Few things will put a business on the long, slow path toward death than the inability to get things done on a consistent basis.
Apart from procrastination, (you can read tips for beating procrastination here), failure to implement productivity strategies will inevitably lead to overwhelm and burn out in even the best-intentioned nurse entrepreneur.
Knowing you would never want that to happen to your business, I’ve compiled 10 Best Practices to Maximize Your Productivity. Choose, today, to implement these as a gift to yourself, your business, and your clients. Doing so will give you a one-up in scaling your business and greatly contributing toward your future success.
Create Your Pre-Work Rituals
One way to harness your focus is to create a pre-work ritual. This is a simple ritual that gets you into the right state of mind. It could be something like meditation, a morning walk, or listening to music.
I actually love pre-work rituals, and have had my own ritual for many years. What is it? My morning cup of coffee. But before you scoff at that, let me explain.
I love my morning cup of Joe. (In reality, two.) It helps me to ease into my day while I enjoy it, sitting in one of my favorite rooms in the house: typically the one with the brightest natural light. It’s during this blissful time, when the house is quiet and the garden is right outside my window, that my mind wanders to the things with which I’ve been blessed. The little things that really aren’t so little: a ladybug on the shrub just outside my window, the fact that I’ve never been wont for food or a home, the memory of my daughter’s sweet smile.
By cup #2, I start to review in my mind, the events of the last day, and mentally prepare for today’s tasks. This is the time when I review my priorities and make any adjustment needed. Now I’m ready to get on with my day.
Establish a Morning Routine
What is the first thing you do each work day, as soon as you hit your office? Does it help or hurt your productivity? Create a morning routine that makes you feel fresh and eager to start the day.
Only you can decide what that routine will look like. Will you start by reviewing your priorities for the day, reading and responding to emails, making phone calls, or communicating with your team? The point is to choose those actions which will set the stage for continued productivity throughout the day. You don’t want to start with any activity that sucks you into a black hole.
A lesson I learned years ago is to not let the priorities of others become your own. Other people will always want you to respond to them in some way, but ask yourself whether doing so will advance you toward accomplishing your goals. If not, set it aside for a more convenient time.
De-Clutter Your Work Space
De-clutter your work space, your mind, and your list of things to-do. Remove distractions and things that waste your time, and you'll find yourself being much more productive.
Who can think clearly with piles of papers, office supplies, and snack wrappers strewn across their desk? No one, that’s who.
Devise a file system that enables papers to be put out of sight, but not out of mind. I keep a file drawer with sections for each day of the week, containing a folder for this week and next. Any paper item related to tasks falling on that particular day get filed there. At the start of each day I pull out the corresponding file for the needed papers. That way, only my paper calendar (yes, I use one of those!) and the files needed for that day are sitting on my desk.
Keep only your daily go-to items on your desk. For example, your laptop, physical calendar, if you keep one, a pen, and the day’s file. Everything else can go in desk drawers.
Eliminate or Mitigate Distractions
Identify the things that distract you and hurt your productivity most. These are your main enemies! Develop special strategies to eliminate and/or control them.
For most, the biggest distractions are their phones and social media. Turn notifications off on your phone. That way, you won’t bombarded by emails, text messages, and updates every time your favorite You Tubers upload a new video.
Use an app that limits your social media time and notifications. You’re able to set up the parameters yourself, making it easy to set the least disrupting times of day to check these time-sucks.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander so what you block on your phone, do the same for your laptop.
Prioritize Your List
Spend some time each day creating a list of things to do that's prioritized from most important to least.
Never confuse importance with urgency. Not all important tasks are urgent. Likewise, not all urgent tasks are important. Try never to allow a task to become urgent, and ditch or delegate the ones that aren’t that important.
Be mindful of smaller, building-block tasks that need to be completed before the larger task, upon which the smaller is dependent. Are you one who needs to schedule every detailed task, or can you see the smaller to-dos within the larger task?
Set realistic deadlines for task list items over which you have control. Trying to do more than is humanly possible only leads to more stress. Give yourself permission to lower the priority of some items. After all, not every item on your list can be tagged with an exclamation point!
Give Each Task Your Full Attention
As you perform a task, give it your full attention. If you find yourself too distracted or burnt-out to continue, take a break and come back to the task when you can give it the attention it deserves.
One way to commit yourself to clear focus is to consider those who are trusting you to produce your best work. Too often, we see tasks as little annoyances that over-burden us, but if we can see their place in the big picture of how they contribute to delivering our product or service to our clients, it’s easier to appreciate their significance.
Also consider how failure to produce your best work reflects on your business. If you’re not fully attentive, your product won’t reflect your stated values, and the quality of your customer service will slide. The surest way to produce a high quality product or service is to drive with a full tank, so to speak.
Work with, Not Against Your Natural Rhythms
We each have our own natural rhythms. Discover your best times of day to focus. Get in touch with yours and use them to your advantage.
Some people are natural born early risers. They get up at the crack of dawn before the “early bird.” If this is you, and it’s your most productive time, you could have half your to-do list checked off before the rest of the house wakes up! Just make sure your morning routine means working on your business. Otherwise, you may have a cleaned-out garage, instead of the work that’s on your desk.
If your most productive times don’t come until the afternoon or evening, perhaps the earlier time of day is better spent checking emails and social media. It might even be better spent on household tasks- those that don’t require much mental energy. Perhaps the earlier part of the day is also your time to work out.
Whenever your most productive times roll around, just go with it. Fighting your natural rhythm will only leave tasks unaccomplished and breed feelings of failure.
Track Your Time
Assess how your time is spent each day. Keep a work log or journal for a week or two. Looking back over it may surprise you how you're actually spending your time.
Make any adjustments needed based on your findings. Do you spend more time reading other people’s stuff (OPS) than working on your own? Dedicate a certain time of your day or week to look at the content of others that sparks your interest. It just doesn’t have to be during your most productive hours.
Does your phone constantly ping with pithy social media notifications? Try what I’ve done: I don’t have social media apps on my phone. That way, I only look at social media once or twice a day from my laptop. I’m rewarded with a much more peaceful day- one in which the constant noise doesn’t follow me everywhere I go. I get a lot more done, too.
Mind Your Health
Stay in the best physical health possible because it affects your mindset. Get some exercise, eat and sleep well, and develop some strategies for handling stress.
You’re a nurse. You know this is important. But then, again, we’re nurses. And we’re known to neglect ourselves in favor of tending to others… an admirable quality of self-sacrifice, to be sure. But we’re not talking about lavish, self-indulgent, self-absorbed practice here. Just pay attention to those facets of human existence that keep us healthy and happy.
To read more about the issue of burnout, the consequence of failing to meet your basic needs, read this article written by one of our members, Karrie Brazaski.
Delegate as Needed
You're not alone! Get help when you need it and take some of the unnecessary items off your to-do list.
It’s really quite liberating to unload some of the burden you carry around on your nurse entrepreneur shoulders! To do that, start by automating as much of your business tasks as possible. Examples include email, social media posts, appointment scheduling, and anything can be streamlined through the use of integrations.
Then, outsource your most mundane, repetitive, or “non-productive” tasks to a virtual assistant. Your time should be spent on the things that only you can, or should do. Doing anything else is not the most productive use of your time.
Finally, review your to-do list for any tasks that aren’t really vital. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you “have to do,” toss some of them! There now, don’t you feel better?!
Maximizing your productivity in business really isn’t much different than doing the same when working at the bedside or other healthcare services. You learn to be productive out of necessity. Think about how, as a bedside nurse, you have to quickly prioritize your shift and jump into patient care.
Take what you learned in clinical practice and apply it to your business. Remember: you’re just as important as your patients. Now that you’re in business for yourself, people are still relying on you to deliver your service. Use these practices to ensure you’re able to do so for years to come.
For more productivity tips, strategies, and resources check out The RNiie Network’s Business Clinic, “The Nurse Consultant’s Handbook for Maximizing Productivity,” available at the Nursing Innovation and Entrepreneurship Academy.