting at your desk you couldn't see anybody else you've basically we're just looking at your computer screen or your cube walls, but you could hear people. But as soon as you stood up, well, it was like those little meerkats coming up and looking around and everything like that Geico commercial—oh my gosh that's so funny. And then you could get engaged and distracted and whatnot so having a setting where I was in a cube I found myself constantly being distracted by noises or someone just kind of coming around the corner asking me to do something because it was an open-office type of a setting, even though they were cube walls.
4:32 — I found that there was this one point where I really needed to concentrate and so I would put a little sign on my cube saying you know this is like ‘concentration time’ and I’d put my headset on and just sit and work and I would really get a lot of things done because I could actually give myself space to get that work done. It was so freeing, because when I was able to do that and I gave myself permission to do that and of course we all communicated as a team that that's what if you needed concentration time you could just look a little sign up that said ‘I'm focused’ and I needed to get stuff done and people would respect that. When I looked at being organized, everybody has a different tolerance for organization. Some people's organized messes are their way of being organized, like, “I'm going to leave the dishes in the sink and a deal with it tomorrow,” and that's actually a form of organization where you're actually saying, “I'm going to put a pin in this and deal with it tomorrow.”
5:28 — I've even done that myself, but at my core I am an organizational freak. I am the first person to confess that organization makes me happy. And if things are out of order I get anxious. Depending on the situation, it could be one thing or another, but I really think for me, it's a control thing, I love being organized in everything from the way my house is to the way my car is, so I want to be able to find things fast. I want to be able to know where stuff is and not have it out and be kind of a distraction. What I love to do is I actually love to organize things so that, and that also comes in with cleaning. Like sometimes I'll get you know wild hair and I’ll be like, “Oh, I want to clean my closet out.” So I’ll go through and I’ll clean my closet out and I’ll make Goodwill bags and all that stuff, and I feel so good when I've done that because I've done a purge, I’ve organized stuff, and I've kind of gone through and said, “Okay, I use these things in these things,” I don't so they’ve got to go to Goodwill or whatever, or give them to a friend. And I love to have things have their place and organize things. Now I'm not talking about like, that Sleeping with the Enemy organized, you know, where every can has to have its labels facing exactly the same way down to a micrometer. But where I know things are and they look orderly.
6:58 — Like I said, if I don’t use things, they go to Goodwill. It’s so funny, because I've often found myself without something only to realize that I gave it to Goodwill like the prior year and I end up going out and buying the same thing all over again like, “Why did I give that the Goodwill?” Just because I wasn't using it didn’t mean that I would never use it again. So I kind of have to laugh at myself because I do these stupid things where I’m like, “Okay, I'm not using it, I got to get rid of it.” It's my way of staying organized and keeping things simple. And if you listen to my introductory simplify and multiply episode, you know how I like to keep things simple. I'm not a clutter-freak or a hoarder, I’m actually the total opposite. I get by with the minimal amount of stuff I need to get the job done. That's just kind of like a little glimpse into my crazy world, but it works for me, because I love just having things in their place and putting things away, even if it's things you don't use everyday. I'm sure that if you've seen my videos on LinkedIn, I just sit at my desk and I've got my bookshelf behind me and everything has its place. I know where exactly everything is, but every now and again I go through and I maybe go through some books that I've read several times and I'm like, “You know what, I think I'm ready to donate these to the library.”
8:17 — And I'll go through and I'll get rid of some because what that does for me is that gives me room for new things and that's kind of how I look at it. For me, when I'm organized, I can much more easily focus on things. So if you know what's going on, where things are, what order they should be in, it's so much easier to focus. And when you focus, you get stuff done. I mean, when's the last time where you really had a block of time where you could sit down and either write or work on a project for a client or maybe even look at your business strategy for the upcoming year and what you want for your vision and you have that time where you can just really use your creative juices and just listen to that inner voice and just really develop something that's powerful—bring your gifts and talents to the surface and bring those there where you can actually access them and create something amazing.
9:19 — Being organized is also defined by your parameters. Like I said earlier, you don't have to be extreme about it, just so it makes you calm enough so you can focus and you get that block of time. If just setting appointments for yourself on your calendar is helpful, do that. I often block time off when I know I need to focus on specific creative projects and that way I don't have any other interferences. So like, for example, on my website, I have a couple different calendars that I have clients or prospects use when they want to book time with me. Well, those calendars actually sync with my overall calendar like my Google calendar and whenever I block something out if I want to have some focus time or work on a specific project, that time will show that it's unavailable, so someone won’t come in and actually booked some time with me. So it works really well. And I know that that 3 or 5 or even 8 hour period I'm going to be able to focus on a project or getting some work done for my client or some business development work that I need to do.
10:27 — It's really helpful. So consider doing that as one way to give yourself that block of time. When I do block that time off, I get so much more done. It's kind of like the same as mentally closing a window to traffic noise so you can have some peace and just get that focus.
11:47 — Another thing you can do is, if you're not using a planner get one. For me, I love the Franklin Planner. I’ve used it for probably 20, if not more, years, and I love it. It's one of the easiest planners to customize to how you want to get things done and having the next day planned out and organized allows me to actually sleep better. Sometimes I have a ritual where I'll just grab my Franklin and I'll open it up to either the next day or the next week and I'll actually just mark off, “Okay this is what I want to focus on tomorrow at this time, this is what I want to focus on it this time, I’ve got an appointment here,” and I end up just kind of like planning out the day not to the excruciating detail like every minute, but like blocks of time, like this block I'm going to focus on this this block I'm going to focus on that. Just knowing that I've kind of planned it out and I know where I'm going just like having a map to destination you know exactly that that day is organized and you're ready to go, you're ready to take it on.
12:50 — So that's one of the things that you can actually use if you're not using that already. Allowing yourself the space to focus allows your mind to clear so you can access more of that inner voice, that inner talent that makes you, you, and that brings that special something to the surface. But when you've got all kinds of things gnawing at you, it's really hard to actually allow that voice, that inner guidance, to actually come through. It's almost like a working meditation where you're actually just giving yourself space to open that up and allow your best work to come to the surface. So for this particular episode I have an actionable for you, and what I'd like for you to do is to take out a journal or piece of paper whatever, or your planner, and make a list of the general things you do in your business in any given day.
Your Actionable for this Episode is:
13:50 — So for me, it breaks down into like, let's say for example, prospecting, marketing, so that's like creating materials that I use for my marketing like shooting a video or recording this podcast for example, coaching clients, that's where I'm actually working one-on-one with a client on a particular project, developing client strategies, that's where I'm actually doing the strategic work that I do for my clients, and creative direction to my team so I've got a team that helps me execute a lot of the creative work that I do, whether it's designing websites, writing copy, various different things that I have my team working on. And when I pants it, as I said before, I fly by the seat of my pants, I find I'm so much less productive than when I'm organized with the time in my day.
14:42 — So once you itemized the things you do in your business on any given day, see how you can organize it, group things together, you want to delegate where you can to your team or to an automated system So if you don't have a team, if it's just you, what can you do, like let's say for example one of the things that I recommend my clients do is obviously it's important to be posting regular on social media. Well, if you're doing it throughout the day by hand manually going in and doing a post, there's nothing wrong with that, but it does break up your day and it does serve as a distraction, It's one thing to actually read an article and see how I'd really like to share this and just share it in that moment you reading the article, and it's another to be in the middle of doing a project, and say, “Oh, I gotta post something.” In that case, choose a system, whether it's free something like Buffer or something that's paid. The one I started using is SmarterQueue, and I love it, because I can actually plan out a lot of my social posting in advance.
15:50 — Anything that happens in the moment is like, bonus, so I can actually just add that as a bonus. I actually delegate that time to that tool and it actually posts for me, so I'm saving so much time. Another thing that I do is instead of writing a blog post, I delegate that to my copywriters on my team, and they take that off my plate, so that way I can focus on the things where I bring the most value. Delegating is really, really important, and I had the hardest time—I'm actually going to do a podcast on delegating, because one of the things that I found that solopreneurs really struggle with is what do they delegate, what do they automate, and what do they keep on their own plate so they can be most productive and make the most amount of money. Because obviously, if you're hiring people on your team that's taking money out of your pocket. So that's something that you want to consider very carefully and I'm going to be talking a lot about that kind of thing.
16:51 — But when it comes to organizing yourself, see on that list what you can delegate to a team member or to an automated system. Then the last part is, what can you actually delete? What are you doing during your day or that you find yourself being distracted by that you can just stop doing all together. If it doesn't feed your soul, if it doesn't feed your business or support your goals, then you need to just stop doing it. And I'll raise my hand right now and say my thing is I get sucked into social media. I end up spending so much time just reading other people's content, and so much of it is just noise. And it's so easy to get, it's like driving down the road and you see all these cars on the other side of the road that are breaking and stuff because there's some you know somebody got pulled over for speeding ticket, and you’re all like, “Oh, what’s going on? What's going on? That whole rubbernecking thing, right, everybody slows down. That's what it's like with social media it's like what's going on here fear of missing out right?
18:00 — Take that list and see if you can consolidate similar things together, delegate where you can to your team or to an automated system, and then delete things that don't feed your soul or your business. And I bet you that you will find that just going through that exercise you will actually see how much of your day is really wasted. Open up time by being organized, by doing those three things with that list, even if it's just one thing, even if it's just limiting your social media time. That's what I'm trying to do is just like, stop, as soon as I go on a social media, I set a timer for 5 minutes and then when that timer goes off. I'm done. It's actually working, because I just lose all track of time when I start getting entertained by what's on the screen. So another thing you can do is look at your day when you're feeling your most creative or when you're feeling your most desire to be productive. For example, I am most creative early in the morning. I have a morning ritual that after I shower I go into my zen room, which is just one of my extra bedrooms on the third floor of my home, and the view is beautiful, it looks straight out East, and I love starting my days this way because I can watch the sun come up.
19:19 — Because I live close to the Florida coast, I'm about four miles from the beach, I can actually see all of the beautiful clouds that are over the ocean and every single morning it's a different sunrise and it's so beautiful and I feel so appreciative of where I get to live and work and the things that I get to do, and it's a very creative time for me in the morning. So I'll sit in that room and I’ll have my coffee, or my tea, and I'll be listening to some nice chill music, and I'll write, I'll just sit there and I'll just write and write and write and it's just wonderful. And if there's a particular strategy I’m noodling through for a client, I may have a clear vision for it in the morning, and be able to draft it up quickly on my white board. So I've got sunrise, coffee, chill music and writing, and it's an always, always a great start to my day.
20:10 — So if you have some type of ritual or time of the day where you feel more productive or more creative, plan and organize your day around that. So when you organize blocks of time to do the things you need to do, your ability to focus is much easier because you're not mentally juggling the list of things that are gnawing at your attention, like oh, I got to go to the grocery store and pick up you know dog food, or I have to call that prospect back and give them an answer to the question that they were asking me about. So you'll see that your productivity will rise and you'll find it much, much easier to get stuff done and I feel great about it.