Sitting under the big striped circus tent, I remember watching in awe. The juggling act seemed so fun, so measured, so magical, with balls flying high into the sky. 20 years later in the thick of running a business, I can tell you the juggling act has relocated itself in my psyche – it’s moved from the mystery of magic to the corner of chaos and has taken with it the bliss of naivety.
Life in our time-strapped world has become la piece de resistance of juggling act. Between daily demands, appointments, meetings and countless to-dos, it’s easy to feel as though you may drop a ball or two at any given time. Sometimes I really feel as though I did runaway and join the circus, only there’s far less people applauding and much more time spent biting my nails and wishing I had an extra week in my week.
The good thing is, anyone can learn to juggle. Whether it’s rubber balls or conflict calls, the trick to keeping all the balls in the air is learning techniques to work smarter, not harder and doing it all with grace.
If you’re like me, you long for simplicity and efficiency, and productivity makes your heart happier than you’d like people to know. To help you with your juggling act, I’ve compiled a list of ways to help you be more productive and accomplish more in your working week.
- DO A BRAIN DUMP
When you become mindful of your thoughts and thought processes its really interesting (and somewhat astonishing), to realise how many of your thoughts are just your to-do lists replaying over and over in your head. My fave technique to capture all of the open loops I have floating around in my head, is to do a brain dump. Grab a piece of paper, or your latest ab-fab note taking app, and empty your head of all of your to-dos (even the seemingly menial thoughts like sewing that button back on your pup’s winter sweater). Get it all down. Even jot down things you’re waiting on, random ideas, commitments or open loops that are wreaking havoc on your brain space. Once you dump them, you’ll have more psychological bandwidth to be creative and think about bigger and better things.
- SET GOALS
This is hands down my most favourite and effective productivity ritual. My business mentor and life guru, Pru Chapman, taught me to define 3 goals you want to achieve in the week ahead. Not to-dos; not priorities; not wishlists; but solid, achievable goals. The rule of three has changed my whole working style and has transitioned me from reactionary to structured (disclaimer; 90% of the time). Its power lies in its simplicity – write down 3 goals you want to achieve this week – they may be as big or as small as you like, but generally speaking they are goals when working on your business, not in it. This will keep you moving forward no matter how busy the week is or how many ‘urgent’ burning fires get thrown at you during the next 120 hours.
- START BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Some people are great at getting organised, others find it akin to wading through treacle. Reaching a level of organisation previously dominated by Kikki K, may seem like a tall order until we consider how much impact this can actually have on our productivity, and it does not need to be hard. A productive week starts on Monday, as long as you’ve done the prep before hand. Ideally it would be great to sit down on a Friday afternoon and plan the following week out, but if you’re anything like me and our crazy-ass studio, Friday afternoon often disappears into the never-never void of deadlines and vino distress calls. I find coming in an hour early on Monday morning works out a lot better for all involved. I check my calendar and block out anytime that I know I need to keep for myself, write a goals list, a to-do list and start to put the wheels in motion for a positive and productive week ahead.
- PRACTICE SAYING NO
As a yes-person, this is the aspect of productivity and juggling that I struggle with most. It’s impossible to say yes to everything and continue to be productive, trust me – I’ve tried. Whilst I would love to say yes to every opportunity that comes knocking, I know how it ends up – I sacrifice my nights, my weekends, my yoga, my quality time with loved ones and become exhausted, frustrated, stressed and in a complete creativity drought. To get things done and get them done well, we have to be more intentional and self-controlled about setting boundaries practising saying no.
“THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE AND VERY SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE IS THAT VERY SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE SAY “NO” TO ALMOST EVERYTHING.” — WARREN BUFFET.
- DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT
Striving for excellence is a noble goal, but striving for perfection is dangerous one. Obsessive perfectionism is the arch nemesis of productivity, second only to laziness. Whilst I don’t believe in scratching things off my list for the sake of feeling productive and producing work that is sub-par, I do know that striving for perfection only prevents progress and momentum. The key to moving ahead is following through and keeping the ball free from moss.
- AVOID THE WORLD OF DISTRACTIONS
In the world of social media, email, and phone notifications, the average person checks their phone over 150 times a day. We are all completely obsessed. Avoiding distractions in our modern day age is much easier said than done. We all know how distracting the world wide web can be and how easily it can become the poison of our productivity. To prevent my hand subconsciously reaching for my phone – I turned off all my phone notifications months ago. It’s had a huge impact on the amount of work I’ve been able to get done.
- OVERESTIMATE YOUR TIME
As a recovering perfectionist, I have a tendency to underestimate how much time a task will take me to complete, which often results in overpromising, stretching myself too thin, falling behind and feeling stressed out. I’m learning to overestimate my time to intentionally add in a little extra calendar “cushion” either side of each task or event. That way, if I finish early I have some extra time up my sleeve to knock over the next thing on my to-do list. And, as an added bonus – I don’t let people down by failing to deliver on time.
- LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
Work hard and play hard, but don’t mix the two. Be fully present wherever you are and remember to schedule in some down time in amongst the chaos. Find a couple of activities that give you more energy and lock them into your calendar. This is something that so many business owners let slip by the wayside (myself included!). Think about your rocket fuel – certain activities or people that actually boost your energy levels and book in a session with them, whether it’s hitting the gym at lunchtime or hanging with your craziest positive pal, remember to schedule time for that too.