Taking *effective* action is critical to get your consulting business off the ground. Taking action is the easy part. Making it effective isn’t. Nor is being consistent.
In this video, I’ll break down methods to take effective action, consistently. It’s about designing a structure around your time. Productivity is never easy, but it can be simple. Follow your own time management system.
Hey, David Bradley here. And today, I want to talk to you about how to stay productive as a consultant. If you’re running your own business, you’re running your own consulting firm. If you’re out there kind of as a freelancer right now, how do you actually make progress day by day in a way that is organized and thoughtful, but also not too restricting. And I’ve developed this process for myself over the course of probably 10 years or so. And it’s really focused on providing structure while allowing you to kind of free your mind to focus on what’s important in a given day in a given week. So I’m going to take you through six principles that you want to keep in mind about how you spend your time, time management one-on-one but it’s a little bit more unconventional and it isn’t about the tricks and hacks on how to use this app more effectively. It’s about how do you stay disciplined with your schedule and how do you be more engaged in the work that you do? How do you be more effective? So, number one is to schedule recurring events. And I know some people like to have a paper calendar, and sometimes I do both paper and virtual with Google, Google calendar, but you need
Element to keep your life organized as you get more and more engaged in running your own business. And so you want to schedule recurring events that are both work-related and personal. So in your consulting work, you’re looking at, you know, client work, sales, marketing, those big pieces of your business, but you’re also able to think about the smaller pieces that need to be done over some kind of regular schedule. So sales, marketing, operations, service delivery, those are all weekly activities, but you might also have say like once a quarter, I recommend that you reach out to past clients. You give them some kind of update not necessarily as a newsletter, but something personal one-to-one. And you might say, this is a new product that I’m offering. These are some new results that we’ve had. This is the kind of client I’m looking for. If you have anyone to refer, you might reach out and say, Hey, I would love a testimonial from the work that we did in the past together.
It could just be, Hey, what is going on in your end? I’d love to be helpful if you need any advice or guidance on any current projects, let me know. But the issue is that’s all have good intentions, but it’s hard to maintain that consistently. And always remember when’s the last time I did it. When’s the next time I should do it? But if you schedule a recurring event to occur every three months, and it gives you that reminder to actually take that action, it could also be personal items. If you know, once a month, maybe you want to check over your credit card statements. You want to clean off the desktop on your computer. You want to go through the drafts folder on your emails, all of these small inconsequential types of things. They can be, you know, bolt together, chunk together. So you’re not wasting your time, you know, twice this week, checking your drafts folder and then forgetting about it for two months and not realizing there’s something in there that you actually need or whatever it is.
And now you’re having these things handled and they’re being handled at the right cadence without you having to actually think about it. And so you want to pull every little inconsequential thing and drop it into a bucket for something you do monthly or every other month or quarterly or whatever it might be. It can even be well. I need to make sure that I stay in touch with my family and I get so caught up in my work. Sometimes I let weeks go by without reaching out, well, have something in there. So at least once a month, you’re reaching out to certain family members. And even though that is kind of inorganic by nature, it’s also allowing you to make sure that you actually stay focused on what you need to be doing, which in this case could be just managing a personal relationship, but recurring events, they allow you to be consistent and they allow you to be disciplined while giving yourself more energy, to focus on the real important things.
The second principle, aside from the scheduling recurring events, let’s look at day to day now you want to focus on one theme per day. So for example, I mentioned having recurring events for marketing sales, operations, or service delivery, those are categories or themes in your business that are going to always exist in some fashion. The thing that you want to avoid is what I had tried for a long time in the past. And I operated probably two years or so, where every day, five days a week, I was trying to do a little bit of sales and a little bit of marketing and a little bit of client work. And I tried to just keep that pace up. And what I found is, and this is much in retrospect because it seemed like a good idea. And I was making some progress a little bit at a time, but in reality, I was far less effective because I was only doing so much at a time.
So I couldn’t get into a good flow. I couldn’t accomplish something significant in that short amount of time. And it was harder to be consistent when every day I had to do something for sales or for marketing for client work or what have you, you know, there’s been studies to back this up as well. Adam Grant spoke about it in the sense that people are more satisfied in their work and feel that they’re accomplishing a lot more and typically are accomplishing a lot more when they’re doing these short bursts of intense activity, as opposed to splitting things up evenly over time, because that focus sprint allows you to accomplish a lot more and then feel the gratitude of that accomplishment rather than the very gradual small drip of progress. So schedule one theme per day, not just because it’s going to be better for you in an emotional motivational sense, but also because it really is going to make you more effective because you don’t have the switching cost, your brain doesn’t have to switch from marketing to sales, to operations, to client services and whatever that might be.
So across the board, it’s beneficial to just say, today’s Tuesday, it’s going to be my marketing day and dedicate the day to that. Now that’s not to say, if a client reaches out to you and they have some burning question, or they have a fire that you have to put out for them, it doesn’t mean that you ignore them. There’s always things that come up, but you don’t want to play in your days with multiple themes within them. The third principle is always plan a week in advance. So depending on how you look at this and how you plan out your days, it’s probably going to make the most sense that you spend Sunday planning the next week in some cases over the last year or so. I’ve been using Monday for that, but that’s only because I have such a well planned out schedule and I’ve kind of ironed out this process so much so that I don’t need as much of an intense planning process.
But at this point, maybe you spend the end of the day, Friday, maybe some time on Saturday, some time on Sunday to plan out what the next work week is going to look like. If you do principle one and two, where you have recurring events and that you have a certain theme per day, then this should be a whole lot easier and you might set those themes. So every Tuesday is a marketing day. Every Wednesday is a sales day, but I would also urge you to be flexible in that because sometimes you feel like you’re in a sales mood or marketing mood, and it is a dedicated day for that. So you do need to go by your own intuition, your own feelings. But if you plan the week in advance, you can start to at least set up what those categories are and you can start to chip away at all right?
The objectives and sales this week are X, Y, and Z. And my objectives and marketing myself are one, two and three. You can start to map those out at a very high level that would bring us into principle four, which is planning your day in advance. So you’re already planning the week in advance, but each day that comes needs to look at what the next day is going to hold. And if you do the week in advance, that makes it a lot more effective and a lot faster to do anyhow, but in advance, you want to take some time. And that can either be a, find a great for the afternoon slump. If that hits you, then planning what tomorrow is going to look like is going to be helpful because you’re going to be able to look at today and say, all right, actually I did accomplish X, Y, and Z.
It’s not a super resource intensive activity, so it’s not mentally straining. You can do this. Even if you feel a bit tired on top of that, I feel like it is energizing to see what is ahead of you. So you plan out tomorrow, you’re going through the afternoon slump, maybe it’s two or three o’clock in the afternoon. You still want to get some work done. Now, if you spend the time doing this, you’ll have a little bit more energy to then go back and get back into whatever project you’re working on before. I feel like that helps you push through. Alternatively, it is a good bookend to your day, where at the end of the day, you can say, all right, let’s look at what we accomplished today. What we need to work on tomorrow and plan that out. That is a nice way to make the transition from work to your personal time.
And I think that is particularly helpful. If you are working from home where you don’t have that transition of office to home. So that’s another thing to keep in mind. And that ties into principle five, which is to have one to three significant accomplishments every day. If you plan more than that, if you are able to accomplish more than one to three items in a day, then they’re not significant. The day is not long enough for anyone to make that kind of progress. Not consistently. You might have a magic day where four or five, six amazing things happen because of the actions that you take, but you can’t consistently plan to have one to three significant accomplishments each day, but you can do that on a week by week basis. Monday through Friday, you should have one to three significant items handled. And when you’re doing this again, this relies on having a theme for the day because it gives you a lot of time needed to make a significant accomplishment.
It gives you the inspiration each day to say, I actually can accomplish that. If you have a list of five, seven, 10 different things to do, it is a bit exhausting, but one to three significant items that are going to move your business forward. Well, that is something that you can accomplish that you can grasp onto. And it also gives you some permission to say, well, I achieved these two things I really needed to do today. And I’m honestly exhausted. And I don’t feel like I can continue to do effective work. It gives you the break to say, all right, maybe I should just go focus on myself in some other capacity. Maybe I should go to the gym. Maybe I should go for a run. Maybe I just need to decompress and do whatever activity it is that, you know, rejuvenates me. When you check those boxes of significant accomplishments. It allows you to do that. And much of what you’re doing as an entrepreneur, as a solo consultant you’re really managing your energy, your attention to be effective. It isn’t about production. It isn’t about doing more and more and more is about doing a few things
Highly effectively. Okay.
So one to three accomplishments per day, no more than that. And the sixth principle, the final piece of the puzzle is setting a day for focus or for processing. And I’ll explain what the difference is. And it’s not just one day of each. I’ll explain how I handle it. Focus days are where you’re putting in a lot of energy, a lot of that mental energy to accomplish items of significance. And this is the big, the big things. And this could be client work. It could be marketing, could be sales, but it’s probably something in one of those categories that is more conducive to building the business and moving it forward for me, I set my focus days as Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, because those are the days that I feel at my best by Friday. I’m a bit burnt out and Monday. I’m just kind of getting things rolling.
I’m just getting into the flow of things. I’m chipping away at things that have come up over the weekend, getting through emails, clearing out my inbox, taking care of all the admin type of duties. And so that is where the processing days come in. That’s my Monday, my Friday and Monday is truthfully the main processing day where I’m handling all that admin email, the stuff that needs to get done, even though it’s not super intensive or super important on Friday, handle that as well. Although I handle these days, Friday as a bit, a bit of processing some, you know, non vital non sales meetings and personal stuff. If I need to take care of something at the house, then that’s a Friday activity. You know, that works for where I’m at with my business today. It’s not, it hasn’t always been like that. I used to work six, seven days a week.
But now it’s like four and a half or something like that. But I would say that’s a processing type of day. You want to balance it out based on where your energy is and where you can be effective. I don’t use Fridays as sales days ever. So it makes sense for it to be processed. I’m usually too tired, but Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday days, I feel really energized and ready to go Monday. I’m planning out my week in advance. I’m getting all of the distractions off of my plate off of my desk. So that Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, I can have true focus days things aren’t going to get in the way of that. So those are the building blocks. Those are the principles. Just a quick recap. One, you want to schedule recurring events. Two. You want to set a certain theme per day so that you’re focused.
You don’t have the switching cost problem three. You want to plan your week in advance. And if you have focus days, if you have recurring events, this gets easier and easier over time if you want to plan your day in advance. So at the end of each day, you’re looking at what the next day holds and planning that out. So in the morning, you don’t have to waste your time making decisions, wasting mental. You get right into things, five, one to three accomplishments per day, significant accomplishments, significant in the sense that they’re moving your business forward, they’re making real progress. And they probably aren’t things that are so simple for you to accomplish that. You can do four or five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 things on that day, and finally set days for focus and for processing. And realistically you need to match your energy and your needs.
But I like to say, Monday is a good processing and planning type of day, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Great for focus. Everyone is engaged in their business on those days, typically, and Friday and a bit burnt out. You had a good week. That could be more of a processing day as well.
So let me know what you think about that, how you plan your days. If you have any tips or strategies or how this works out for you again, follow six strategies, put them into place and they build up over time. They get easier over time. They get more effective over time. So commit to engaging in the essay for at least three months and see how that plays out for you.
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