What are the most productive actions in your business?
Checking off more items on your to-do list? Working longer hours? Getting another certification? Trying to make your website better?
Many such actions feel productive but don’t actually build your business. Besides having a "to do" list, you may want to define a TO-DROP list as well.
Otherwise you might be doing busy work that feels like movement, but isn't really helping you grow your client base or make more impact.
Here is how I define "true productivity" in business:
Valuable interaction with the people your business can best serve.
It’s being in touch with your market, rather than being in your own head.
You’ll know that it’s valuable interaction, and an ideal audience, if it inspires reciprocity of some kind (likes, comments, shares, inquiries, purchases.) If an activity doesn’t inspire reciprocity (in the short term) from your audience, you should question that activity, or modify it until it does.
Who is your ideal audience -- the people your business can best serve?
Be suspicious of any work activity that doesn’t include being in contact with one of these groups.
I’ll share examples from my own list…
My Truly Productive TO-DO List
Creating and publishing content for my ideal audience (not spending too much time perfecting it)
Paid advertising to increase the reach of my content (Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, Google Ads)
Engaging on the meaningful comments left on my posts
Contacting fans or colleagues about doing a market research conversation
Getting feedback from my audience about my offering (e.g. the draft of a sales page.)
Announcing my next offering (course or program) via email newsletter and social media
Paid advertising to make sure my warm audience sees the upcoming offering a few times
Reaching out to prospective clients to offer an exploratory call or sample session (Update: since 2018 I’ve stopped doing this, as I have a waiting list -- thanks to the other actions on this list!)
Contacting current clients to schedule the next session(s) if needed
Thoughtfully connecting with previous clients I’ve enjoyed working with
Getting feedback from my clients about how to improve my services
Reaching out to referral partners to schedule a mutual support networking call or collaboration
Preparing for a client meeting or upcoming course (not perfection... just enough prep)
Being truly present in meetings with clients, students, colleagues
Sending an email newsletter to my subscribers with my latest content
Writing a book / course, on a schedule, so that I publish rather than perfect
Implementing a course or article that helps me do one of the above.
Asking a question on social media or in a group, that will help me get unstuck on doing one of the above
Getting 1–1 coaching/consulting to help me do one of the above
Eliminating or Delegating as much of everything else as possible
Interspersing various forms of self-care as needed throughout my work day, e.g. naps, walks, meals, energy reboot, etc.
The above 21 actions are what I spend my working days on.
This is how I stay truly productive.
Questionable TO-DROP List
The following are the tempting items that seem productive but need to be continually questioned if it’s happening during working hours…
Doing small tweaks to try to perfect your website even more. (I only make changes to my website to correct errors on commonly-visited pages, or to add in new content that I’m certain I want to keep on my website for at least 3 months.)
Working on a future event, program, service, course, or book -- if it isn’t already announced -- versus announcing it, therefore giving a deadline to work on it more efficiently.
Reading articles, books, unless you are implementing as you read (otherwise I do it in my free time).
Watching videos unless you are implementing as you watch (otherwise I do it in my free time).
Listening to podcasts (I do this in my free time, not working hours).
Doing research for a blog post, video, or even a paid course, unless there’s a celar time limit and the audience is expecting it.
Getting training, unless you also have time scheduled to implement that training.
Getting another certification because it “might” help your marketing, or might help you feel more credible.
Updating your social media profile “about” sections (I do this at most once a year).
Reading or commenting in groups, unless I’m actively getting help. (After posting my question, I try to be a good group citizen and comment on two other threads to help out, but I don’t just “hang out” in the group.)
Researching on the internet, google searches, on anything for more than 5 minutes, unless I’m implementing in the moment. Otherwise, I do exploratory research in my free time.
Any kind of planning, plotting, preparing, unless it is directly related to a Truly Productive action that is scheduled and ideally, announced to my audience so that I have a true deadline rather than the danger of eternal preparation.
In summary, I minimize the work that I do in isolation. Whenever possible, always be getting feedback from the market or being in valuable contact with your ideal audience -- via content, offerings, or conversations.
I encourage you to write down your own lists:
Truly Productive TO-DO List
Questionable TO-DROP List
Of course, you’re welcome to borrow from my lists above!
I wish you joyful -- and true -- productivity.
This has been a chapter from the book Joyful Productivity -- A Solopreneur's Guide to Creativity and Well-Being
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for small business owners, especially solopreneurs such as Coaches and Mentors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
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