Productivity and Scaling Back Expectations

Today we have Jennifer Elwell, from Tales of a Peanut, writing for us on how to find your focus and use it to bring your productivity level up. Take it away Jennifer!


Tales of a Peanut Creative Founder Designer Jennifer Elwell


Ok, I'm going to admit it. I am a certified, Type-A, borderline OCD, high-strung, detailed control freak. Making a plan and writing out a To-Do list of fifty items to accomplish my goal geeks me out and makes me giddy. I'm the kind of person who will write something on her To-Do list that is already done just so that I can check it off.


Crazy, right?


But I don't think I'm alone feeling like this. Especially in our world of creative founders. While you might not be as, ahem, detail oriented as I am, if you're going to be a founder in business, you're going to have to have some kind of plan in place.


Tales of a Peanut - To Do List For Creatives Designers Artists


Before I attended the Creative Founders Conference last July in Phoenix, I was the queen of unrealistic To-Do lists. Mine were pages long, included minute details, and were never completed. I would start a new list often and just transfer undone items to the new list.


And these lists were stressing me out. I'd get to the end of the day and see undone items on my list and feel discouraged. I would look at the list in the morning and feel overwhelmed with all the things that I expected myself to do that day. But I didn't know any other way to handle it.


Enter Jennifer Faught, our lovely Yoda here in this society. She made it clear to our group that we should be setting goals, making lists, and writing tasks in groups of three. After all, as she says, "You can't juggle too many things without dropping one or two of them." There are lots of things that we want to get done as founders but we have a limited amount of time. Thus, we should only be focusing on the three most important goals and tasks that we have.


Her insight and advice was brilliant and, also, mind-shattering for me. It made total sense that I was setting my expectations too high for myself, but I'd never seen it in that way. So I came home resolved to change the way I worked and scale back my expectations. I want to share today the three things that I found to be crucial in accomplishing this.


Find Your Focus


There might be a lot of things that you want to do right now in your business, but, often, you can group those "to-do's" all under the umbrella of three main goals. Take some time to sit down and do a brain dump of everything that you want to achieve in the next three months. They take a good look at all those items and see where they overlap. Then narrow them down to three goals. These should be the things that when you look at them you think, "I have to get these items accomplished in the next three months." These items are non-negotiable. These items are your top three goals and what you will focus on in the next three months.


Tales of a Peanut Weekly Planner for Creative Entrepreneurs Artists Designers


Focus In Time Blocks


Once you have your top three goals for the next three months, you'll continue to break them down into groups of three. Look at these items based on your available time blocks -- year, quarter, month, week, and day. Jennifer's advice is that you can only focus on one goal per month. So you will rank your goals and set up the most important one to work on for the next month. Then you'll continue breaking your time into weeks and days by limiting to sets of three and the tasks that are most important. By limiting yourself to three tasks that contribute to the main goal per time block, you'll succeed in making realistic lists of items. These tasks will be necessary and prioritized so that you can conquer the most important items first.


Keep Your Goals In Plain Sight


After I returned home from Phoenix, I began to put in place the group of three method but found myself still getting off track and making long lists. Which is when I realized that while I was making a set of three goals, I wasn't keeping them in front of me at all times to maintain focus. I would write them on a piece of paper and this paper would get lost on my desk. Then I would start creating new lists for new items instead of staying focused on my goal. So I sat down and created some charts that I could hang in my office to keep my mind focused. Now, my top three goals for the week, quarter, and year hang in my direct line of sight when I sit at my desk. I often look up to make sure that what I'm working on is contributing to one of those goals. And I focus first on items that I must do to reach those goals without getting sidetracked by items that might not help me reach my goal.


Tales of a Peanut - Weekly Detail Planners for creatives


Now, I will be honest and tell you that I still fall off the wagon sometimes and find myself making a long To-Do list. But now that I have gotten into the habit of working in groups of three, making a long list feels uncomfortable. My subconscious reminds me that long lists of tasks overwhelm me by setting unrealistic expectations.


Today, I encourage you to take a look at your planning method and see if it's helping or hindering your success. Consider breaking your goals and tasks down into smaller groups of three to limit your overwhelm. Also, when you only have three tasks on your To-Do list you're more likely to complete them. This in turn motivates you and propels you into being more productive and successful in the future.


If you need help with your planning methods, Jennifer has a host of good planning information on the Society of Creative Founders blog. You can also look into the line of planners and organizers in the Tales of a Peanut shop created with the creative founder in mind. I would also love to encourage you in your journey to make your business the most successful! Hop on Instagram and tell me what you're working on so that I can check it out. You can find me at @talesofapeanut.


Tales of a Peanut - Mamapreneur Charts for creative designers artists


The opinions, representations and statements made within this guest article are those of the author and not of the Society for Creative Founders as a whole. Any copyright remains with the author and any liability with regard to infringement of intellectual property rights remain with them. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.