This year marks my eleventh year in business. That’s 11 years of solid practice running a design business and figuring out what works… and what doesn’t.
Just the other day I had a client say to me “Geez Bianca, you don’t muck around… I bet you’re the type of woman who wears her underpants on the outside.“ I was laughing so hard at the image in my head, that it took me a couple of seconds to figure out what he was talking about…
I was pretty chuffed with his comment, I must say. And I don’t mean to brag, but I really do get a lot done.
Don’t believe me?
I have a wholesale and a retail arm to our business, which means twice the amount of planning, social media management, email marketing campaigns, SEO, PPC, copywriting and blogging, etc needs to get done. Then there’s the fact that these businesses are aimed at two completely different audiences, which makes it even more interesting as I have to constantly shift my head space on any given day.
Let’s add to that the fact I have 20 staff spread across two offices which are 2,000 miles apart.
What’s more, we’ve doubled our business year on year for the last four years running now when most in our industry would be doing joyful backflips if they got even a 20% increase.
So how do I do it all?
Firstly, if you’re curious, I don’t work 100-hour weeks (any more). 50 hours or so is about my limit these days. I’ve learnt that a tired mind is far less productive than an energized one.
So what’s my secret? Actually I have seven secrets.
Here’s my top 7 secrets that will help you achieve mind-blowing results in your personal growth, daily productivity, sales growth, marketing and profits.
1. I assess, adjust and adapt on the fly.
I make decisions fast. I have to. I don’t stress about it (much). I’m lucky I was born wired this way.
On any given day, there might be 50 different things that I have to decide on. I don’t like to put anything off til tomorrow or my ‘To Do’ list becomes monstrous and my brain starts to melt.
Fast decisions can work against me sometimes, but in most cases, making swift decisions on the fly works in my favour. A lot of entrepreneurs possess this trait but luckily it is something you can master if you’re not comfortable with doing it yet.
I really love the fact that in small business we have the luxury of being able to assess and test new products on emerging markets so quickly; far quicker than larger corporations can. That gives us a huge leg up on our competitors so I take full advantage of it.
So make decisions swiftly then act: Plan, create, execute, measure and assess then keep moving as fast as you can onto the next thing. Don’t let analysis paralysis set into your thinking or the opportunity will be missed…. And so will the profits.
2. I’m organised and plan everything 12 month’s in advance.
In all honesty, the idea of detailed annual planning is quite new to me but in my short time of doing it, I can already see it’s worth its weight in gold. By the way, I learnt this technique from my current business mentor.
I work out the most important things in our business that are going to generate leads and bring in more revenue. They’re the big rocks. They go into our plan first.
Then I list all the things that we need to do in order to deliver on our promise, they’re the small pebbles. They go into the plan next.
Lastly, I plan out and book out all my yearly holidays, hair appointments, massages, family time, catching up with friends, yoga, exercise and everything else that I do on a regular basis. This is the sand, and it goes in last.
Now if you’re unsure why we look at it this way, I want you to picture a glass jar. Imagine what happens if you put the sand in first, then the rocks, then the pebbles on top; you’d struggle to fit it in all, right? There’d be heaps of holes. Now, instead, imagine placing the big rocks into the jar first, then sprinkle in the pebbles, and then trickle in the sand so it fills in all the gaps; that jar would be pretty full. Using this planning method you can fit so much more into your year; seriously, the results will blow your mind.
Now we have a full jar/calendar of tasks, we simply take all the tasks and pop them into our project management software (we use Wrike). We assign each task to the appropriate team member, who receives a notification. Wrike also sends the owner of the task an alert when the due date is coming up to ensure it’s not been missed. This way, everyone’s on the same page and everyone’s happy.
As I said, I can’t take credit for this annual planning idea. My mentor is a pretty smart guy and he credits his explosive growth to his detailed annual planning, and now, I can see why. I’m already feeling mentally de-cluttered, more focused and my team are excited to know exactly what’s going on, waaaaaay ahead of schedule.
3. I make my team accountable.
This literally took me years of practice but I’m glad I persevered. Accountability is the key to success. When I delegate a task to one of my staff I say:
“I’m handing this over to you and I want it completed by <date>. I won’t be reminding you, I won’t be checking in, I’m stepping back and it’s your full responsibility, okay?”
When I delegate, I completely hand over the task to free up my time and headspace.
Also, as a general rule, if we’re working on a project, I won’t assign a task to more than one person so there can be no passing the buck if the job doesn’t get done.
It’s such a simple practice but it ensures each individual is accountable for his or her own tasks. It also empowers them, which they feel good about.
Do they make mistakes? Sure, that’s part of letting go, but it’s how we grow at the rate we do so I’m willing to go with the flow.
4. I shut down distractions.
I used to be a sucker for having 23 tabs open in Chrome and 11 different software programs open on any given day. I’d constantly distract myself by checking email, Facebook, Twitter, whatever really just because.
Nowadays, I shut everything down when I’m working on important tasks. I’ve come to realise that multi-tasking is BAD. That’s right, I said BAD! I get so much more done when I work on one thing at a time. Who woulda thunk it, especially for us chicks!
I don’t just have my email notifications turned off; I shut it down completely and only check it twice a day. And I only look at Facebook and Twitter a couple of times a day now too, for about 10-20 minutes at a time.
5. I put high value tasks first.
I used to structure my To Do List in order of A, B & C priorities which worked well for years but now I just do High Value, Medium Value and Admin. Anything that’s a Low Value Task goes onto my list of stuff to delegate to someone else.
I give myself eight blocks time to work with each day.
Each block is 50 minutes long with a 10-minute break in between and I get 30 minutes for lunch. The first two blocks are always on my highest value tasks BEFORE I even open my email. This is the best time to get your most important work done.
My third block is email. Then two blocks of writing, usually blogs, another block after that for email/admin/low-medium value tasks then the two final blocks of the day are for strategy, planning and again, medium-high value tasks.
I work from 8:30am til 5:00pm then I have the evening to hit the gym, go for a ride or get creative in the kitchen and on most evenings, bury my head into my books and online courses. I don’t class my learning time as ‘work’; it’s more like a hobby for me. Instead of watching TV I study for at least an hour or more each night.
Putting high value tasks first means I’m working to my optimum income earning potential. It’s a bonus that those tasks just so happen to be the things I love doing the most!
6. I practice the ‘miracle morning’.
If you haven’t read the book ‘Miracle Morning’ by Hal Elrod yet then I suggest you check it out. His book promises to create the most extraordinary life you’ve ever imagined and I can vouch for that.
Hal talks about getting up an hour earlier and having a morning ritual that consists of meditation, affirmations, visualisation, reading, exercise and journaling.
I’ve adjusted it to suit my ideal morning but I now wake up feeling like every morning is Christmas.
It’s not always easy to get up so early, but I’m working on it. Hal’s got tons of great tips in his book to help you through that shift so I highly recommend grabbing a copy for yourself if you want to see big changes in your overall performance.
7. I’m clear on our vision.
Do you know exactly where you want your business to be in two years? How about five and even 10 years from now? I do.
Of course your vision is going to change over time, you can’t plan for everything, especially in our industry, but the big picture stuff always remains the same.
I’m very clear on our vision and I share it with our team. They know exactly where we’re headed and what our goals are for each year of the next five; this brings them a sense of greater understanding to why they do what they do.
So if you’re not clear, get clear. If you need help, ask yourself what your purpose is. The answer to your vision is usually hidden somewhere in there. 😉
What do you think? I’ve bared my all, flaws and all, now it’s your turn. What great habits do you have that you can attribute your success to? I’d love to know, share them in the comments on this post!
This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated here.
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