Okay, I think I’m a pretty productive person. Not quite Beyonce-level productivity, but it’s impressive.
I have a day job, a freelance business, two blogs, an online course, a social life, and plenty of time for Netflix binges.
I also sleep. Both “like a normal person” at night and naps during the day. (Okay, I’m both productive and slothy.)
Juggling all that and surviving as long as I have has to mean I’m doing something right, right?
But let me tell you something.
I don’t do many (any?) of the things entrepreneurs and side hustlers are supposed to do to be productive.
The best practices that are touted as oh-so life-changing by other people (and I’m sure it was for them!) do nothing for me. And when it comes to my hustle, I’m not afraid to go Kendrick Lamar on a guru or two…
I’ll almost always give the “lifehack” a shot – after all, I love a good productivity experiment. But in the end, I go back to what feels right for me. And a lot of time, that’s not a “best practice.”
Work brighter, not smarter
A lot of people ask me where “work brighter” came from. It was actually a motto I created for myself to replace the saying “work smarter.”
Working smarter feels boring and rigid.
It’s following strict frameworks and calendars and sprints. It’s a whole lotta rules.
And they all have their place, but productivity is more than that. Happiness impacts your productivity. Mindset impacts your productivity. Self-care (which can include Netflix!) impacts your productivity.
So they all need to be part of the discussion too.
Productivity isn’t cut and dry – I have actual time tracking data to prove I write faster listening to Hamilton than ambient noise of music with no lyrics. It shouldn’t make sense according to productivity gurus, but they don’t take into account that I’m happier and more inspired when The Schuyler Sisters are telling me to “Work! Work!”
And that makes me write awesome unicorn content.
So instead of working smarter, take it one step further and work brighter. Learn when to listen to productivity tips and when not to. Make happiness part of the productivity equation.
Here are the productivity tips I ignore in the sake of working brighter:
1. I never wake up early
Ugh, mornings. I’m sorry, I know I’m supposed to like them. I know it’s also the adult thing to do to suck it up and tolerate things I don’t like.
But I don’t do either of those things when it comes to mornings.
I hate them and actively ignore them as much as possible.
Even though early mornings are infamous for being a side hustler’s best time of day, I’ve never even tried to work that way for my business. There were times when I tried waking up early to work out, blog, or even just read and eat a more relaxed breakfast, and it never works out.
The deep work I do in the mornings isn’t even good – it’s almost like I’m not capable of being creative until 11 am.
Instead, I take advantage of late nights. That’s really where I shine, haha. I’m writing this at 1:30 am, to give you an idea.
I’ve always been a night owl, and realized a few years ago that late nights is also when most of my best writing happens, so when I started my business, I made sure I was able to work late at night.
Since I wake up early-ish for my day job, I frequently take naps as soon as I get home from work, just so I can work later at night. Instead of scheduling my side hustle when best practices tell me to or when it makes the most sense to, I shifted my schedule so I could write whenever’s best for me.
(Also, for every article you can find about how rich and successful people wake up early, you can also find one about how creative and smart people stay up late. #justsaying …This one in particular makes me feel really awesome!)
2. I don’t eat the frog
So we’ve established I don’t do early mornings. To add onto that “bad habit,” I also definitely don’t jump into my hardest task for the day as soon as I do get started on work.
Whatever happened to warming up?!
We do it with exercising our bodies, we should do it with exercising our minds too, I’ll tell ya.
I like to start small and build momentum, then dive into my hardest task when I’m at peak creativity and energy. That means doing my deep work like content creation either mid-afternoon, or around midnight.
The concept behind “eating frogs” makes complete sense to me…in a perfect world. “Get the hard stuff over with.” Duh, right? But it gets more complicated in reality. Then what happens when your biggest/hardest task is a creative one, and your peak creative hour isn’t your first working hour of the day?
Sure, I could still do it first thing just to get it done, but I’ll do the work better (and often faster) if I just wait another two hours. That seems pretty sweet, so that’s what I do. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
3. I check email first thing
You now know that I don’t start working early, and that when I do start, I start with something easy. And 99% of the time, that “something easy” is the #1 thing we’re told NOT to start our day with.
That’s right friends, the first thing I do when I start my workday is usually to (gaaaasp!) check my email! :O
Nope, not sorry at all. My email habits overall are great habits. I feel in total control of all of my inboxes. They don’t stress me out, they don’t contain a bunch of “noise,” and it’s not full of people trying to distract me.
So really, a quick 5-minute check into my inbox is the best way to start my day. It’s an easy thing to cross off my to-do list. A quick win that motivates me to take on something harder and more important. It works for me at the moment, so I’m letting it be.
4. I don’t outsource on the reg
Okay, to be fair, this is one that I’d love, love, love to change. But I’m also fine the way things are.
I don’t have a long-term VA and that’s probably not going to change anytime soon.
While I’ve hired out one-off projects like graphic design and migrating email marketing systems, there’s no one helping me out on a regular basis.
Even though I teach outsourcing to be one of the best time management techniques for entrepreneurs, right now, the rest of the “staple” techniques pick up the slack. I batch, template, and automate the hell out of my business, so it doesn’t hurt too, too much to not have help.
For example, one thing that would be awesome to outsource is Pinterest management. Instead, I’ve created a system combining batching and automation that allows me to be so hands-off that I only need to log in once or twice a month to curate and schedule content from other people.
5. I don’t sprint
Okay, technically, this should be “I don’t sprint in my own biz.” Part of the reason I don’t is because we sprint at my day job and it’s been confusing and frustrating when I tried juggling two different sets of them.
But part of me feels like I wouldn’t anyway.
If you haven’t noticed, I thrive off of having a few things going on. Working on more than one project at a time and switching between them is one way I prevent getting bored or burnt out with my biz.
I think this is really important for side hustlers: do what you need to do to keep the work enjoyable.
This is work we’re doing in our free time, and there’s nothing wrong with trying to make it fun. Keeping things interesting – in whatever way works for you – will help you sustain the momentum you need to grow long-term.
It’s like Mary Poppins says – a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
My medicine is having several things to get excited about and work on, and being able to switch between those throughout the week/month.
It’s okay to break the rules
These are the rules and best practices that I ignore, and that’s okay. Does that mean they’re not worthwhile for you? Of course not.
What I want to get through to you today is that it’s okay to break the rules and best practices – ESPECIALLY if you’ve given it a try and are making your decision based on personal experience.
It’s all about knowing when to break them, and doing so strategically. In a way that helps you work brighter.
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