by Melanie Benson Strick
If you struggle to get your to-do list actually “done” and always seem to feel a bit overwhelmed, you may be spending time on activities that derail you from what’s important. And maybe, just maybe, you might like to take some time away from your business without feel so darn guilty about what you haven’t done yet (gasp.)
So how do you get more done without working 80+ hours a week?
My client Michele came to me a burned-out, overwhelmed and frazzled mess. Michele had been putting in 85+ hour weeks, traveling 280 days a year, barely having time to catch a glimpse of her son on Sunday morning. She was trapped at the low six figures –yet with the amount of time she spent in her business she couldn’t understand why she wasn’t making more money.
Results are directly correlated to actions. What you do habitually is what dictates what you achieve, and of course, how much money you make.
If you want to get more of the right activities done that will actually help you scale your income and influence then you have to develop better habits. Over the course of my career as a productivity and success mentor to creative entrepreneurs and transformational leaders around the world, I’ve discovered there are five habits that cause someone to break away from the overwhelm and start thriving.
I share these five habits with you here so you may be inspired to put at least one into action.
Habit #1: Focus on Optimizing
A powerful habit to master is having the discipline to take one offer at a time and optimize it.
In a world full of bright shiny objects and limitless opportunities, focusing on “one” thing can sometimes feel boring to an entrepreneur. But when it comes to leveraging your time, money, and energy so that you can spend more time doing what you love, this habit will truly pay off.
Determine what your best offering is – what sells best – and decide to optimize it. To optimize properly, you have to ask yourself these five questions:
- Are the leads we are generating really our best buyers?
- Could we convert more leads to buyers?
- Could we reduce returns or customer satisfaction issues?
- Is there any way to reduce delivery costs without sacrificing quality?
- Are there more “lead pools” of good buyers that we haven’t yet targeted?
When you optimize an offering, you are “maxing out” on all ways to impact your marketplace and increase profits. Plus, and this is the best news for the business owner, an optimized offering requires less management while generating better financial results.
To achieve this type of “auto-pilot” success the business owner has to decide that revenue streams have more value than lots of partially successful products requiring a lot of management.
Remember it’s okay to feel restless with the status quo. Most of my clients have about 10 new ideas a day that they can’t wait to get out into the world. Just because you feel bored doesn’t mean you should create something new – yet. Make what you have work better first.
Habit #2: Get Proactive
You’ve probably heard the saying, “A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”
Many entrepreneurs spend the majority of their time figuring how to make money now at the expense of long-term results. Mostly because they don’t have a cash flow game plan. Then they jump through hoops, burning the candle at both ends, pushing their team to put in extra hours so they can accomplish unprecedented results in record time.
This is a bad habit. When you and your team are reactive you will find it difficult to enjoy your life outside of work. You’ll work long hours trying to catch up – simply because you didn’t proactively create a good game plan.
To get proactive you have to flip your strategy away from “how do we make money now” to “what is our 12-month plan for consistent, predictable revenues.”
Consider creating a one-year cash flow plan that includes monthly action steps of marketing activity designed to generate the leads for your optimized offering. Remember, developing the habit of consistency is part of proactivity!
Habit #3: Manage Your Mindset
Have you ever caught yourself in this thought pattern:
“What was I thinking? I totally screwed that one up. I’m such a loser. I’m never going to be good at this.”
Or how about when you get totally frustrated and consumed by the fact that you haven’t achieved that one big goal yet (instead of acknowledging that you’ve accomplished more in the last 6 months than most people do in 10 years?)
Your mental chatter is a major part of your success habits. Whether you are conscious of it or not, your thoughts are dictating what habits and actions “win”. If you spend a lot of time-solving problems or thinking about what isn’t right in your life, your energy and momentum is paying the price.
Cultivating a habit of “managing your mindset” is something that most people don’t even know they need. The mind is the most powerful resource we have — but most of us let our thoughts become gremlins that destroy productivity. Learn how to train your mind to focus on the good stuff. Recondition your mindset away from seeing all the problems so that you can see the bigger picture.
Habit #4: Say No
An often overlooked opportunity to regain time and energy is to say NO to opportunities and activities that are not aligned with your goals. Recently I had a conversation with a million-plus business owner whose business had taken off. The business owner was loving all of the attention and didn’t want to miss out on any of the opportunities that were flooding in.
But, the stress was high. Her weight was climbing. The time she normally had to enjoy her life outside of business was quickly disappearing.
So she hired me to help her reclaim her time and energy for what was most important. The first step was to start saying no.
My client needed to discern between a nice idea and an opportunity that was totally aligned with her big vision of success and her mission on this planet. Everything else had to get a “no” or a “not right now.”
Entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of investing time in anything that isn’t aligned with their big goals – unless they are in “play” mode and don’t need to be concerned with cash flow.
Most business owners also need to become discerning in other areas too – like their daily task list. Get clear on what routine activities in your business really need your attention versus what someone on your team could do just as effectively. You’ll achieve mastery when you clear your schedule of low-payoff activities and spend more time on the tasks that ONLY you can do.
Habit #5: Leverage your Assets
Early on in my entrepreneurial career, I realized I would never break 6 figures or enjoy a life outside of my business if I didn’t find a better way than doing everything myself. And yet, I felt stuck because my income surely didn’t afford me the ability to hire anyone.
So I trained myself to create a new habit, “I ruthlessly leverage my time and talent.”
I scoured through every facet of my business looking for places to leverage by asking myself these three questions:
- Could someone else could do the task just as good as I could (or better)?
- Am I teaching the same concepts over and over again in one on one coaching sessions?
- Is there technology that could eliminate this manual effort?
If I couldn’t immediately afford hiring someone or investing in technology then I came up with a plan to create the money. I became a master of leverage – hiring help and packaging my offers to I could get out of selling my time — and within a few short months I broke 6 figures.
Leverage is a habit. It’s a better way of creating time for what’s important. It’s the Holy Grail for a lifestyle entrepreneur. Without leverage, you are trapped in your business. With leverage, you can scale your bandwidth to accomplish any size goal or dream.
Not every leverage strategy will work for every entrepreneur. Knowing what leverage strategy will liberate you the fastest is the key.
My advice, no matter what level of success you are now, is to start somewhere.
It’s taken me years to master some of these habits so don’t expect to be perfect overnight. If you make the commitment today and stay conscious of your habits, you’ll see the payoff in a short period of time.
Melanie Benson is known as America’s Leading Small Business Optimizer because she knows how to boost profits and results with her secret weapon — LEVERAGE. With over 12 years in corporate project management, Melanie works exclusively with thought leaders and visionary entrepreneurs who want proven strategies to monetize their big ideas and catapult their success without giving up their life.
Melanie is host of the Amplify Your Success Podcast, author of Rewired for Wealth, serves on the Executive Leadership Team for Women Speakers Association, is co-author of Entrepreneur.com’s Start Up Guide to Starting an Information Marketing Business and has her success tips featured in magazines such as Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Parenting Magazine, Woman’s Day and American Express FORUM. Melanie is a proud lifestyle enthusiast and spends her free time in search of the best spas and beaches in the world.