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How to Increase Productivity the Right Way

Transcript 

Kathy (host):  

Hey there. Welcome back to Help! My Business is Growing, a podcast where we explore how to grow and build a business that is healthy and sustainable. I'm your host, Kathy Svetina. Look at that we've made it to the 10th episode! And to celebrate this, I've decided that for the next three episodes, we are going to do something different. And you know, as I was recording this episode, that next to it dawned on me that they are very closely related. They're all about productivity, but looking at it from different angles and from different perspectives. I thought it would be a great idea to actually treat these three episodes as sort of a trilogy. 

 

Kathy (host):

In this one, my guest is going to be Dawn O'Connor, and we're going to explore how being productive and working are actually two different things. What are some of the specific tools that you can implement in your work that will actually make you productive, not just busy? In the next episode, Episode 11, we're going to be diving more into this idea of busyness and how to cultivate a culture in your business that focuses on not just getting the stuff done, but getting the right stuff done. Episode 12, which is the last one in this trilogy. We'll dive into the topic of how to do more by actually doing less. And I'm sure you've heard about this concept before. And it's very easy to say but it's extremely hard to do, especially when you have a growing business. All three of these episodes are filled with actionable advice from three different experts in their fields, and they're designed so that you can start immediately implementing the teaching so they get you closer to a place in your business that you want to be at. 

 

Kathy (host):

Before we go into this first episode of the trilogy. I want to tell you a little bit about my guest, Dawn O' Connor. Dawn is a productivity trainer and process consultant. She is deeply curious about how people work. She employs a strength-based approach to help her clients simplify workflows and tap into their productivity superpowers. In her 30-year career, Dawn has trained and coached over 10,000 people locally and internationally to help them get organized, save time, de-stress and enjoy playful productive momentum. In response to her client's needs during the early days of the pandemic, she also introduced a new service called the Focus Bubbles, which are hosted virtual co-working sessions that provide community connection and accountability. Demand was so great that she actually launched it as a new business in January of 2021. All of Dawn's workshops and consulting engagements are based on current research, extensive experience, and learnings from real-life clients scenarios. The teachings are always practical, applicable, and often fun. Join me!

 

Kathy (host):  

Welcome to the show, Dawn.

 

Dawn (guest):  

Thanks for having me. I'm so excited to be here.

 

Kathy (host):  

So excited that you're here. Working and being productive are two different things. And there's so many tips and tricks about how to be productive these days. We have the technology that keeps us automating the tasks with the intention that it's going to free up our time, right? You know, especially the last year that we're working longer hours and struggle with ending the workday. Since you're the productivity expert, I like to hear your take on it. Why do you think that's happening?

 

Dawn (guest):  

With everyone changing their habits about how they work, right? Being sent home and having to figure out a whole new routine, the specific mention that you just made about ending the workday is a really important one, because we don't have the same cues in our day, the same rituals of shutting down our desk and running to catch a bus or a subway or wherever you are, L train, whatever it looks like. Because we're missing those cues, we just often keep working. And then the demands, what happens is a self-perpetuating cycle where you're emailing past five o'clock, six o'clock, people are now responding. 

 

Dawn (guest):

Say you're the boss, and you're asking a question, and then your staff feels responsible to answer that question at eight o'clock, nine o'clock. And it just keeps creeping, right? It's like a scope creeps except for own work. And so to establish some really simple rituals for the end of your day, some closure tactics, even planning for the next day or if you are at home, creating a fake commute, go for a walk. I have a little cabin in my backyard that I used to work in, but my husband stole it during COVID. So just like literally the six-foot walk from the cabin to the house was that was like, yeah, there's my commute. I'm leaving work behind in that physical space.

 

Kathy (host):  

That's so important. And it's something that I've seen with myself, too, it's because both of our my husband's and my office area in the house right now. And luckily, we're lucky enough that we have to separate spaces so we don't have to share the space with the rest of the household or with each other because it would not be good for our marriage. But I've seen it that it's really hard to end the workday because the space that you work, it's in the same space when you're doing everything else. You have family time, you have time with your husband or wife. I mean, it's really, really hard and what works for me now. And this is gonna sound crazy. But after I'm done, I take a shower. Kind of just washes off the day.

 

Dawn (guest):  

That's a fantastic one for so many reasons. When I ask clients, and I've asked this to probably more than 10,000 people, where do you get your best ideas? The number one answer is in the shower. And so there's this, it gives our prefrontal cortex a chance to just relax, and then new ideas pop up. And so to do that, at the end of the day is brilliant. Now, I want to copy you, that's great idea.

 

Kathy (host):  

Yeah, in the array, that's where my best ideas come from. When I'm in the shower, or I'm out taking a walk out of the neighborhood, there's something about being in nature that really nurtures that idea, neurons in your brain. Do you have any scientific explanation for why does that happens?

 

Dawn (guest):  

I'm not gonna explain it properly. But I will refer to the person everyone should listen to as Dr. Andrew Huberman. He does a whole podcast on this specific issue. But there's sort of this magic ability of light in our eyeballs to stimulate our productivity and to keep us alert. And so just stepping outside in nature and having light hit our eyes, it's important to like be looking at the light, not head down on a phone, but actually, get that exposure. And the other thing that's odd, and he's calls it forward ambulation but it's walking. Walking forward is actually really an important thing to do relatively early in the day. There's a bit of a magic formula about two hours after your lowest body temperature point in the night when we wake up to get outside and get that exposure is for maximum impact. He calls that a productivity protocol. I'm just actually learning the depths of this science. But it's really simple, it sounds complicated, get up, move, get light, and eventually have something to eat, but not the first thing.

 

Kathy (host):  

In going into the multitasking that I know you're very much- And I actually agree with us that we as human beings, we just cannot multitask. We cannot keep our different tabs open. You are such a big proponent of deep focus work and the company that you have, and you just started the service. I think it was during the pandemic, correct? The focus bubbles? 

 

Dawn (guest):

Yep. 

 

Kathy (host):

And I wanted to ask you more about this. And I know you're very specific about you don't want to focus bubbles infomercials, but I am such a huge fan of this. Because I recently started, I think it was about two, three weeks ago when we started doing this, and I have seen in my own differences in my own productivity is because I'm able to be in these bubbles that you create for us and get things done. And I'm getting things done a lot faster. It's a lot more focused. So before we go into this, and I'm singing your praises, focus bubbles-

 

Dawn (guest):  

Thank you.

Kathy (host):  

You can explain to us what are the focus bubbles exactly.

 

Dawn (guest):  

Okay, and then I'll talk about multitasking because they are so closely aligned. A focus bubble is very self-explanatory in a way in that it is you create this bubble for yourself by coming into it. Basically, it's a meeting to get your own work done. You think how good you are at scheduling meetings and honoring that time with other people in your calendar. This is a way to schedule time for yourself a meeting for one, but with a group of other people who are showing up on zoom, and making a simple declaration of this is what I'm going to work on. We do a little brain warm-up at the beginning no more than five minutes. And then we simply go on silent mode and we do our own work, which sounds like "Yeah, who needs that like I can do that by myself." But again, there's a lot of brain science behind why it works. 

 

Dawn (guest):

Once you've made that commitment public, and you've stated what you're going to work on, you also feel really crappy if you start cheating on yourself during the focus bubble with a whole huge potential audience. Although nobody's really watching you, maybe me, I peek sometimes. But basically, you've done two things, you've created a time defense. You have blocked that time in your calendar. Now other things cannot encroach into that time. It's a commitment you're going to show up to. You've paid for a service to so it's like think of it as the peloton for work, personal trainer for work. 

 

Dawn (guest):

And then number two, when you say what you're going to work on, then you've made a commitment publicly so you'll work on it. And then even a third thing is we discourage obviously, distractions. Making a conscious effort to close the tabs, turn off the alerts, get the phone out of your sight, all those little things. They're very tiny, but they can be incredibly impactful. And then behind all that is the science of mimicry. We see other people working hard and that spurs us on. If you think of when you go to the gym, it's motivating to see other people working out you kind of or you go to a class, you're more motivated to perform than if you're working by yourself. We release endorphins because of the social aspect we release dopamine from which is a feel-good thing that you get when you check a task off. So just that checkmark, and you get this little burst of dopamine. I think there's also some serotonin and oxytocin thrown in there. I can't remember exactly why. But it really is this, it creates this like little magical scenario where you get great work done. We do encourage deep work, but you can do whatever you want. Sometimes you just got to get those little admin tasks done. And anything you procrastinate on is great to plug into a bubble.

 

Kathy (host):  

My experience with a bubble was that I get very distracted with things going on around my house. For example, right now we're just doing landscaping in our house, and my husband constantly keeps going into my office asking me things, opinions, what should be done. And it's really hard because when I sit down, and I'm trying to focus, it takes me about 10 minutes to get into that flow, 10 to 15 minutes, usually. And if someone comes and interrupts it, it takes me away again from that flow. I constantly have to keep going back to it. What what I really noticed what the bubble where it helped me that I was easily able to say, "No, this is not the time. I'm in my bubble, I am focusing. We're going to do this in about 30 minutes." It's interesting because there was nothing. I could have done that on my own before. But there was just something about being in a working environment with other people who are focusing as well, that's giving my brain the signal, "Oh, no, you have to stay focused."

 

Dawn (guest):  

And there's another piece in there I think with permissions. It's like you gave yourself permission to say no to an external thing, because she made this commitment, and it was blocked into your calendar. It was just a tiny mindset shift, and I'm hearing that regularly from the bubblers. One gal says she puts a sign on her door that says "Don't burst my bubble." 

 

Kathy (host):

I love that.

 

Dawn (guest):

And she's in an office setting. She happens to be a business partner with her husband, but there's 20 or 30 staff around and when they see that sign, they know "Okay, she's locked in, we are not going to disturb her because if we burst her bubble, she'll be annoyed."

 

Kathy (host):  

When you're running a company, and you have employees, how do you cultivate these focus bubbles within your own company? 

 

Dawn (guest):  

Yeah, it's so easy, actually. And yet, it's missing from these, because I think we're still figuring out the whole hybrid and remote and blended approach. I've been teaching productivity for 30 years, and one thing I've regularly taught way before the pandemic is power hours, where your team collectively agrees to say, "Thursday, from two to three o'clock, no internal email will be sent. No meetings will be scheduled, and we'll just have this time to work on things that we need to work on and have that deep focus time." So that you're minimizing the internal interruptions the internal to the organization, not internal to your head. That's a whole other different story. And I've had clients very, very, very few out of them, say, 10,000, probably up small handful who have successfully done this. Again, it's not hard. 

Dawn (guest):

The ones who have done it have, the results have been measurable and positive, and they've sustained it. But I don't know why it's logistics basically, is what it comes down to. And so focus bubbles, like takes care of the logistics for companies. We have the platform, we have the scheduling tool. We also have the facilitators that make it happen. And I think that might be sort of a magical piece that's missing. When you're coming together in a corporate setting, somebody has to be responsible for sort of leading the charge and holding the space, and then you get distracted, you start talking about work. And it does, you know, it kind of dissolves or devolves, maybe as a better word. It just doesn't get honored quite in the same way, as it does when you bring someone external in. But it is absolutely doable. Get someone in inside the company, HR facilitator, leader who really believes in it and can absolutely make it happen with no cost.

Kathy (host):  

What I'm also hearing is it's very valuable to embed it in the culture as well. It's easier and we're talking about the corporations that there are big companies, but when you have a smaller company, especially if you're a founder of your startup, and you're growing this company, and you're growing your team, having these conversations and these expectations around work and how to do deep focus work in that you're actually allowed to embedding that in culture would be valuable from the start, right? 

 

Dawn (guest):  

That's a brilliant point. I'm thinking through my small business clients, and I know it's important to them, but it's everybody's in such a reactive mode, typically, that they're just not making that happen. They talk about it, but they're not truly honoring it and making it happen. It can be as simple as a couple of touchpoints throughout the week. So, you know, establishing that culture. I don't really have a lot of insight on how to create it initially, unfortunately, but I know how to sustain it. It could be something as simple as in a team meeting in a leadership meeting, you have five minutes dedicated to talking about how important deep work is. What is the impact? What are the outcomes and how it’s measured? Like, I come back to the data? How do you measure the results of that? And really, we need to be focusing on outcomes of work, not how we do the work, but what do we produce? Not when do we do it? But what do we produce? Where do we do it? What do we produce, and it's a big shift for some companies.

 

Kathy (host):  

Now also see this, in my own business, it's time management, and then there's energy management because what I've noticed, in my own productivity is there are certain times of the day that I'm better at deep-focus work, and there are other times of the day when I'm good at admin likes email or researching or whatever it might be. I'm a night owl so I seem to do a lot of my deep focus work more after hours. And I take that into consideration when I plan my day. What is your take on energy management and time management?

 

Dawn (guest):  

Well, yeah, I think you nailed it in terms of it's the alignment of your perceived energy. When you know the capacity to focus, you're not feeling fatigued, every different kind of energy level we have can align with a certain kind of task. We actually just put out a blog post last week on zombie tasks versus deep work. 

 

Dawn (guest):

Deep work, we can define it as distraction-free, concentration heavy, and in creating powerful outputs. It's the good meaty stuff that pushes your business forward. But we still have to do all the other admin low-level tasks. When you get into that zombie state, you can feel yourself feeling fatigued, you're looking at your email, and you're reading something three or four times, start paying attention to those cues, or you're having trouble making a decision. Because you've hit decision fatigue, there's lots of little signs. Then have a list, have a list of the zombie tasks, the easy things to tackle really quickly making those hair appointments or whatever it is, you've got your list of, of tasks. And it might even be as simple as just doing a quick email scan, and organizing and prioritizing things, but not actually doing a lot of the things. 

 

Dawn (guest):

Yeah, just awareness of when your energy is at its peak, and we do go in about a 90-minute. It's called a little ultradian rhythm and a 90-minute cycle where we have a peek at the top. And then at the bottom of that when we're really feeling fatigued, or restless or whatever is to take an active break. It can be as short as three minutes. Just before this, I did a three-minute Bollywood dance party.

 

Kathy (host): 

I love that!

 

Dawn (guest):

Energy. So yeah, there's lots of very simple quick things that you can do. Everyone has their little tricks and habits.

Kathy (host):  

You mentioned zombie tasks, would you say that a part of social media scrolling, just mindlessly scrolling with being one of the zombie tasks?

 

Dawn (guest):  

Yeah, that's an interesting one. Because there is actually some evidence that shows it's not a bad thing to have a little social break, right? And laugh at the cat videos and have a little fun light interaction with your social media. But it does need to be limited because the risk is the rabbit holes, right? You go on to LinkedIn, maybe like, "Oh, I just want to look up Kathy and see a little bit about her background." And then suddenly, 20 minutes later, you're in a whole other day. You can't even remember why you got there in the first place. I like to restrict, I mean, I'd say five to seven minutes as a break for social. Some clients will do like a 25-minute Pomodoro approach where they plug that into their day to both post their social and check their social. It all comes down to just awareness. Set a timer, get a sense, because people really don't usually have a good awareness of how much time they're spending on things. So just pay attention to it for a couple of days. And it will reveal some interesting things. Good and bad. 

 

Kathy (host):  

For myself, what I started doing is sort of putting myself on a time lock on my phone, how many minutes I can actually spend on the social channels. The only problem that I have that I haven't figured out yet is I always give myself more time. I don't know how much is working.

 

Dawn (guest):  

Do you like to set a 10-minute timer on Instagram, for example? Like what does that look like for you?

 

Kathy (host):  

I only use LinkedIn and for my personal stuff, I only use Facebook. I don't do Instagram or Twitter or any of the other ones and I think for me it's been very helpful to actually have no more than two social channels because then I'm not spending all this time and I've been really trying to get to a point where I'm dedicating no more than an hour to LinkedIn because LinkedIn is very important to my business. 

Dawn (guest):

Yeah.

 

Kathy (host):

Naturally structured that in my day, 30 minutes. However the problem is on the phone when you're waiting for something, waiting for the water to boil or whatever, it is you're just mindlessly scrolling through and before you know it. And I look at my breakdown of where have I spent the time in the app. I've spent two hours on LinkedIn over the day. The two hours it could be doing something else.

 

Dawn (guest):  

Yeah, I mean, you're ahead of the game, having the awareness on it. That's fantastic. One tip on that is just device specifications.  Limit your social to a specific device, and ideally, maybe not your phone because it's so portable. If it's only available on your computer, then that's where you're using it right or on a tablet that- I've actually have many clients who have a tablet sort of separate from everything else. And they do their social on that, and they restrict it. I personally haven't had that level of rigor around it. But I do like the idea. 

 

Kathy (host):  

I like that idea, too. Love it. Maybe I'll start implementing that. And the other thing that I started implementing for myself now, too, and this might be helpful to the listeners, is the whole idea of eating the frog. I was wondering if you can, we could talk about that, first of all, what is eating the frog? And how do you see that being helpful in the work that you're doing with the clients that you're doing if they're implementing that if that's something that's really helpful for their productivity?

 

Dawn (guest):  

Yeah, I love it. It's an oldie and a goodie. it comes from Brian Tracy. He wrote a whole book on it. It's just a brilliantly simple concept, do the worst, first, right? If you have something that you're avoiding, do it first. And then what happens is, which sounds simple, but you can talk about that in a little bit more detail. It generates momentum for the rest of the day. 

 

Dawn (guest):

It's like, the frog is gross. Who wants to eat a frog in the morning? But if you get it over with, and then you're like, "Wow." What's fascinating to me is, that I've heard this repeatedly for the last six months inside the focus bubble is when people say, "I'm doing something today that I've been procrastinating on for ages." And then I check in with them at the end. And they say, "You don't want to take five minutes or it took 12 minutes." And then I asked how long or how much energy and time did you spend thinking about it and procrastinating on it. It's just hours and hours and hours of that sort of negative energy that surrounds it and the self-recrimination like beating ourselves up because we did not get to that task. 

 

Dawn (guest):

And we keep even like I've had one client who's probably rewritten one task up to 42 times, flip the page, reread it, flip the page, rewrite it for months until she finally ate that frog. And so step one, identify what your frogs are just self-awareness. Mine are invoicing, love to get paid, don't love to generate the invoices. So whatever those are, spend a little time just acknowledging that that is a task you don't love. Find some ways maybe that you can make it enjoyable. Again, back to rituals, some good music, your favorite cup of tea, plug it into a bubble, whatever that looks like, do it early in the day. Get over that hurdle, and then the rest of your day does feel like "Woohoo!" So what are your frogs? Is there a list?

 

Kathy (host):  

Oh! My frogs is a thing that a lot of it is doing admin type of work, like rescheduling, scheduling, doing email, replying to emails, it's not that it's hard. It's just, it takes time away from the things that I love doing. Like I love talking to people, I like looking at numbers, and I'm not a good writer. I think writing is really hard for me, and social media contents plan for social media content. And that's one of the things that I said I need to be very deliberate about it so that I'm not so that I already have the content that I'm putting out there. But you need to plan for it. And that's my frog, I have to put it in my week to actually plan it. And I haven't been able to successfully deliver on that promise to myself yet.

 

Dawn (guest):  

Then what does that do for your like how you feel about your productivity? Your relationship to those tasks?

 

Kathy (host):  

Usually, in terms of social media, I will just put it off and it just won't get done until finally like, "Oh, I haven't posted in like two weeks, three weeks, I need to do something." It sparks the whole creation, and then I go and do it. It's mostly it gets to a point when it bothers me too much that I have to go and do it. 

 

Dawn (guest):  

Yeah. You're not alone. I know. You're not alone. And wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to wait until that we feel that undue pressure and we've kicked ourselves in the pants a couple of times for not doing it? Building and eating the frog as much as you possibly can. It's a term that really resonates when I do workshops. That is one that is consistent when I ask at the end. What are you going to do differently? What are you taking away? Eating the frog is a very popular one.

 

Kathy (host):  

I actually had a conversation with someone recently, very recently and he literally has toys of frogs on his desk. What he does is when he's eaten the frog, whether it's in the morning or in the afternoon, he takes the frog from one part of the table to the other part making sure. It's a visual reminder, "I have eaten a frog. I have done this." He says that he feels so much better after that. 

 

Dawn (guest):

Yeah. 

 

Kathy (host):

I said what I'm going to do because I do not like frogs. I've actually gotten these like, hideous looking frogs from Amazon just order them, I'm going to put them on my desk, and when I've eaten the frog, I'm going to give myself the allowance to hide them.

 

Dawn (guest):  

I love that. I have one client who actually found chocolate frogs, and she literally treated herself to the chocolate frog after she'd done the horrible tasks. 

 

Kathy (host):  

I love that. I love that idea even more. All right, so we talked about you, the frog, the flow of energy management, and the time management. I also like to talk to you about- You talk a lot about those ADD Processes - the Automate, Delegate, and Delete. I would like you to get more deeply into it. What is it, and how exactly does it look like? 

 

Dawn (guest):  

Yeah, and I really wish I knew who I could credit this to. I read about this approach many years ago. I was like to credit sources, but I don't know where it came from. So ADD and I added a couple of other Ds, DD. So Automate, Delegate, Delete, Defer, Decline, or some other like, there are things you can add on to that. Really, it's about what I do with my clients as I sit down and we do a task inventory. Do we gather what are all the potential things that you have to do to move your business forward, like absolutely everything, and find it in every source? Every post-it note, every voice recording. All your tasks list all of the potential things. And then let's just run them through this little process. You don't need help like. Everyone can do this on their own. Look at each task and decide what is automatable? 

 

Dawn (guest):

First of all, what can you even create a little macro what if the process in whatever tool kits you're using? What workflows can you automate inside your email, newsletter campaigns? There's always little ways that you can take out the human component to make it a little bit easier using some technology or some apps. 

 

Dawn (guest):

And then if the once you've exhausted that you look at what can you delegate. And so if you have, and if you don't have anyone to delegate to, perhaps there's an opportunity to hire a VA or somebody. There's often people who are like, "No, I have nobody I can delegate to I cannot trust anybody." There's deeper issues there. But we'll explore, explore those. Just having a conversation with my clients on this, I often get pushed back on the delegation and when we really go through each task and examine it, I find between 10% and 30% of what's on their list is truly delegatable, and they have someone in their organization who is willing to do it. There's often a perception of "Look, who would want to do that, and I need to do it because I know this stuff." But it's really, it's about taking the time to train and support and empower somebody else with the knowledge and the tools, they need to do it, and that takes time. There's that resistance. If you can get through that initial investment of time, then you'll have somebody that you can delegate to ongoingly, and it will save time in the long run. 

 

Dawn (guest):

Delete - I'd say up to 10% of any tasks on my clients’ lists are very low value, not contributing to, the true strategy and values of the business, and can be let go of or at least deferred, which is the next D. If they're not ready to like take it off their list, put it in a deferral come back to it. It's a good idea, but we'll revisit it later. It's actually a very simple activity. You can do it in like an hour or two. It uncovers some interesting things. 

 

Dawn (guest): 

Here, just a quick thing, I find that business owners entrepreneurs, especially in scaling and taking all the responsibility on themselves are really good. They're technicians, they know their industry, and they're good leaders, but they don't analyze how they do their work. Just to step out of that is not what I'm working on. Let's look at how have the systems that we work on, spend a couple of hours, and it can be really actually life-changing.

 

Kathy (host):  

Do you have any guidance on how you go about doing that? How do you look at how you're doing the work? What are some of the steps that someone would go through to figure that out?

 

Dawn (guest):  

Yeah, it's as simple as starting with a brain dump. And I start with actually something as this sophisticated tool of a post-it note pad, maybe bigger than this. I'm holding up a one-inch one. And then one post-it for each task and keep it as micro as possible. Not a whole project, try and keep it specific with some action verbs, write it, have these posts and then start to look at that as a whole comprehensive approach. 

 

Dawn (guest):

Some people will immediately start to put those into categories of departments or areas of functional areas within their business. Some people will just split it business and personal because you want to include your personal in there too, because there's we're always blending and to separate them out is sort of doing a disservice to both, right, so look at the whole picture comprehensively. 

 

Dawn (guest):

Then literally, you just take each one and do some analysis on it. Can I automate this? Can I delegate this? Can I delete this? If you have a buddy that you can bounce this off or another senior person in your organization or your admin assistant. It really is tremendously helpful to have someone there, asking you, challenging you on it, asking you some tough questions, and just listening and saying, "Well, here's another viewpoint on that." Doing it in isolation, I have to say is a little bit difficult. But if you can find a buddy to do it with, it's really powerful.

 

Kathy (host):  

When it comes to delegation, that's where the systems and processes pay off. 

 

Dawn (guest):

Yeah.

 

Kathy (host):

They are a huge investment in the upfront, but they pay off over and over and over again. Because when you have the SOP- Standard Operating Procedures in the business, you can easily go and delegate it to someone else. You can outsource it,  you can give it to your assistant, you can hire other people, snd you're essentially taking all the information that it had in your brain. You’re putting it on this map, the checklist that people take, and they can replicate the work for you. You don't have to be involved in it, you're just the one essentially checking whether they have done it right or not. 

 

Dawn (guest):  

Yeah, I'm a huge fan of SOPs, checklists, basic processes, and you can look at any business and break it down to its essential processes, or processes, whatever accent you choose to have on that word. And it can feel complicated and overwhelming. But if you break your business down- 

 

Dawn (guest):

I look at it in three ways - sell it, do it, care for it. What is in the 'sell it' umbrella, and selling it is your marketing and your sales and you know getting the product out the door? "Do it" is the delivery. What are the services or products that you're delivering? "Care for it" is all the admin, the finance, where your services would come in, Kathy, like what supports the business infrastructure. If you can keep it as so as that simple and high level is three broad categories, you might throw a fourth one. And the fourth one is creation. If you're like an inventor or you're creating a new product, you might have that upfront. But essentially, you can break any business down to those three components. It just gives you these easy buckets to slot things into and then figures stuff out.

 

Kathy (host):  

I love that. It's a lot easier to think about it. When you think about it in buckets, where you are in the buckets, what are some of the things that you're doing in there, and what you can either get rid of, or you can delegate and just move on to something that it's gonna bring you either more money, or it's gonna bring you more joy? You can spend time with your family, you can spend time with your kids. I think the business is a lot more joyful to work in as well because you didn't start a business to be doing all of these and more. You started because you really, really like what you're doing and you want to bring value to the world and you want to enjoy your life. Right?

 

Dawn (guest):  

And that's a really good point when you're doing the ADD activity though, a big question to ask is what is the value add of this particular task? And look at how does it impact your client and the joy that you get in the process of doing that task? Right? Sometimes there's stuff that we just don't love to do. But someone in the organization sometimes loves to do things that we don't and you can find those handoffs, but ultimately, the value add to the client, how does it impact the client? Is this serving us or is it costing us?

 

Kathy (host):  

Yeah, that's a great point. I'm going to switch gear to this thing called batch processing. And I would like you to speak a little bit more about what exactly it is, and how can we use that in our productivity.

 

Dawn (guest):  

It's kind of like the opposite of the multitasking we're referring to before. Taking a series of tasks that are similar, that your brain can process in a similar way. If you think of the left brain, right brain, if you're wanting to deep dive and do high-value deep work, pick all of your creative tasks that are somewhat related. Actually, I'm going to pick a different example. Because the common ones are more the administrative type of tasks to batch process. 

 

Dawn (guest):

If you have a series of phone calls to make, and they're not fixed in time, they're not appointments, but you have to reach out and touch base with five or six clients. Batch process those put those into a one-hour time frame or whatever you think it's going to take. Have your list of clients 1,2,3,4,5 the phone numbers and your speaking points. What is the main agenda point for each one? And once you do the first phone call, and a lot of people have a fair bit of- It's fascinating to me how resistant we are these days to picking up a physical phone. Just you know, and kind of feels like you're intruding? ... There's a funny thing about phone calls. But once you've done the first one, and if someone actually answers and you have a conversation, then your brain is in this mode and you get into a flow. Then the second one is easier, the 3 1/4, whatever. 

 

Dawn (guest):

We want to be doing similar tasks so that we can get into a flow. And you had mentioned something before when you were in the bubble and your husband came to ask you a question. He was interrupting your flow and pulling you away. Every time we’ve pulled away from something which is either internal distraction or external, and we start multitasking, there's that startup cost. You mentioned that could take you 10 minutes to get back into that task. When we batch process, we sort of eliminate, we have an upfront startup cost investment and say, let's say spreadsheet analysis, right? You got to get those spreadsheets open, figure out what it is that you're doing with those that take a little brainpower. Sometimes a little organizational stuff, and if you can do similar tasks along those lines, other spreadsheet related things, number crunching, your brain is like "Yeah, just getting warmed up after the first little bit," and then try and stay in that so that you don't get pulled away and have another startup cost. Our brains love to batch process naturally.

 

Kathy (host):  

Yeah, and one thing that I've noticed with myself is when I have to switch - the hardest thing for me is to switch between spreadsheet works, and actual creative stuff like content creation because I feel like these are two different processes, right?

Dawn (guest):  

Yeah, absolutely, your brain has to function a little bit differently for each one. If you can set aside a couple of hours of time to do your writing, and your social and not have to go back to the spreadsheet world, your brain will be very happy with that. I mean, it's a fairly simple concept. If you look at your day, you just have a glance at your calendar and think about how to split up our day often is with a meeting, and then a little bit of work, and then another meeting, if we could- 

Dawn (guest):

First of all, going back to energy alignment, understand whether we're introverted, extroverted, where energy falls, if you are say high energy in the morning, then keep that morning free for deep work. Don't plug meetings into that, use that energy, harness it, eat the frog, all of the things will come together, come to focus bubble, but will eat the frog get all your good work done in the morning. And then in the afternoon, you could batch three meetings in a row, you know, with a little bit of time in between the process and do the follow-up notes. But we generally, I mean, I look at people's calendars every day. And it's so they're so chopped up that it's not serving them. So if you can, if you have freedom and flexibility and autonomy to actually control your meeting schedule. And these days, so many people have a Calendly or Acuity or whatever. Block that time so that other people aren't blocking it in for you. Batch process your meetings so that you have your deep work, in another batch.

 

Kathy (host):  

Is this where time blocking would come really handy as well. You can batch process those. Those specific tasks into that particular time block so you could say every Tuesday, between three and six, I am doing deep focus client work, for example?

 

Dawn (guest):  

Yeah, exactly. Yep. Easy answer. It's exactly what you need to do. People, I don't do it very well, I didn't do it very well that's partly why I created focus bubbles, because I was very scattered, particularly during COVID, which is just out of my natural element. And so now, I just have that peace of mind, knowing that it's in my calendar every morning from 9 to 10. Certain afternoons, from what time to what time, I can just relax, I have that peace of mind knowing I know to plug certain things into those time slots. And then I'm not holding them in my brain like an open loop. It has this, you know, time blocking is a really effective technique. Cal Newport writes very well about it. If you want to do a deep dive there, but it takes a fair bit of discipline, and I would say in my client base about 30-40% do it. Well, it's not for everybody.

 

Kathy (host):  

What do you see things that some of the challenges are with time blocking when people go on that path? Are there any particular mistakes that you see people making when you take that and then they take that particular productivity tool into? 

 

Dawn (guest):  

Yeah, that's an excellent question. People get overzealous and super excited about it. And like block too much time and or too long of a block. I hold 45 minutes to 90-minute maximum is a nice starting place once or twice a week is like people just want to do, "Okay, I'm going to do this every day, and I'm going to hold my time." And then they're getting you to know, "oh, they're getting people annoyed at them because they can't other people can't book meetings in, etc." Yeah, being overzealous is one issue, or what happens most commonly which ties in with that as people book the time and then they don't honor it. Again, you got this, you're beating yourself up for something you committed to and then you didn't hold it. And so that gets that doesn't feel good. And we want to celebrate our success, not beat ourselves up for not adhering to something that we promise to ourselves.

 

Kathy (host):  

I would think that being realistic about it and knowing that you are going to have to schedule your lunch, your workouts, your bathroom breaks, right, you cannot expect that you're going to be having an hour back-to-back of deep focus work or client meetings over or whatever it might be that there aren't going to have to be these little life breaks in between, right?

 

Dawn (guest):  

Yeah, whitespace. So that's what I refer to as whitespace. You don't want to look at your calendar and see at least 30% whitespace to ensure some sanity. And I mean, you know how good it feels when you have a day where you don't have anything particularly scheduled like no meetings, and how rare that is. But I get super excited when I see like, I try and hold Fridays like that occasionally. And that just allows you that freedom to immerse into work and really do your deep dives. If you can't have that white space, then create the white space by booking, you know, time to work on things instead of allowing meetings to take over your life.

 

Kathy (host):  

And that's actually the time and I take that time to think about new ideas about my business, think about new services that might offer, and just kind of let my creativity wander. 

 

Dawn (guest):

Yeah. 

 

Kathy (host):

And I find that refreshing, I find that it brings the energy, it is just joyful to have that whitespace.

 

Dawn (guest):  

Absolutely. There's one gal in the bubble who plugs in creative daydreaming is what she calls it. She has set aside, you know, one bubble every couple of weeks, a 90 minute one, and with no tasks, like there's ... that space to hold. Then she'll I can, I love peeking at her because she'll be dancing around your music going and can tell she's really just like, having an experience where she's creating ideas. I had some people say, "Well, I can't force that." Well, we actually can, we can force that by creating the right atmosphere for ourselves and eliminating distractions. It's just that we're so reactive right now, or we're always but it's worse. It's worse in the last year. Always checking news feeds, and there's a lot more pulling at our attention. We're not giving ourselves that that freedom and that whitespace to just relax as your brain does in the shower or on a drive or on a walk.

 

Kathy (host):  

Yeah, you don't have to be constantly on.

 

Dawn (guest):

No.

 

Kathy (host):

You mentioned before the differences in how introverts and extroverts work and how they're scheduling their day. And I wonder if you could give a little bit more context about how does it work for the two different types of people.

 

Dawn (guest):  

The fundamental definition, and there's also the ambivert, in the middle, and Dan Pink writes about that really nicely. But really, the fundamental definition is where do you draw your energy? It's not whether you're shy or reserved, or it's just like, where do you draw your energy. If it's from people then you're an extrovert, it's from being alone and having quiet time, you're an introvert. And so I think of my introverted clients, and when we're designing their day, we're keeping that, that introversion in mind in terms of if they need to draw energy for their work, they're going to avoid meetings in that timeframe. It's just consciousness and awareness of how is that going to make you feel to do deep work or to have to deal with people then think of the consequences. Just being self-aware, I would say read the book, quiet. If you're an introvert, and it's life-changing by Susan Cain.

 

Kathy (host):  

I'm actually started experimenting with this myself as well because I notice being an introvert, even though I love interacting with people, I know that if I have a couple of back-to-back meetings, this is going to deplete me. It's not a good time to jump right into deep work, spreadsheet work, something that really takes a lot of mental energy, because I just don't have much left. You've given us so many ideas of how to schedule our day, how to find joy in our day. When someone's trying to implement this in their business, in their workflow, in their productivity, what do you think would be the best next tangible step that they someone can take back to their business? Something that they can do over the next week to be really more productive and more focused on what they're doing?

 

Dawn (guest):  

Well, my answer to everything right now is focus bubbles. But if not that this is not a sexy answer. And this is not what people want to hear. But doing a time tracking activity. Like it's all about self-awareness, and truly acknowledging where your time goes. Because you can't improve, you can't fix basically, you can't fix a process unless you've analyzed it and you know what the "as is" state is, so you need to know your "as is" state, it can be as simple as writing it down. Use a free app called Clockify. There's a bunch of free tools out there. Nobody likes this activity and wants to do it. But it is an amazing eye-opener to see where you're spending your time. And then once you know like, you said Kathy, with your social once you know that it may be expanded from one hour to two hours. It makes it a lot easier to tackle that. Self-awareness first. 

Dawn (guest):

Here's a simple one. If that seems overwhelming, do this. Post-it note again, anytime you're multitasking put a little tick, creating the little fence posts. Anytime you sense or you feel you're multitasking Put a tick, by the end of the day, see how many little fences you built. And that will be a little cue for you that you might be multitasking more than is healthy.

 

Kathy (host):  

That's really helpful. Thank you for that. I'm gonna start doing that. 

Dawn (guest):

It's scary. 

 

Kathy (host):

Yeah. I just hope I stay on one post-it note. I don't have to start another one. 

 

Dawn (guest):  

Start with really tiny ones. But then I have people who are writing- One guy said to me, he called me after a couple of weeks. He's like, "I did really, really, really tiny fence posts. All posts are covered in them. It was very cute.

 

Kathy (host):  

Dawn, where can our listeners get in touch with you.

 

Dawn (guest):  

dawn@dawnoconnor.ca or the easiest thing is focusbubbles.com. So focus F-O-C-U-Sbubbles with an s.com 

 

Kathy (host):  

Great, thank you so much for being on the show, Dawn.

 

Dawn (guest):  

Thanks for having me.

 

Kathy (host):  

I hope you've enjoyed this episode with Dawn. She gave us so many great tools and resources on how to increase productivity and do it in a way that works for you and for your style of work. As a reminder, this episode comes with timestamps to topics we discussed and it has its own blog post as well. You can find all of these timestamps, the links to the blog the books, and the resources that Dawn mentioned, including the link to her website on the show notes of this episode. And also, this episode is a part of the trilogy. So make sure to tune into Episode 11, the next episode, where we're going to be diving into this idea of busyness and how to cultivate a culture in your business that focuses on not just getting the stuff done, but getting the right stuff done. And one last thing before I go, I do have a favor to ask. If you're listening to this on Apple Podcasts. If you could please go to the show and tap the number of stars that you think the show deserves. Because it helps other people find it in and helps other entrepreneurs as well. Thanks so much. Until next time!