As a business owner, web designer & an online marketer, I have spent many of my hours glued to my Apple iMac computer. That is in addition to regularly going to business networking, meeting clients and running workshops and training.

I used to feel guilty for taking a long relaxed lunch break in a nice cafe nearby or strolling around the park during working hours or even taking a quick nap. Then I thought, am I controlling my work or is my work controlling me? A quick glance over my schedule has given me an insight that I spend daily working hours working, and outside working hours doing…. guess what? Of course, more work. Even on weekends. The joy of having worked from a home office also means that I can work anytime, which I’ve found to be a blessing if I am disciplined on doing only; what my mentor refer to as; High Impact Producing Activities.

In the effort to free myself from the ‘unproductive busy’ state, there are some steps I have taken which I would like to share in this blog post.

1. Turn off all alerts

On my smart phone & desktop, all notifications are turned off. No desktop alerts, annoying pop up messages (yes, even text messages) and live chats. I’m using iPhone and there are ways of getting notified without annoying ‘dings’ and ‘bells’. My phone is always on either Silent or Vibration mode (my closest friends know this). And whenever I’m heavily working on a project, it temporarily goes to Airplane Mode. I check my inbox regularly and I don’t have alerts on. It’s too distractive. It would be better spending 4 hours a day working effectively than 8 hours jumping here and there managing other people’s urgent matters which somehow become yours, if you know what I mean.

2. Unsubscribe from mailing lists

Afraid of missing out? Fear or not knowing what’s trendy? Do we suffer from the pressure of expectations that we have no control over what we really want (because we don’t have time)?

In the last two weeks I have unsubscribed from more than 20 mailing lists (I didn’t even know how I got -or not- time to read these newsletters). The fact that they are there sitting in my inbox means my brain is processing them to be read on the side. I’ve decided that it’s simply a waste of energy & focus so I unsubscribed from almost 90% of them. Now I only read what I really want to read, on topics that I’m interested in that will help me grow, be it personal or business.

3. Remove unused Apps

The Apps I use for business are (on phone & desktop):

  • Mail – to check my emails on the go
  • Skype – to chat with my team members and calls
  • Asana & iCal – to manage my projects
  • Podcasts/iTunes – to listen to podcasts
  • Design & Word processing applications e.g. Adobe, Cyberduck, Word, PowerPoint
  • GoToMeetings – to run online meetings
  • Dropbox – to save files remotely
  • Bank related apps
  • Weather App – I check this almost daily first time in the morning
  • Google Maps – I am hopeless with direction
  • Notes – to scribble when I need

Other ones which I don’t use very often:

  • TripView – whenever I need to catch a train to the City
  • Meetup
  • Xero

For personal stuff I have:

  • WhatsApp – for chatting with family members and friends
  • Parking – to find motorbike parking spots
  • Shell – to find nearest service station

Note that I don’t use Facebook App or LinkedIn Apps on my phone. I’ve found them to be unnecessary to have with me all the time.

4. Do not multitask

Easier said than done. The best way I’ve found that work for me is to switch off alerts, put my phone on Airplane mode and focus on getting one thing done only, and get myself a tidy & quiet space to finish the work (or if you like music, a background music). Get a to-do list, a timer and work away.

5. Design your business around the life you want

When scheduling, I put down what’s important first, then the rest are scheduled around these. For me the most important is taking care of myself and doing the things I enjoy, like going out swimming and paddling in the lake and ice skating so I put in those first. I treasure times spent with my daughter, so that goes in as top priority. No guilty feeling. Don’t get me wrong. When I work I work hard. It’s only fair that you get to do things you enjoy so you don’t end up hating your work, and your life. Why not enjoy your life now, rather than waiting until when you retire?

Design your business around the life you want. If you do not want to work Mondays, then put systems in place that allows you to do just that. With smart planning and delegation, you will be able to enjoy the results of your work much much sooner than you think you can.

Action Steps

  1. Go through your desktop and phone or tablets and remove unwanted apps
  2. Unsubscribe from mailing lists you don’t even have time to read. You can always join again if you need to
  3. Schedule in the most important things first, and remember to take care of yourself

I hope this has been useful and thank you for reading.