We all know the feeling of having a full day ahead and no motivation to get work done. But as a small business owner -- whether you're a notary or a landscaper -- procrastination is not an option. So for these types of days, I find that productivity can be kicked into gear with a few hacks.
Stick to a morning routine
It seems like every few months, a new study reminds us that morning is the most important part of the day. Despite this, I've accepted the fact that I am not an "early to rise" type of person -- and that's okay. For people like me who have trouble starting the day, having a solid routine to jumpstart yourself is key. Whether it's working out, eating a big breakfast, or drinking two gallons of coffee, find the routine that works best for you. Personally, I enjoy spending 60 to 90 minutes each morning slowly waking up, drinking coffee, and easing into my day while reading the news. It's not rigorous or mentally taxing, but it's my routine. It doesn't have to be complicated: the main purpose of having a routine is to signal to your brain that it's time to work.
Find the golden window for your most productive work
Each of us has an elusive "golden hour," the chunk of time in which we are the most productive and ready to get work done. Even the most fruitless day has a window of productivity; learn to recognize yours and take advantage of it, as these short windows add up. There are many moving parts, large and small, to keep track of in order to build and run a small business, so use your most productive times of day to cross some items off your to-do list: return calls, knock out the important emails, or organize maintenance for the company. Accomplishing even the smallest of tasks will help you feel more productive.
Don't underestimate the power of a lunch break
Lunch can serve a larger purpose than sustenance: taking a lunch break helps to break the day up into two manageable halves. Even if you are working a 12-hour shift, looking at the day as two separate six-hour time periods is easier to swallow. If you are not hungry, or if you usually eat on the go, still consider taking a break on your most unproductive days. While pausing for a bit may seem counterproductive, taking the time to shut off mentally and recharge can help your day in the long run.
Acknowledge failure and learn from it
At times, it seems as though there is no end to an unmotivated week. Productivity can sometimes seem unattainable, no matter how much you try to stay focused. But to a small business owner, every second counts. Realizing that you have wasted time can be just the shock needed to break through the mold. Then, this newfound productivity begins to spill into other areas of work, slowly but surely. Extra quotes, calls, stock ordering, new product development, and more all become doable tasks. Fake it until you make it, and after a couple of days of forcing productivity, it will come naturally again.
Use music to get in the zone
One of the greatest motivators for me is the perfect song. This one is self-explanatory: the right song can change the mood or productivity of an entire day. Oftentimes, the right music can help you to block out other thoughts and focus on the task at hand. Find your jam and crank it!
Embrace the unexpected
As a small business owner, I never have to worry about monotony. I deal with unexpected developments, often negative ones, on a daily basis. Despite this, I never feel like I am stuck at a dead-end cubicle job. In a leadership role, you have complete control over the success -- or failure -- of your operation. It can be exciting to know that you control your own fate. The bigger problems you overcome will make for that much better of a story at the end of the day. Rather than panic and withdraw into a place of procrastination and self-doubt, embrace the challenge. Enjoy the curves in your path; they keep the job interesting.
It can be easy to get overwhelmed as a small business over. But at a breaking point, or under a mountain of stress, your head clears, and a slow calm grows over you. Embrace it, take a few deep breaths and attack each task bit by bit. Remember that you are one person: you can only work so hard, give so much, and spend so much time. Embrace your day with a consistent routine to help you turn any unproductive day on its head.
Paul Proctor is co-founder of Locqus, a free, online platform and mobile app that provides small businesses with a big company experience through streamlined, easy-to-use tracking and management services.