Adventure seekers   //  18 years of marriage
5 kids  //  2 businesses  //  We like living life to the fullest


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How We Stay Focused | Inside Business Series

Running a business is tough.  Really tough.  Work/life balance is one of the biggest hurdles that any business owner is up against.  And for the ladies out there, we tend to have this perpetual guilt about the silliest things.  Last year I read The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.  It’s inspiring, and I highly recommend it if you’re a business-type person.  But for many small business owners out there, we’re more of the creative type, and listening to a super-businessy book like The 4 Hour Workweek is a huge turn off.  You have to wade through the main ideas and decide what you want to implement and how far you want to take it.  Is it weird that I don’t want a 4 hour work week right now?  I mean, I do… but I’m not willing to do what it takes to make it happen just yet.

It sounds silly, but we all make decisions like that every day.  We could sell everything we own and move to a tropical island, find a job making smoothies for the tourists and live in the tropical oasis for the rest of our lives.  We could, and we might talk about how nice that would be, but we won’t do it.  We’re not willing to actually sell all our stuff, leave our family and friends, and make it happen.

Isn’t that funny?  Maybe we’re too scared to leave our current lives, or maybe, just maybe, we actually really love our lives and want to succeed right where we currently live.

So how can we do that?  What’s your happy balance between the glorious world-traveling life and where you are now?  No doubt, being more efficient with your time will help you get to a better place– a better work/life balance.  We’re going share some of our best efficiency tricks we’ve learned over the past year– the ones that really make our work go faster and keep us on track (read: off Facebook!).

If you’ve ever looked up after 2 hours on your computer and thought, “I could have done all that in 30 minutes if I had just been more focused” then this is for you!

Our first trick is our favorite by far.  It’s actually two in one.

Ferriss talks about this in his book so we decided to give it a try.  And we love it. I mean, absolutely we’re bananas over it!  It blocks certain websites from you for a period of time, and the only way to disable it before the time is up is to restart your computer!  It’s brilliant, really. We love it for two main reasons:

  1. We don’t have to have the internal fight about not clicking on Facebook or checking email just to see if anyone sent us something. That internal fight takes focus away from the task at hand.  If I’m editing a wedding and I get tired or want a break, I zoom over to Facebook or check an email real quick.  Sure, checking and responding to an email is a good thing, but if it’s breaking up my editing workflow, then it’s really a waste of time.
  2. It declares focused time.  For 45 minutes I’m going to edit this session.  I won’t look up, I won’t get distracted.  Oh look, a wedding inquiry!  I need to answer that immediately!  Oh, they want this date, but I already have an inquiry for that date who is ready to book– I should let her know that someone else has inquired as well.  I’ll just send her an email real quick.  How to phrase the email?  I don’t want to sound pushy… hmmm…  That happens to me ALL THE TIME.  I’m doing work for the business, and I’m doing important things!  But it’s crucial to keep focused on one task at a time rather than flitting around between 4 tasks and not completing any of them.  Even if I don’t finish editing that session in the 45 minutes, at least I know that I did finish that 45 minute block of time without trying to complete every task.  It allows me to give myself a break, knowing I did the best I could.  When I’m jumping from task to task, I am often not doing my best.  I’m less focused, and at the end of the day I don’t know where the time went.

Did I mention that Freedom is free?  You can upgrade to premium plans which offer some really cool features, but you can also just enjoy the basic features, too!

I can’t even tell you how much of a difference this has made in our workflow.  After a month I stopped using it so much, and my workflow fell apart.  I felt like I wasn’t getting anything done and I was wasting a ton of time.  I wish I could say that I’m super focused and don’t need something like Freedom, but I totally do!

But I mentioned this was a 2 for 1, so here’s the second tip!

Make a super short to-do list.  I used to have page long to-do lists, and that’s fine, but I’ve found that the shorter my list, the better.  Sometimes the things on my long list never get done– ever!  But if I plan out my list the night before, write 4-5 things on there, then I magically get everything done.  Writing 4-5 things takes about 15 seconds and then in the morning I hit the ground running. Our daughter, Hazel, is in school from 9-12pm and some days I get every bit of my work done in that time so after school we get to hang out and have fun!  It feels absolutely wonderful.  And if you’re juggling a 9-5 job and running a business at night, it’s crucial that you get your work done faster or you literally won’t ever have time to spend with family (or sleep!).

If you have more than 5 things to do, that’s fine.  After you finish the first 5, write out 5 more.  Five is manageable.  It’s achievable.  And it will clear your mind and help you remember those other 5 things that need done!

And if you have children running around, I know setting 45 minutes on a timer on your computer doesn’t mean much if you’re going to have to help them with the potty and pour 2 cups of milk during that time, but if you could work 1 hour after they go to sleep and save 3 hours of craziness of trying to work while they are awake, then wouldn’t that totally be worth it and a lot less stressful?

It’s hard to run a business.  Really hard.  But just keep going– you’ll get there.  And I hope these little tips help you along the way!