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MaryEllen Tribby Headshot

Dirty Laundry Is Good for Your Business

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"I love working from home, I get so much laundry done and today I even cleaned out my refrigerator." This was a comment I overheard the other night while waiting for the PTA meeting to start at my daughters' school.

Unfortunately that was far from the first time I have heard a work at home mom say something like that in the last couple of months.

When I hear this, my first question is, "How's your business going?" And inevitably I hear, "Well, I just don't have time to focus on developing new products or work on my marketing plan."

Is it any wonder?

I know I did not start my business so I could get more laundry done. I started my business so I could turn my passion into income helping other working moms make more money and live a healthy, more balanced life.

If you talk to successful entrepreneurs most will tell you there are three main reasons people start their own businesses. They are:

1. Money
2. Freedom/flexibility
3. Cause/passion

Of course there are other reasons. But nowhere on the list will you find laundry.

The reason most entrepreneurs fail is because they focus on the wrong tasks, usually tasks that don't yield revenue. It is human nature to work on tasks that you can easily accomplish. These are generally the tasks that you don't feel overwhelmed by or fear. But by no means does that mean they are automatically important to your business.

In order to get your business soaring to the next level, you need to break out of your comfort zone. To take on new challenges that will bring you more revenue. This also means discipline and getting into habits. By following just a few simple rules, you will notice a big change in your productivity, which can increase profitability in your business.

Seven Golden Rules for Productivity

1. Your business day starts the night before. Each evening after the kids are in bed, after the school lunches are made and the dinner dishes are clean, I plan my next day's business activities. I write out a good old-fashioned "to do" list. I do not put my list on my computer or BlackBerry. I use a notepad. I list everything I think I need to accomplish the next day. After I have done a complete "brain dump," I prioritize each item. Not only am I ready to go the next morning, but I also sleep a whole lot better at night.

As my day progresses I cross off my completed tasks as well as write down any that may have come up unexpectedly that I needed to address. This way I have a full record of how my time was spent.

2. Set an alarm clock. Many entrepreneurs think because it's "my" business they don't need a schedule -- that they can do whatever they want. Wrong. I have seen this over and over. I hear complaints from people that their business is not where they want it to be. I ask a basic question like "what time do you set your alarm?" and I hear, "I don't use an alarm clock, I just get up when I wake up." This is counter-productive. You need to take control from the start of your day.

3. Never work in your pajamas. Your mindset is one of the most important factors in determining your success. You need to respect yourself, your customers and your business enough to dress appropriately. By doing so you will notice that you are more confident and assertive, therefore getting more done in the same amount of hours.

4. Do not schedule meetings or take phone calls before noon. You are at your best first thing in the morning. Get your important things done first. Scheduling meetings and conference calls in the morning is counterproductive. Interruptions are the biggest factor in not completing tasks. Let your employees, colleagues and friends know that you will speak with them in the afternoon if need be.

5. Take a mid-day exercise break. A study by Jim McKenna from the University of Bristol showed that exercise during the workday improves job performance. Participants returned to work more tolerant of themselves and their performance was also consistently higher, as shown by better time management and improved mental sharpness.

I like to take a 30-minute bike ride or speed walk around in the afternoon (I do my hard core workout first thing in the morning). By this time my important tasks for the day are usually complete. I let my mind wonder and this is where ideas hit me -- ideas for content or marketing or new joint ventures deals. This is one of my favorite times of the day.

6. Have lunch with a mentor, colleague or protégé once a week. We can all get caught up in our own little world. We are so busy with our families and careers. But by having a lunch with someone smart and energetic, you will be exposed to new ideas and different viewpoints. Your ideas become stronger, making them easier to implement. This one lunch will make a huge difference in your productivity not only in your business, but in your family life as well.

7 Reconcile your "to do" list. At the end of your workday look at what you had planned to accomplish that day and look at what you actually accomplished. If you accomplished 75 percent or more on your list, you had a good day. We all have to adjust for emergencies and ad hoc situations whether those emergencies and situations arise in our business or our family life.

However, if you fell below 75 percent you need to make some changes, because this means you are not in control of your business; instead, your business is in control of you.

When you examine the list above, what should be obvious is that these are very fundamental rules that everyone can implement in one form or another. None of these rules require any monetary commitment, but they all call for a mental and emotional commitment.

Start today and just seven days from now I bet you see a big difference in your productivity.