I’m going to give you a little hint – it is actually not about creating more hours in the day.
I know you feel spread thin, I know you feel hurried, but the way out of it is not working more and it’s not getting more things checked off your to-do list. That habit is only going to break you. It’s gonna burn you out and it’s going to keep you from stepping into the life you want and operating at optimal levels with peace, fulfillment and prosperity.
Today, we’re talking about a process that is going to help you become insanely more efficient without doing more work; to produce with prolificacy without spending more time doing it; to be more fulfilled and more present; less burn out and less hurried.
We are leveraging our energy. We are leveraging our time.
Going from Frustrated to Unstoppable
A little while ago, I was in a season where I felt like we were in such a groove. Business had exploded in the best way, our team was growing and thriving, we were profitable beyond anything we had seen before. Things were going really well, but I was insanely frustrated every day. I was ending every day feeling like I hadn’t closed loops, like I hadn’t actually gotten the things done that I needed to get done, like the big projects that were ultimately going to change the game for our company and for my life were being pushed off.
This frustration was eating away at me until I picked up a book that changed my life – At Your Best by Carey Nieuwhof. I took everything I learned from that book and coupled it with the process I started bringing to my team that was also changing the game. And I was unstoppable.
It is all about identifying the four levels of leadership, identifying what falls under each of those levels and then coupling it up with Carey’s brilliant process of leveraging your energy zones.
There are four leadership levels:
- Level one. This is the CEO stuff, things that move the business forward, the heartbeat of your business. This is anything that you as a leader do in your business that is do or die. These are also things that propel you closer and further towards the mission and they are for you to do. They’re not things you can just check off a to-do list real quick. These are things that you have to nurture, that require consistent focus. Now, here’s the problem: we assume everything belongs here. Everything is vital to the mission. Everything is critical. If we take away anything, it all falls apart. Well, no. You should only have around three things in this category.
- Level two. These are the things that are very important and require you to show up as a leader. There’s some strategy behind it, but it’s not necessarily absolutely critical to the survival of the mission.
- Level three. These are things that are valuable, but are not critical. They are not necessary to breathe life into the mission, but they do hold some value.
- Level four. These are low priority tasks. This is your to-do list, this is putting out the fires, this is fulfilling other people’s requests. It might feel urgent to you, but it’s not important to your mission.
A Massive Extraction
The first step is to do a massive “extraction” out of your schedule and your life.
Look at your planner, look at your calendar and figure out all the things that fall on you as a leader of a small business. Not all the things you should do, but all the things you currently do in your business.
When you have this master list, then you can start to see what can likely be stripped away because maybe in the season it’s not relevant to the mission or it’s not moving that needle; what could come off of your plate and be outsourced; what falls into one of these four categories.
Focus on Level One
After you create your master list, you can start to put everything into the right categories. I was getting trapped each day doing level four stuff and sometimes the level three stuff. That was taking up the largest chunks of my time at the wrong time.
When you think about these lower level tasks that end up in your day and about the actual efforts that you put in and the limited time you have, they usually have the least to do with moving your mission forward. Think about it from this perspective: if you only did that stuff every day, for the next six months, what effect would it have on your business? Would it change the game? Would it make you feel less stressed? Would it create more profit?
You’ve got big dreams. And those dreams are going to come to fruition by you being disciplined to focus on level one – the stuff that only you can do as the leader of your business to continue to drive the mission forward. You are being hijacked by level three and four and that mission is being stopped because you are leaning into the habit of continually trying to be productive and check off as many things as often as you possibly can and not carving out specific time to do the one thing or the three things that you need to do more than anything else.
Once you have your levels, you figure out where they belong in terms of your energy zones.
According to Carey, the author of At Your Best, every day we have three different zones. We have a green zone, a yellow zone and a red zone. Our green zone is our zone where we’re most alive, energized, creative, efficient, effective. Our yellow zone is pretty neutral. The red zone is where our energy is low and we are kind of useless. If we’re not conscious of when each zone falls for us during the course of the day, we’re not leveraging it properly.
My green zone is in the morning, from 9am until noon. Now, this is the time that is completely blocked on my calendar because this is the time when I do all of my creative work that is crucial for our mission.
It’s important to remember that just because a certain task is the level one entrepreneurial leadership level, that doesn’t mean it has to go in the green zone. If there are elements of your level one that do not need to be done at peak performance time but do need to be done, they can be scheduled during your yellow zone or maybe even during your red zone.
Test It Out
The most important thing is for you to become aware of your activities and your zones and then start putting the proper activities in the proper zones and make sure that level one is being honored most of all and that there’s less level four tasks. Also, level two and level three tasks get scheduled likely in your yellow zone or your red zone, depending on what it is.
I know that most of you are entrepreneurial parents, so be flexible and don’t be neurotic about it. Show up for your family and do the right thing. But for the most part, do your best with this. Optimize that green zone, know where you fall on your energy clock and try it. Let me know how it goes!