The sun warmed my face even though the air was crisp. It was one of those perfect fall days. The kind that makes you want to indulge in a caramel latte and take a long walk to enjoy the chilly, fresh air.
I was walking with my friend, Mayi Carles, and a few other creative entrepreneurs. We were on our way back to a conference we were all attending after our lunch break.
I was telling them about the ebook I launched while I was waiting on my flight at the airport to get to the conference and one of the women asked me how I get so much done. The rest of the women nodded, looking to me for my secret.
I scrunched up my nose, wondering if I really do get more done than the average person. I hadn’t thought I was more productive than other creatives trying to build their businesses.
But the more I talked to the other women at the conference, the more I realized that I did tend to get more things done than most.
They wanted to know how I stayed driven and how I did it all.
How did I write two blog posts per week (that’s how many I was publishing at the time), write four guests posts per month, spend time networking, write an ebook, launch a membership program, update social media every day and do all of the admin tasks necessary to run a business?
I laughed at the possibility of there being some secret reason that I get more done. I just worked hard.
But, so did these women. It’s not as if they were lying around watching General Hospital every day.
I started to pay attention to differences between the way I worked and the way other women building their own empires worked. Anyone who told me she was frustrated by the amount she accomplished, I tried to get to the bottom of it. Two differences stood out to me.
The first was that I prioritized high-leverage tasks.
While someone else was spending hours on email and social media, I was spending less than one hour on those tasks and the rest of that time on writing an ebook or creating content for my membership site or updating my sales copy.
I have a knack for knowing what I should spend my time on and not worrying too much if the little things don’t get done.
I mean, does it really matter if I respond to the person who wants to advertise tires on my website when it clearly states that I don’t advertise other companies on my site? To me, it doesn’t.
I’d rather spend that time creating a video that 50 creatives will benefit from or planning out my next course.
This is a pretty easy change that most can make right away. All you need to do is make a list of the tasks that will help move your business forward (and make you money) quickly and spend the majority of your time on those things.
You’ll probably end up with tasks like: create new product line, submit product to such-and-such magazine for a possible feature, write sales copy, create line sheet, contact five stores about wholesale possibilities.
And, you realize that if you don’t post the burrito you ate for lunch on Snapchat or get to inbox zero, your business won’t be affected.
Making the switch to focus most of your time on high-leverage tasks comes pretty easy to most people once they realize they’re making this mistake.
It’s the second thing that people struggle with the most. They either write it off as not being important or they know it would help but they just don’t do anything about it.
This second piece of the getting-things-done puzzle is accountability.
Most people procrastinate less and meet their deadlines when they’re accountable to other people.
If you’re the type of person who doesn’t mind pushing a self-imposed deadline but you always manage to get things done when someone else is counting on you, you need to build accountability into your business.
For instance, let’s say you want to rewrite your product descriptions. You know they’re not good and you’ve learned some great copywriting tips. Even though you want to do this and put it on your to-do list, you always find yourself pushing it to the next day’s to-do list. You need to give yourself more motivation and accountability is a great way to do it.
Unless what you’re what Gretchen Rubin calls a “rebel,” (which means that you won’t do things if someone tells you to do something or you’re trying to force yourself to do something) you’d benefit from adding more weight of responsibility to your tasks and goals.
Every single time I’ve wanted to reach a challenging goal that I know will take a lot of effort, I add in accountability and that’s how I get something that otherwise might not get done in a short amount of time done.
When I decided that I wanted to start my first membership program, ARTrepreneur, I announced that I would be launching it in one month on my blog, told my husband and told my accountability partner, Mayi Carles.
My husband and Mayi both thought I was being a bit unrealistic and they had good reasons to think so. At the time, I didn’t know how to set up a membership site, I didn’t have any of the content created, and I needed to find a photographer and website designer to create content in their areas of expertise for the program. I hadn’t even thought about the sales page or how I would create a sales video. I had to learn almost everything from scratch.
I ran into a lot of obstacles but I was determined to launch in one month because I’d told everyone I would. And, despite the challenges, I launched on time.
I would’ve taken another month or two to open registration if I hadn’t told everyone about my goal. Every time I thought about stopping work early to enjoy a glass of Chardonnay with my man or procrastinating with an episode of Gilmore Girls, I choose to keep working.
I’m not saying that you have to set improbable goals but think about how much more you might get done if other people are holding you accountable.
Now that I’ve convinced you (hopefully!), let’s dig into some ways you can add more accountability into your business.
1. Get an accountability partner.
Because of apps like Voxer and WhatsApp, it’s easy to check in with someone at the beginning and end of the day.
Simply tell your accountability partner what you want to finish by the end of the day and then check back in when you wrap things up to let your accountability partner know if you got it all done. And, during the day, you can check in with each other or ask for a boost of encouragement if you’re feeling sluggish or uninspired.
Another reason an accountability partner works so well is that it’s inspiring to hear about what other people are working on.
When they’re working on cool things, it makes you want to work on cool things.
I always feel more inspired after a Google hangout with Mayi. Even though we’re usually working on different kinds of projects, just hearing about the big things she’s working on gives me a push to work on my exciting projects.
2. Invest in your business.
One of the reasons that B-School helped me grow my business immensely is because I made the most out of it due to the cost. To register for B-School, you have to make a $1999 commitment and for me, that was an enormous investment.
I decided that if I joined B-School, I would not put off the work and I would do everything I could to make that money back as soon as possible.
It pushed me to work on things I had been putting off (like revamping my email marketing and rewriting some of my copy) and it helped me to focus on high-leverage tasks to make money right away.
What would motivate you to work harder?
What if you invested in that DSLR you’ve been looking at so often that it shows up as one of your favorite web pages? What if you finally registered for that course you’ve been thinking about for the past year? What if you started paying the monthly fee to Leadpages so you could start setting up landing pages and different email opt-ins?
Would that help you to end your procrastination (at least for awhile)?
3. Join a group that works on similar things together.
Have you heard of NanoWrimo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month and the goal is to write a novel in the month of November. You’re supposed to write as much as possible each day without editing too much—the goal is a large word count.
For those of you who aren’t fiction writers, you might think this sounds slightly insane, and to be fair, it is kinda crazy. But, it’s also so much fun and the reason it’s fun is because everyone is working on writing as much as possible, they’re sharing their word counts with each other, they’re encouraging each other, and they do things like Twitter sprints (to write as much as possible in 30 minutes) and live calls.
Many of the participants write a lot more than they would otherwise write if they were working on their own.
This same concept can work for you if you’re a member of Facebook groups or membership programs that encourage you to work on tasks together.
It’s one of the main components of Sunday Society (my membership site for creative enterpreneurs). We all work on a monthly challenge together—past monthly challenges have been creating a painted picture (goal setting and planning), organizing our social media strategies and decluttering our businesses and physical spaces. For October, we’re scheduling a year’s worth of blog posts.
I’m also hosting a ‘writing retreat day’ next week for the group where we all try to get a bunch of business-related writing done. The group is going to work on writing rough drafts of blog posts, sales pages, website copy, or sales funnel copy—most are going to try to write as many blog posts as possible in that day.
We’re going to kick off the morning with a short live call, we’ll have some dance breaks throughout the day, we’ll have some writing sprints (30 minutes of focused time), we’ll be sharing our word counts throughout the day, and we’ll wrap up the day with another short live call to celebrate and share our final word counts. Throughout the day, I’m also going to post writing and editing tips in our private Facebook group and another member who’s a writer and editor is going to post tips as well.
And, I bet this is going to give some members that nudge they need to write their blog posts for the next month or finally write the rough drafts of their sales funnel emails. It’s a way to make this stuff more fun. If you want to join us, you can do so right here.
Whether you join Sunday Society or another group, pick one that will motivate you to get more done than you would on your own and make it more enjoyable.
4. Attend a live event like a conference, retreat or course.
One thing that has pushed me to work harder in the past is attending something live. For instance, when I attended Marie Forleo’s conference, I worked day and night to launch my ebook beforehand and I was able to publish the sales page and email my list about my ebook the day I left for the conference. The entire weekend I was in New York, sales were flowing in. It paid for that trip and more.
One of the studio audience members for my CreativeLive course launched her signature program before traveling to San Francisco because she wanted it available to people who visited her website through watching my course. Another redesigned her website so that it would look more professional if I pulled it up as an example during the course. Another put up her first sales page so that viewers would have a way to work with her if they connected to her during the course.
Attending something live can give you a different kind of accountability, because it’s a real deadline—not one that you’re choosing just to have one.
And, it’s a reward! Retreats and conferences can be a ton of fun.
5. Take a course and do the work while it’s happening.
Lots of people buy online courses and watch a little bit of it or most of it but they don’t do the work. They tell themselves that they’ll do it later, but often, it never happens.
Some courses are self-paced—meaning that you can take them at anytime and get the same experience. Often they include recorded videos that you watch when you have time.
But, if you’re taking a course that has in-the-moment components such as live Q&A calls or an instructor who answers questions in a FB group during the course dates, take advantage of it. Do the work along with the other students instead of saving it for later. Not only does it give you the option to ask questions and get feedback, it ensures that the money and time you spend on it isn’t wasted.
Before you pay for another course, decide that you’re going to do the work as you go through it and you’re not going to buy another until you’re done.
6. Share deadlines and dates.
Want to motivate yourself to launch on a certain date or publish a blog post every Thursday? Tell people.
Let your blog readers know that they can expect you to publish every Thursday. When you wake up on Thursday with a sore throat and an itch to stay under your covers reading a good thriller, you’ll feel guilty because your readers are expecting a blog post and it might be just the thing you need to get it done.
Tell your spouse, accountability partner, Instagram followers, and blog readers when you plan on launching your next big thing. Tell your accountability partner and spouse to check in with you to make sure you’re staying on track. You don’t want to let everyone down, so you’ll be more likely to hit your deadline.
7. Plan your own game day.
When you’re an athlete, like a football player, prepping for a game day often gets you to practice longer and harder. It gives you something to work towards and this is often a missing piece for creative entrepreneurs.
What would your version of a game day be?
For me, it would be speaking at a live event. Whenever I’m speaking or teaching somewhere, I work extra hard leading up to it. I don’t need any extra motivation—the event is the motivation.
For a jewelry designer, this might be selling at a high-end craft show. This might push you to build up your stock that you could also use during the holidays when you’re super busy.
For a pattern designer, this might be showcasing your work at a trade show. This might give you that nudge to create a cohesive pattern set that you can license for fabric designs.
For an artist, this might be teaching at a retreat. This could drive you to create a bunch of art pieces you can use as examples at the retreat which you could later sell. Maybe it even inspires you to add a new revenue stream to your business plan by turning what you teach at the retreat into an online course.
Basically, these “game days” will push you to do more than you’d otherwise do and do your very best work. And, we all could use more of that.