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You know, for a long time, I thought something was wrong with me.
For the longest time, I really had these dreams of having a successful business and I really wanted to be successful. But all the productivity tips I read just didn’t seem to work for me. I don’t know if that sounds familiar at all. I couldn’t ever stick to a plan.
So I’d love making the plans. I’d love setting it all down. I’d love dreaming about what was going to happen. But when it came to actually making progress and actually acting out the plan, it just all went wrong. And I tried so hard.
When I was in my corporate role, I tried planning for my business. I listened to all the experts, but nothing ever seemed to work for me. And it just had a really awful effect on my mindset.
I started to think, Maybe I can’t do this. Maybe I’m not good enough. I knew that if I wanted to have a successful business, I needed to plan.
I needed to be able to maximize every hour of every day. And I also needed to know I was headed in the right direction. I couldn’t just muddle through the way I’d been muddling through for so many years. I needed a plan that I was going to stick to, but I just didn’t know where to start because I couldn’t find a plan that really worked well for me. So I decided to really find something that worked because I realized that if I didn’t, my dreams of having a successful business just weren’t going to happen.
Productivity experts would say things like, “Work in the morning when you have the most energy”. But I didn’t find that to be true for me at all. I find it very difficult actually to get started in the morning and I started thinking I just didn’t have it in me to succeed.
Maybe I wasn’t good enough. If I was good enough, surely I’d be able to stick to the plan I’d set out. Why couldn’t I do it when other people could? And then the blinding truth.
After a long, long time of going down this rabbit hole of trying to plan over and over again, I realised the truth is, we’re not all super productive in the mornings. We don’t all have the same amount of energy and focus every single day of the month or every single hour of the day. And our feelings and tendencies can fluctuate from day to day and even hour to hour.
We do have patterns, but they are subjective and personal and they differ from person to person. And there’s not a blanket rule that fits all. So when I was reading stuff like do all your big tasks in the morning because that’s when you are most productive. And that didn’t work for me. That was because that wasn’t my most productive time.
And it was like, oh my God, that’s a moment of complete clarity because I suddenly realised there wasn’t anything wrong with me at all.
It was just I’d been trying to fit into this mold that was very narrow and it obviously works for some people that work in that way. It just didn’t work for me at all.
And this was a complete game-changer for me. Realising this, just changed my world overnight. I realise there was nothing wrong with me – I wasn’t different from everyone else.
I wasn’t a failure, I just didn’t fit the system.
Productivity experts often recommend the system you hear about. That doesn’t mean I can’t plan, just I need to do it a different way than some people do.
And the other thing I used to find really hard is spreadsheets. Spreadsheets and me, we learn to get along, but we’re not natural companions. I’m more of a visual learner. I’m very creative, and I think a lot of creative people tend to be very visual. I couldn’t stick to a spreadsheet planner. I just couldn’t, I still couldn’t now.
So I have a more visual planner now that I do use. And I don’t know if it’s something you relate to. I just really wanted to talk about it because I wonder whether you were feeling the same way and whether this might help you as well, because I realised that if I feel like this, I couldn’t be the only one struggling.
There are billions of people on this planet, and the chances are that others are feeling the same way too. Other people, maybe you, feeling like a failure because you couldn’t stick to a plan. Other people out there feeling they’re not good enough because they couldn’t see their plans through.
So I wanted to share these three things I did to help me organise my creative self:
ONE. Pay attention to when I’m MOST productive…
First of all, the most important thing I did was I took notice of when I get the most work done. When is my productive time? When is your productive time? This is so important because for a system to work for you, you’ve got to find something that aligns with you naturally. Now if you try and force yourself to fit a system, a very rigid system that it’s not designed to, you are never going to stick to it, which is why you keep failing and then you keep beating yourself up and you feel worse and worse and end up maybe giving up.
We don’t want that. But when I started paying attention to my energy throughout the day, I realized I didn’t have a big bunch of energy for tasks in the morning. My energy surge is around 2-5pm in the afternoon, which I know a lot of people can feel quite tired at that time. For me, it’s when I’m really good at writing. If I’ve got any writing to do, that’s a really great time for me to write. It’s when I’m recording this podcast right now. So knowing that really helps me because it helps me be kinder to myself when I struggle to get going in the mornings. It helps me plan tasks when I know that I’m going to be good at them.
And it also helps me. I know that I’m super productive in the evenings quite often. So if I do need to work in the evening, I’m not going to beat myself up about working so-called after hours because these are my hours. I get to choose them. And it’s up to me to organize my schedule the way I want to organise it.
TWO. Create a schedule to suit YOU
Which leads me to my second point, which is what I did next. I created a schedule to suit me because I was now aware when my most productive times were. For example, in the afternoon, I could create a schedule to suit me. And this is the advantage of working for yourself because you have all the control. I use a system I call ‘Down to the hour”, which you can learn about. If you’ve got my Creative’s Productivity Toolbox, which I sell in my shop, that basically breaks down the whole system for you. And it means that I take my tasks, then I break them down from the year down to the month to the week, to the day to the hour. I bear in mind that my most flexible times are and I plan them in. That really helps me. So I created a schedule to suit me number two.
THREE. Think like a CEO
Then number three is just an important addition to the other two points I’ve mentioned. And that’s to get out of the employee mindset. Now, you might not even realise you’re doing this, because your mind is a funny thing. But if you’re like me and you’ve worked for yourself your whole life, you’re probably being conditioned to think a certain way. And you might be caught in the trap of thinking like an employee. But the thing is, if you work for yourself, you’re not an employee anymore. You need to think like a CEO because although even if you don’t work for a corporate organisation, that’s exactly what you are.
You’re in charge of your own schedule.
You’re in charge of your own life. If you want to work from 12-8 every day because that’s more productive for you, then go for it. Stop thinking about the way you should do things and do the things the way you need to do them. Be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up for doing things differently because we are all different. We don’t all fit that same mold. And as a business owner, that’s your prerogative, so own it.
Those three things really changed the way I approach my business and my life and stopped me constantly beating myself up for not being the way I thought I should be. I hope that you can take this knowledge and use it to become more productive yourself.
If you do need help finding a planning system that works out for you, check out my downloadable virtual planner the Creative’s Planning Toolbox in my shop, on my website and that walks you through the whole process. But that’s it for now and I look forward to catching up with you next week. Thank you so much for listening to Creative Slurp. I hope it’s inspired you to try something new in your business. If you loved it, please take the time to leave a review on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcasts. See you soon and go and chase your biggest creative business dreams. You can do it.