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Trying to be More Productive?

To grow your business, you need to stop working ‘in’ it and spend more time working ‘on’ it.”

Some months ago, I wrote an article about the importance of rest, and shutting down your phone was one step in that process. This month, as I talk about the importance of turning off your phone again, I’m not suggesting taking another break.

It may seem like a paradox, but booting down your Galaxy or iPhone and unplugging from your business might be just what you need to grow that business.

  • Here’s the typical day for many small business owners:
  • The bookkeeper calls with questions about your monthly P&L.
  • An unhappy customer emails a complaint.
  • Your attorney needs documents.
  • Google sends you a notice that your website isn’t “mobile compliant.”
  • And on…
  • And on…
  • Like a Dripping Faucet.

Business guru’s tell you to not mistake the “Urgent” for the “Important”, but what about when things are both urgent AND important???

These are important issues, and there are serious consequences if they go ignored, so you respond to one, after another, after another.

You feel productive and you’re resolving the issues fairly well, but there’s still a problem. Each of the tasks above is you working “in” your business. To grow your business, you need to stop working “in” it and spend more time working “on” it.

It has never been harder than it is today to work “on” one’s business. Many of us are never more that a few feet from our cell phones at any given time … ever. Think about it. Even when you sleep you can probably reach your phone. Right now, where’s your phone? In your hand, pocket, or right next to you?

And the word is out. When someone sends an email or a text, they expect a response immediately, because they know you saw it! How about this poor guy? The jig is up:

watch boy

Worse yet, you may feel a compulsion to meet that expectation. Simply put, many of us are too accessible, and the never-ending stream of emails and phone calls keep us firmly planted “in” our businesses.

Here’s how to break out.

1. Turn off your Phone, and Log Out of your Email

As I’m writing this column, I’ve shut down my cell phone, I’ve logged out of my email and I’ve hid myself in a therapy room where no one can find me. Mid-workday, sometimes it’s the only way I can escape both physically and mentally from the daily goings-on.

In addition, every night around 5 p.m. I shut down my phone. It stays off until 8:30 the next morning. Am I on break after 5 p.m.? I wish. That’s when I can focus exclusively on projects and ideas that can move the business forward. I’ll do it during the day too — as much as I can — but during evenings and weekends, I’m definitely not getting pulled “in” to my business.

After shutting down my phone, for music and web searches I’ll use an old iPhone 4 with no cell service and no email app

installed. If I need to do serious online research, I’ll grab my iPad (the one my daughter claims is her iPad), or I’ll use my computer and make sure I’m logged out of email.

Do I miss personal calls? Yes. But again, this process isn’t about rest or recreation. It’s about working “on” your business. If I wanted personal calls, I’d activate the iPhone. As it is, my closest friends, family and even some team members (in the instance of an emergency) can call my wife’s phone if they need to track me down.

2. Climb “Out” of Your Business

If you’re building a business, there will ALWAYS be ongoing problems: An ex-employee is extorting you. A customer is threatening you. An insurance company is auditing you.

Turning your phone off is a start, but you need some mental space too if you’re going to get creative and work “on” your business. Drinking Scotch works for mental space, but hurts productivity. Without chemical help, it will take time to clear your head. With that said, a good business book or turning your attention to some project that really excites you will help you mentally climb “out” of your business more quickly.

When done right, time working “on” your business will advance you forward. For example, (1) you read the book “Be our Guest” by the Disney Institute, and you jot down pages of ideas for improving your company’s customer service, or (2) you design and test a paperless intake and informed consent process, or (3) you plot out where your next office is going to be — and determine when you will be able to open. That’s working “on” the business.

3. Climbing Back “In”

If you’re clamoring to turn your phone back on, or check your email, you haven’t had it off long enough.

When done right, the mental space and general feeling that comes from working “on” your business will make you reluctant to turn back to the daily minutia. You won’t want to be pulled back “in.” Hold on to this perspective. The more time you can find where you don’t need to work “in” your business, the more success you’ll have growing your business.

With that said, as you cycle your phone on and the beeps of missed texts, emails and voicemails come streaming in, that clear mental space you’ve achieved will help you handle the day’s challenges even better.

How do you clear your head to work “on” rather than “in” your business? Tell about it by leaving a comment below.

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