Episode 476: 12 Simple Improvements I’ve Made To My Daily Work Habits (best of the podcast)

In this episode I’m going to share 12 simple changes I made to my daily work habits that have allowed my business to grow.

These are changes that I have made over the last three years. Some of these have been made in the last months and others I have been practicing for years. 

Upon reflection, these have been some of the daily work habits that really allowed my business to take off. These habits have allowed me to be able to go full-time in my business, to grow my team, to impact thousands of perfectionists and create the potential to impact even more perfectionists in the future.

I want you to be helped by this episode so be sure to think about your daily work habits and what you can implement into your daily work lifestyle. Tune in and let’s get started!

Find the full episode transcript and show notes at samlaurabrown.com/episode476.

In This Episode You’ll Learn:

  • How I structure my work day so that I can get more done in less time
  • Simple things I do that stop me from falling off the wagon
  • Why I stopped saying ‘yes’ to everyone else’s demands on my time
  • A free iPhone trick that helps me to be more productive

Featured In The Episode:

Work With Me:

My coaching program Perfectionists Getting Shit Done (aka PGSD) teaches you how to plan properly as a perfectionist so you can get out of your own way in your business. To find out more about the program and sign up today, visit: samlaurabrown.com/pgsd.

Listen To The Episode

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Hi and welcome to another episode of The Perfectionism Project, a podcast full of perfectionism advice for entrepreneurs. My name is Sam Laura Brown, I help entrepreneurs release their perfectionism handbrake so they can get out of their own way and build a fulfilling and profitable business. I’m the founder of the Perfectionist Getting Shit Done group coaching program, which is otherwise known as PGSD. And for even more perfectionism advice to help you with your business. You can follow me on Instagram @perfectionismproject.

Sam Laura Brown (Custom Introduction)
I have a best of the podcast episode for you today. So now that I have recorded nearly 500 podcast episodes, I am sharing some of the most popular episodes on the podcast again, so that they don’t get buried in the archives and you can actually listen to them and get incredible value from them. And this episode is no exception to that. So the episode is called 12 simple improvements I’ve made to my daily work habits, and it’s going to share with you some really practical advice to help you to be productive and show up the way you want to show up in your business. And when it comes to the daily practices and habits, obviously you’ve heard me talk about before, power planning is really the tool that brings everything together and helps me implement so many of the things that I talk about in this episode. But I hope that by hearing some more specifics about my personal, work life and my day and what that looks like, it really gets you thinking about yours and helps you change the way that you work and the way that you show up as well. So this episode was actually recorded in 2021. I believe I recorded it before I gave birth to my daughter Lydia. So at the time, I wasn’t yet a mum, and I had a different life circumstance to what I do now as a mom of three little ones.

So I think you’re gonna find it incredibly valuable as well to hear from that perspective. And of course, my daily work habits have grown and evolved and changed with different seasons of my life. But some of the fundamentals about just working at a time of day that works best for you, and those sorts of things really are so important to be able to master at any stage of your life in any season, because you have that skill set that you can then bring with you to a different season of life. And you’re not having to wait to be told what to do. You’re able to actually adapt your productivity tools to work for you no matter what season you’re in, which is why, with power planting as well, we don’t tell you like you have to wake up at this time and have this amount of clean rest. It really is flexible structure for your week to help you with your mindset and to help you with your productivity too, so that you can get shit done and shop as a person you want to be showing up as in your business and in your personal life. So if you want to learn more about power planning, I will link up in the show notes the free training that I’ve created on power planning. But I hope you enjoy this episode and hearing about the simple improvements I made to my daily work habits, I know you’re going to get a lot from it.

Sam Laura Brown (Start of the Episode)
In this episode, I’m going to share with you 12 simple changes I made to my daily work habits that allowed my business to grow. These are changes that I have made, I would say, over the last three years. Some of them have been more recent, others I made a few years ago, but these are upon reflection, some of the daily work habits that really allowed my business to take off, for me to be able to go full time in the business, to build my team, to impact the number of people that we are currently impacting, and also these habits have allowed the business and myself to create the potential to impact and help even more people in the future.

So as I go through these changes that I made to my daily work habits, I am going to be talking about changes that were specific to me and how I work best. But I of course, want you to be helped by this episode, and so I want you to be thinking about your daily work habits, what they currently look like, and also whether any of these changes that I made could be changes that would help you as well. I also want you to be thinking about intellectual knowledge versus implementation and execution. So it might be that as you are listening to me talk about some of these work habits that you’re like, yeah, yeah, I know that already. I know that already. But are you living it? If someone looked at your life from the outside, would they know that you know that? Or is it just you understand the theory of it, and you’ve heard people say it’s important, but you’re not actually living it because we want to have you actually living what you know.

That’s why PGSD exists to help you go beyond procrastinating and intellectual understanding to actually live all of those things that you know in terms of personal development and also in terms of business. Because when our handbrake is on, we get in our own way. We often end up thinking that intellectual knowledge and having potential is enough, but that’s not the case when it comes to business. If you want your business to reflect your potential, you need to be so onto yourself. When it comes to knowing things, just because you know something, it doesn’t mean you’re doing it. We want to make sure you’re doing it.

So I just wanted to say that at the beginning of the episode, because I know that it is so tempting to say, well, I already know this, and I need some magical new kind of tip or trick or hack to help me. And we want that novelty when it comes to what we’re learning, but what I have discovered over the years is mastering and living those fundamentals is so much more powerful than always finding this new shiny hack or trick or tip. So with that said, let’s get into these 12 simple changes I made to my daily work habits that have allowed my business to grow.

The first is taking into consideration the time of day that I work best. Obvious. Yes, does everyone do it? No, it’s very easy, especially when that handbrake is on, to be so influenced by what works best for other people. So power planning is the tool that allowed me to figure out what time of day actually works best for me. Power planning is taught inside perfectionist getting shit done. But I discovered through power planning and through reflecting on my week and doing all those steps that I don’t actually like slow mornings, so something that I had experimented with last year and say for the last Yeah, basically the whole of 2020, I’m pretty sure, is that I started hearing a lot of people talking about having a slower morning and starting later in the day, and previously I had started earlier in the morning. I did find that really worked for me, but I was like, Huh? I wonder if starting later in the day and kind of easing into the day and doing an extended morning routine and reading and all these things would help me to be more productive and to really get the most out of each work day.

But upon reflection, and it took me quite a while to realize this, but upon reflection, I do my best work. I find it easiest to do my best work in the morning and to get things done like I like having a little bit of a morning routine, but nothing too extended. Otherwise, I kind of lose the momentum. And if I start like I was starting for a lot of 2020, around, I want to say 10:11am, and I just found that my like courage stores almost were not as strong as they were earlier in the day. So it was more challenging for me to do courageous things. Could still do them, but it was more challenging. And it would take me longer to do things. My brain just was in a different gear at that time of day. And so really reflecting on the time of day that worked best for me, and taking that into consideration was really powerful and also not being influenced by obviously, there’s a lot of people who say you need to wake up at 5am and do this as an entrepreneur, or people who say you don’t need to do that and you need to have this slow morning. But also there’s the influence of, especially if you’re full time in your business, of working nine to five, like the classic corporate hours.

And I’ll talk about this in the next point. Actually, I’ll just kind of blend them together. The next one is about working six hours per day maximum, because when I first was full time in my business, I was really focused on like, Okay, I’m full time in my business, and that kind of needs to just look like a full time job, and so I’m going to work similar hours to what I worked when I was a full time accountant in the corporate world. So that doesn’t really work for me and most people. I feel like those hours are more corporate convenience than anything else. But at about three o’clock, and I could see this with my power planning, about three o’clock, my brain is like, that’s it. We’re done. I could definitely continue sitting at my computer, but I’m really not in any kind of creative flow. It’s very rare for that to happen at that time of day. Again, things take longer and all of that. And this was even true when I was working in my accounting role, and in other situations, like at university, when I was in classes at that time of day.

It was just really challenging for me to get anything done those couple of hours. I kind of just be coasting through them, and they wouldn’t be productive. And it was so scary to think about finishing my day early because I felt like I wasn’t I should be working more. I should be doing more, like all this time I’m having off in the afternoon could be spent being more productive, which would build the business more quickly, and all of that kind of thing. It was so easy to have those thoughts. And I’m so glad that this year, in 2021 I really experimented with changing my workday so it actually suited me, which meant starting at 830 working through to 230 not having a lunch break, so like having a breakfast just before I started, and having a later lunch, so that I’m really just focused, it’s just six hours. And my brain worked so well with that, because I could see that there was light at the end of the tunnel that I didn’t need to be focused for the whole day, and that I could just get in do those things and then have time off.

And I’ve shared on this podcast before how getting clean rest is something that was initially a big struggle for me, because probably, like your brain, my brain says all of that you should be more productive stuff, and it just felt vulnerable, in a sense, to finish my day at 230 it felt like I was leaving all of this potential on the table. And yet, when I committed to doing that anyway, my productivity skyrocketed. I got more done in less time, and it really helped me to build more of an identity than I already had outside of the business and to pursue other things that I was interested in to figure out what those things were, and there was so much benefit to doing that. I think, in hindsight, in 2020 the reason that I had had these slow mornings, which would mean I kind of started 11am and finish at 6pm was because I felt like I was doing a full day since I finished at the classic like corporate world time, and it was just so helpful to see that my brain was still like, oh, you need to be working a full day to be considering yourself legit and consider yourself a hard worker and therefore deserving and all of that kind of stuff.

But calling that into question and changing my day so it actually worked for me was so powerful. And then within that really focusing on doing those scary, courageous tasks first and then doing admin tasks later on in the day. It’s very tempting, and some people work better this way. So it’s again, really about figuring out what works best for you. Power planning will help you to do that and help you see trends and patterns you wouldn’t see on a to do list. But for some people, it helps them to warm up by looking at email and just doing some more admin kind of things that are a bit more mindless require a bit less courage. But for me, I find that when I do that, that kind of sets the tone for the day, and it’s challenging to then ramp up into anything more courageous.

So doing those courageous things. It might be putting myself out there. It might not be doing that. It might be doing some creative work that is challenging, that I have resistance around because I have my perfectionism handbrake still on in some ways. And those sorts of this needs to be perfect. I need to say exactly the right thing, all of that. So just getting that done first really helps me to actually get it done. And I found it way easier when I was doing life admin stuff first, and having a slower morning to then not have the energy to find it more challenging. My courage is depleted at that point or is a lot harder to access. So I tell myself, I’ll do it tomorrow, and all of that kind of thing.

So just some really simple tweaks in terms of the structure of my day and how long it lasts in terms of my work day has been so helpful for that. Also having plenty of days off and what I did that really worked for me. This isn’t possibly an option for everyone, and it depends if you have a partner and what your partner does. But for me, Steve, my fiance, he’s a paramedic and emergency nurse. He does shift work, and so it didn’t make sense to me to have Saturdays and Sundays off, because he almost always works every he works every Sunday, every second Saturday, typically, at least that was his schedule. So I was aligning my days to work with him, so I work on the weekends too and have days off during the week, even though, again, that’s not the classic nine to five thing to do, but it was important to me that since one of the reasons I created my own business is so I could have more freedom and flexibility, that I then wasn’t punishing myself by creating some kind of schedule that doesn’t actually work best for me, and instead, I could have days off when he had days off, even if we weren’t hanging out together. It just was so much better to have my days off aligned with his, instead of us never having any days off together.

And I used to have it that way because I was very much in the mindset of like I need to treat this like it’s a job, and therefore work these corporate hours that don’t really work well for anyone anyway. So that was a little change that helped, and with that, number three that I wanted to mention is giving each day a clear start and end. And I’ve talked about this before as it relates to self trust, it’s very important in terms of a sense of accomplishment as well. Initially I was not really having any start or end to the day. So before I was using power planning and my calendar, I just have a to do list, and I kind of get started when I get started, and I’d finished, or in the early days of me working from a calendar as well. I just kind of extend my day on and on and on, depending on either if I was procrastinating a lot and things weren’t done, then I would extend it so I could get everything done, or if I was having a productive day, and because I didn’t believe I could be productive again another day, I would try to capitalize on that productivity and extend my workday, thereby punishing myself for being focused.

So having a very clear Start and End and really treating that with respect made such a big difference to my work day because it also helped with that clean rest, so that I knew, like this is literally the time that I’m going to work and any other time is not work time. So like, why would I even feel guilty about not working during that time? Because it’s literally not work time. This is something that really comes up. If you are working from home, if you’re your own boss, you can set your own hours that it’s very easy to just be like, I’ll do it whenever I feel like it, but especially if you’ve got courageous needle movers on your calendar, on your to do list, then you’re not really going to feel like it. And it’s very easy to delay the start of the day and to extend the end of the day, and to end up with this situation. And this is what I used to be in, especially when I first started working from home, and I think this was even before I was full time in the business and I was I had left my insolvency accounting role and gone back to a part time job that I had as a hospital receptionist, as a uni student, so that I could have more time to work on the business, so I didn’t have to leave for that job until 3pm so it was kind of like I had a full business day, and then I would work four hours in the evening or in the late afternoon at my job, and so I didn’t have this clear Start and End.

Obviously, I had to leave to go to work, but besides that, it was kind of like every other time could be business time, and we think that’ll be more productive if it’s like, well, cool, I need to have any time of day be available. And if I’m not working at all times of day in my business, I should feel guilty and all of that. But what I found when I, especially when I wasn’t doing this clear start and end of the day and clear days that I was and wasn’t working, was that I was never all in on anything. So on a work day, quote, unquote, I would be doing a load of laundry and doing all these other things that weren’t actually work related. And then on a day off, I would be dabbling in work things as well. So I was kind of never fully in anything. And even though there’s like, I’m not saying not to do laundry. If you’re working from home, like, put a load on whatever, that’s completely fine.

But the way that I was doing it, it meant I was never I was never all in and I think subconsciously, I was doing that to avoid feeling vulnerable and to avoid feeling like a failure if things didn’t work, because I could say, well, you know, the business would be going better if I wasn’t so busy with all of these home tasks that I need to do while I’m working when I was choosing to do them. And a lot of us have a story that we just like things being clean, and we just need things to be clean before we can start working. That is bullshit. It is such a little sneaky way that we hold ourselves back those little things that sound so logical and they sound great, like, Oh, cool. You’re just a clean and organized person, but when it means that you spend two hours decluttering your office, and then you’re so exhausted from doing that that you don’t get anything done, you need to really check in on yourself with that and ask yourself, if it’s so important to you, why don’t you do it at a time that actually makes sense to do it instead of doing it suddenly when you have other scarier things to do.

So I’m not saying to live in squalor or anything like that, but if you have been using that as a reason not to do work when the time comes to do it, of oh, I just need to clean this first, or I just need to do those dishes, if it’s so important to you, why would you only be motivated to do it when you have less appealing tasks on your plate? Just consider that, and yeah, maybe call yourself out on it if you have been using that excuse, because I’ve heard it quite a lot, and it sounds lovely to say that, but I am calling bullshit on that. And if it’s so important, do it at a better time, rather than the important work time that you have, because that is really going to diminish your self trust.

If you said that you want to start work at this time and you don’t, then, that is impacting your ability to trust that your word to yourself is good. And if you also think about if you hired an employee to work with you on the business, and you said, Hey, what did you get done today? And they’re like, actually, everything was so messy, so I just spent the day decluttering my laptop, and then I, you know, did the dishes. And it’s like, cool. Well, I would pay a cleaner for that, but I’m not paying you to be a cleaner. So why you do like you would not be happy with that employee and that we yet we let ourselves do that kind of thing because it feels productive to do the cleaning without feeling vulnerable, and we’re trying to tick that productivity box in the least painful way, and that often results in procrasti-cleaning, procrasti-learning, procrasti-planning all those different things.

So having a clear start and end to the day made a huge difference for me, especially when it came to self trust and really trusting that when I say I’m done, I’m done, and also, if I wasn’t done by the end time that I had planned for myself, I was able to experience the consequence of that, which gave me more motivation to be focused next time, because I knew that I wouldn’t just extend that deadline out, and also, if I got things done early, giving myself an early mark. So my brain was rewarded for being so focused and productive, instead of punishing myself and giving myself more to do, and also signaling to myself I’m not the kind of person who’s productive, so I need to capitalize on this today.

And if you’re finishing out like you might be thinking, okay, but if I’m finishing early every day, like I’m really not doing enough then or what, and it can be really challenging with this, because we are so used to filling our days with busy work and calling that productivity, that when we’re truly productive and we get the most done in terms of needle movers in the least amount of time, which is what is most productive, because you’re literally producing more and producing more of what matters that we think that’s not productivity, because It didn’t take long, but often the most productive day takes the least amount of time, but the most amount of courage. But what it could mean is that, then when you’re doing your power planning, you’re doing your weekly review at the end of the week, like, Hey, I finish early every day this week, maybe I actually need to add a couple more things to my plate, like, I could afford to do that and still finish on time. So the weekly review really has a powerful role there. So that’s number three.

The fourth is filming a time lapse of myself when I am working. So I believe this is called the audience effect. When you feel like someone’s watching that you will act differently to if it was just yourself. So that kind of goes on when you are doing a time lapse. So by that, I mean, and sorry, I’m not an Android user, so I don’t know what you guys have, but for anyone who has an iPhone, if you just go to your camera and it has the options of photo, video, slow mo, all of that, all the way to the left is time lapse. And. And I just put my phone up against something near me, maybe a mug, or my laptop or something else, and I’ll flick the screen so it faces towards me, and I will hit play or hit record on the time lapse so that it is recording me as I am working. And it means, again, it kind of feels like I’m being watched, not consciously, like it’s not even like I put most of them anywhere. They just live in my phone, but I feel like I’m being watched, and that really helps me, in some ways, to focus as well.

But I can’t use my phone because it is recording the time lapse. But also, I use the distraction journal, which is a tool that is inside PGSD, to help me with urges to pick up my phone, I don’t recommend relying on strategies like this to stop you from picking up your phone, because it’s kind of the equivalent of removing junk food from your house. Yes, it works, so long as no one brings junk food to your house and then you eat it all because you haven’t actually done the brain training that you need to to lessen your desire for the junk food. So we want to do the same thing with our phone and lessen our desire to pick it up, rather than just stopping ourselves from doing that, because it means then, when you’re not recording the time lapse, you’re just going to be picking up your phone and doing all that stuff. So the distraction journal will really help you to lessen your desire. But in the meantime, filming a time lapse of yourself could be something fun. You can also, if you want to put it on Instagram stories or whatever, but most of the ones like, I would say 90% of the time lapses I record just live in my phone for no purpose, like they’re not going to be put anywhere, but they’re really just helping me with my workday.

Number five is keeping my plans workable. I used to not do this, so when my handbrake was on really hard, I was in that all or nothing mindset. I would create plans for myself. I’d take a long time doing that because I wanted them to be perfect, and then I would over planned, so I put way too much on my plate, and then obviously, because I was a human, I couldn’t actually follow through with it, I’d fall behind on my plans quite quickly, and I would then not keep my plans workable. So I would just fall behind and then ignore my calendar or ignore my to do list, and yeah, I just wouldn’t keep it workable, and then I’d wait till Monday to have a fresh start and to do it all over again, and just deem that weak, ruined and unproductive.

And that really stopped me from being productive. And what the power planning method really encompasses is a lot of ways to help you avoid doing that. So you do a one hour weekly power planning session where you are putting your to do list into your calendar in a way that is actually going to be workable and does take into account that you are a human. You’re not planning for your ideal self. You’re planning for actual you, and then part of power planning is keeping your plans workable. But I didn’t used to do this. So before I figured out power planning, and I was working from my calendar, like, while I was in that process, I really put so much on my calendar, like, it literally was impossible to follow through with what was on there, and I just didn’t keep my plans workable. And this is why I recommend working from a calendar rather than a to do list, because when you’re working from a to do list, you’re not even really considering workability, and often you’ll just put way too much on your plate, because there’s no time constraints. You’re not forced to look at the reality of how much energy and time you have. But keeping plans workable makes such a difference.

So what I do when it comes to this is I work from my iCal. So when I’m doing my power planning session, I will hand write out my to do list and the first few steps of that process, and then I will put it into my calendar, and I use my iCal. And so what I will do is, during the day, when I’m working, I have my iCal open, and I will be following it. And then if, if I wasn’t able to follow through, I’m human. I’m not perfect. I wasn’t able to exactly follow through with what I had planned, I will adjust what’s in my calendar as I go to reflect what I’ve actually done. It’s not to the minute, it’s just rough. It’s as close as I can get it so iCal, you can only go in certain increments. So it just takes experimenting to figure out exactly what that’s going to look like for you. But I just wanted to mention that I’m not planning like to the minute. And when I was in accounting, we had to do these six minute time sheets and keep track of our day in six minute increments, and it was so tedious and such a waste of time in a lot of ways.

So it’s not about doing that, but it’s just putting in enough information that I have clarity enough to follow it without feeling overwhelmed and having to make lots of decisions, and then I can update it. So it’s about right, so that in hindsight, I. And review it at the end of the week and see what changed throughout the week and what I might need to do differently next time, the lessons I can take with me into the next week. So having those plans be workable and having it open throughout the day and then at the end of the day, I am now like in such a solid habit of this, but at the end of the day, end of my work day, I would just check in again, quickly review it to make sure that it reflects what actually happened that day. It’s we don’t want to have these plans, like if you’re working from your calendar, we don’t want to have your calendar be what you plan to do but didn’t actually do, because then it’s not a helpful tool. We want it to be what you plan to do this week, and then as the week goes on, you adjust it and update it to reflect what you actually did, so that your calendar becomes a record of what was done.

So I like to also add a little check mark emoji next to each task as I do it, so I get that satisfaction from ticking things off, the keeping plans workable. Such a game changer. And there’s so many different ways you can do this. One of the ways I do this is adding buffer time. So instead of filling out my whole work week with a whole heap of different tasks and no wiggle room, I will add some buffer time, like I literally write on my calendar buffer time, so that if things take longer than I had anticipated because I hadn’t done that task before, I wasn’t familiar with it, or something came up along the way, or whatever, I’m a human. Something came up that I can just alter things and put it in that buffer time, instead of having to then work over time and doing that kind of thing. So there’s a lot of ways to keep plans workable, but that is a skill, a habit, one of the huge ones that really helped me release that handbrake, get out of my own way and become so much more productive instead of just having Monday, Tuesday be productive, fall off the wagon, Wednesday, wait till Monday, repeat. That doesn’t really work.

So number six is having needle movers in my calendar instead of busy work. And needle movers are the tasks that will actually help you to build your business. Busy work is the tasks that feel comfortable without feeling vulnerable. They feel productive without feeling vulnerable. It’s challenging to discern the difference sometimes, because a lot of busy work really feels important, but if you were spending longer on a task, then you actually need to spend you are doing it in a complicated way so you can feel deserving and like you have you’re working hard for your dreams. There’s so many different ways busy work comes up where we are working for work’s sake, but really putting needle movers as a priority in my calendar and figuring out what those needle movers are has made such a difference because I used to spend a lot of time doing things that didn’t matter and that weren’t actually making a difference. So I would finish that day feeling productive, but then I would look back over the last month and see that I didn’t really do anything that was going to create a different kind of business than the one I already had.

So as you’re building your business, are going to be tasks that are maintenance, kind of tasks, where they will help you to stay at your current level. And there are tasks that are going to move you to being that next level kind of business. And it’s so easy to just keep doing the tasks that will keep you where you currently are, because they’re comfortable. They feel super important. But it’s taking that bigger picture view, which is so helpful, having the weekly power planning session. This is when you can do that, to really look at like, if I got everything done on this calendar, would I actually be creating a different kind of business than I have today, or would I just be staying in maintenance mode? So that’s been a big focus that has helped me in making that shift.

Clean rest is number seven. I have kind of mentioned this throughout it, but having clean rest, which is resting without guilt, was probably the biggest change that increased my productivity and also helped me build self worth and self esteem beyond my business, which helped me be more courageous and get out of my own way, so many other things like that as well. But I initially never had time off, and I told myself that, well, I just love my business. I love what I do, so I don’t even need time off, and that’s such a gift and a perk, and isn’t that amazing? But just because you love something doesn’t mean you should do it all the time. And when I realized that, and I also realized the benefit in like the saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder. That was so true with my business that when I actually took time off to have clean rest, resting without feeling guilty. So I’m not buying into this story of I should be more productive in my rest time, just like no, I’m actually resting.

And even though I don’t know what I want to do, because I’m still figuring out who I am beyond being productive, I’m not going to do business stuff that really allowed me to actually miss my business in a really helpful way. I still think about my business when I’m having clean rest, because our brains just do what our brains do a lot of the time. We can do thought work, but we’re not going to be able to catch every thought we have. So I’m often on my days off thinking about business stuff. But it’s so helpful to have that time away from the business, because it means that when I get to the start of my day again, this goes back to point three about having a clear start and end, that when it comes to the start of my day, I am chomping at the bit. I am so excited to get to work, because I’ve missed it, because I have wanted to do things and haven’t been able to, because I’ve been practicing clean rest and when I wasn’t doing this, so I used to not have clean rest, and every moment of the day was potential business time that I never missed my business.

And I still thought about it when I was showering and doing all these different things, but I didn’t miss my business in the same way. And so I didn’t have as many creative ideas or that same desire and motivation that I had when I actually added in clean rest. And I was like, Oh, but I really want to be working, but I can’t work right now because I’m resting. So I can’t wait to get started tomorrow, and to really hit the ground running instead of, okay, well, it’s just like it just I used to have just one long, big day that never seemed to end. And it also meant then there was no urgency to actually do anything, like when I didn’t have clean rest. And I was really buying into this story of the more time I spend on my business, the more productive and successful I will be.

There was no end. So again, there’s no consequence for being unproductive, which makes it super easy to procrastinate and do a lot of that. But it meant that there was no urgency to do the needle movers, because I could always do it tomorrow, I could do it tomorrow, I could do it tomorrow. But when you have clean rest, and when you have days of clean rest as well, just not just hours at the end of the day, it means that you actually realize you need to get the needle movers done. You can’t just always put them off until tomorrow. So that really made such a difference. And I first started experimenting with clean rest when I was a uni student. So I think this was 2014 because I had started my blog already, and I think I wrote about it on there. But I used to do the same thing with uni, how we do one thing is how we do everything.

And so I have a law degree and I have a finance degree as well, and when I was getting those, I felt guilty whenever I wasn’t studying, and that didn’t mean I didn’t procrastinate a lot, and I had my handbrake on in a lot of ways, so I wasn’t always being productive, even though I wanted to be. But I told myself, like, I can’t really take time off, especially not on the weekend, because that is when I should be studying. But when I started experimenting with clean rest in 2014 and I decided, actually, I I love the beach, and I’m in Brisbane, so I’m about an hour, just over an hour away from a lot of really beautiful beaches, and so I’m gonna go the beach every weekend, even just by myself. I’m just gonna go the beach every weekend and read a book, go for a swim, whatever. And that meant that I wasn’t able during the week to say, Oh, well, it’s okay if I procrastinate right now, because I’ll do it on the weekend that was taken off the table as an option. So it meant during the week, I actually had to get shit done. So so much more productive during the week, because I knew that I couldn’t do it on the weekend.

And then on the weekend, I got to go to the beach, I got to have a break, and then it meant that I was more productive the next week, because I’d actually had a rest and had a break from doing all the study. So that was when I first discovered it. I had a theory, I tested it out, and since then, I have been using it in business. Actually, that’s not true. I then kind of forgot about it with business for a few years, and then I started doing it again. I was like, oh, yeah, this works so well. As a university student, why have I not been doing this with my business? But the business felt so much it felt so much more vulnerable to have clean rest in the business. Because for uni, like I realized about halfway through my degree, I didn’t really want to be a lawyer, and I was more into finance than practicing being a lawyer, but I knew like that wasn’t my calling.

It didn’t feel like the real me or anything, whereas the business stuff that felt like me, like I finally felt like I was doing what I was meant to be doing. So taking a break from that felt more vulnerable than taking a break from something I didn’t really want to succeed at any way, but having clean rest and adding that back in, which, again, I think I did it around 2018 I want to say, made such a big difference. There’s so many reasons that 2018 was the year that things actually started to skyrocket in my business. And that is one of them that I started taking time off my business, having clean rest, having a consequence for procrastinating, missing my business in a really healthy way, developing an identity beyond the business, all of these different things, my self image, I did a lot of work on that in that year, money mindset, so many other factors involved, but clean rest was a big one of them.

Number eight, is planning time off or mindless time after calls and meetings. So this kind of relates back to clean rest again, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I would do clean rest after I had a call or meeting. But what I found, especially when I was doing one on one coaching, I started to notice this. I don’t do one on one anymore, but I’m one of the pgsd coaches in PGSD, obviously. So I’m still doing coaching calls, and what I found is that after every call I did, because as a coach, you are listening so intently, you are so focused on that call, you’re not thinking about anything else. You’re just thinking about the client that my brain needed a break after that. And. I feel so energized whenever I coach. I absolutely love doing it, but my brain like I just couldn’t then move into another needle mover after that, or move into even some admin tasks, my brain just needed a minute. I would often find myself as soon as I got off a call just scrolling through Instagram, and my brain just craving that.

So instead of continuing to plan needle movers after calls, and this relates to zoom meetings and that kind of thing as well, I would plan 30 minutes of not doing anything so that I could go on Instagram and not feel guilty about it, or so that I could do whatever it is I wanted, and to instead of having to then keep my plans workable and make edits based on the fact that my brain needed mindless time, and I hadn’t counted for that, I saw that trend. I saw that every time I did a call, I had to then edit what was after the call, because I needed downtime for my brain. I worked that into my plan, and that really helped me to have that clean rest, essentially, after doing any kind of call and then getting back into what I needed to do and really doing that in the most productive way possible, instead of just pushing through because I should be able to do that.

So that’s just a specific example for me of one of the things that came up for me as I’ve done power planning over the years, that my brain, at certain times of day needs certain things or after certain tasks. And you’ll probably find yours is the same, that maybe after you do a really courageous task, that you need a bit of downtime for your brain. So instead of trying to jam it all together, so you maybe have a courageous task, and then you try doing a more meaningless, essentially task, or, like, less courageous task, or maybe it’s some kind of admin task, and then you do another courageous task. Or instead of that, you just do a courageous task. Have half hour break. Do a courageous task, have half hour break. It’s really about what works for you. Power planning isn’t strict and rigid, and your day has to look exactly like this. It’s really about figuring out what works best for you.

So that’s something that I have discovered works really well for me. Another way that I changed my daily work habits that made such a difference was honoring my plans with myself, even when I could have changed those plans to accommodate others or there were other demands on my time. So this particularly came up for me when I left my full time job and I went into working on my business during the day and having part time hours in the evening, that suddenly, to everyone else, it looked like I was free all the time, and it was challenging in those early months of being in that situation for me to say no, because I hadn’t practiced that, I hadn’t built up that no muscle. I had definitely been in the habit of people pleasing. And if someone had said to me, Hey, you free for a coffee at this time, like a friend, for example, instead of saying, Actually, no, that’s not the best time for me, could you do this time? Instead, I would just say yes and inconvenience myself and reshuffle everything.

And what I found was, when I started practicing, actually, like I could do that time, but I’m going to suggest a time that would be more convenient to me, and if they can’t do that, then we could revert to the original plan, like being willing to do that. So I noticed that when I did suggest another time, often people would say yes, and also how often people said no to me based on them having plans with themselves and them not wanting to inconvenience themselves. And it’s so easy to look at that and be like, Oh, that’s selfish. It is not. We have to really reframe that to say, Well, great. Other people are honoring their plans with themselves. Why the fuck am I not honoring my plans with myself? And why am I making myself one of the least important people in my life?

Because if I had plans, and it’s kind of a way I tested it, I was like, if they asked this and I had plans with another friend at that time, would I cancel the plans with the friend so that I could meet up with them for a coffee? No, I would say, Hey, I actually already have plans. Could we do another time? So why am I not doing that when it comes to myself and the plans that I have? And this doesn’t mean that there aren’t exceptions, and one of the benefits to choosing your own work hours is that you can make those exceptions, and you can do things that you might not have been able to do if you were in a nine to five job and having to be at work at certain hours. But it’s very tempting when your hand break is on and you’re in that people pleasing mode and you’re scared of judgment, you want to please everyone that you just say yes, and there is no shortage of demands that will come your way.

And you really train people how to treat you. So if you are always saying yes, of course they’re going to keep asking, because you keep saying yes, they’re not a mind reader who knows that you’re actually trying to work on saying no, and so it would be easier for you if they didn’t ask. Ask, if you keep saying yes, actually, I can really inconvenience myself to convenience you, they’re going to keep wanting to do that. It makes sense. And so we like for me, at least when I really did the work on this, and I decided, okay, these are my work days, and there are certain situations, and I know what those situations are, but there are certain situations where I will change my work plans to accommodate someone else, and I will even like to meet up with a friend for coffee. I’m not going to do that, just if we could do another time. But if they’re like, only in Brisbane for a day, and like, this is only the only time it could work, I will do that.

Or if they’ve really got a lot going on, or they like there’s some kind of situation where it really needs to happen at that time. I will make an exception for that. But as a general rule, I have my work days, and I work at those times, and I have my days off, and I work at those times. And it might mean that it takes a couple extra weeks for me to be able to find a time that works with a friend, but they’re all doing the same thing with their job. So why am I not doing the same with mine? And it was such a challenging shift to make, and it’s easy for us to tell ourselves, well, that’s just being selfish, and if I can change my times, I should. But why? Because when we do that, we are diminishing our own self trust, and it makes it very challenging to plan when you know, well, if anyone happens to ask me anything, I’m going to have to throw this whole plan out the window. Instead. When I’m doing my power planning each week, I’m like, Well, I know that I’m actually going to follow through with that, even if other people are asking things, unless there are certain situations.

And so I can trust myself to follow through, which makes it way easier to make those plans. So you might want to be thinking about what exceptions you want to make, but it’s so powerful to have those times that you are working to communicate those times to others. And it’s not like you have to announce it, but if you can say, actually, no, sorry, I can’t do that. I’m working because we feel so uncomfortable, like I have plans with myself, and they’re not real plans. So I don’t I guess I’m free. No, they are real plans. Plans for yourself are real plans. So if you can say, actually, sorry, I have plans at that time, Can we do another time? Or maybe you’ll have to wait an extra week, or whatever, there’s so much power in that there’s so much self trust that comes from that self confidence, and also it will not make people respect you less. It will actually make them respect you more.

If you are worried about that, because they see that you honor yourself, you have a great relationship with yourself, and they are probably wanting to do more of that in their lives as well. Most people find it hard to honor their own plans, but if you can do this then at that micro level, when it comes to following through with your plans in the moment, even when there aren’t demands on your time, it will be so much easier, because you’ve already practiced honoring your plans with yourself and treating them seriously, rather than making them completely negotiable. Right now, it might be if your handbrakes on that your plans with yourself are so negotiable. It’s not even funny that you rarely follow through with them, because, well, they’re the lowest priority. They’re not plans with someone else. They have just plans with me, and plans with me don’t really matter.

We want to change that relationship we have with ourselves, and there’s a great deal of practice and opportunity that comes with making a transition into your business, like working more hours in your business that you will kind of be forced to figure this out as you go. But even just finding one or two times per week where you would normally say yes and say no instead, or not even just saying no, of suggesting us a different time can be so helpful. You don’t have to try and get yourself like, don’t be in this all or nothing mindset about it, of okay, well now I need to really, like every single time, be onto it and say no every single time, or whatever it is, just find one example per week, one instance per week, where you’d normally say yes when you would prefer to say no and just say no and see what happens. And I was just shocked by the lack of fallout from me honoring my own plans.

And recently, I was talking to Steve about my ability to say no to things, it was in a different context, and he was like, No, you’re really good at saying no to things, and especially when it comes to your business, if you are working, you’re working, and I know that, and you have your set days, and even if something else comes up, sometimes you will, you know, accommodate that, but often, like, you take your business seriously, and you take what you do seriously, and it’s important to you, and so you follow through with like things, and you say no when other people, or when you know people make requests that aren’t in alignment with that. And I was like, Huh, that’s so cool for you to say that, because it did not used to be that way.

And I would try and do my business work in the left over time, and it was very challenging to do that because it was so unpredictable, because I was outsourcing my time to do things, to base being based on what other people demanded of me or requested of me, but it also meant that it was very stop start, like it was hard to do any deep work, because then I’d be going out at this time, then coming back and being home for two hours and going out again, or whatever. That by being able to practice saying no, there has been literally, like no fallout. Relationship wise, I have so much more self trust, and my business is so much more successful because there’s so much more predictability. When it comes to me making plans, I’m able to actually structure my work day according to what works for me. So if you have been thinking, Well, I’d love to structure my work day according to what works for me, but I don’t know when people are going to request things with me. This might be something you need to work on as well.

Number 10 is not waiting for motivation before I worked or and as well, not spending a lot of time trying to inspire myself. I used to spend a lot of time watching YouTube videos, like I’d sit down to work at the start of my work day, and this is a few years ago, and I would just try and inspire myself because I wasn’t feeling motivated, because I didn’t even really have a start time to the day. As I said, it was like one long day that never ended, and so I wouldn’t be feeling very motivated. I hadn’t missed a business at all. I hadn’t had clean rest. So I try and listen to podcasts, go on Instagram, all these things to keep myself inspired. Like keeping myself inspired felt like a full time job. I was constantly doing it, and now just putting aside that expectation that I should feel motivated and inspired has really helped.

Also related to this is experimenting with when to rest versus when to, quote, unquote, push through. I don’t like thinking about things as pushing through, but what I mean there is working even though there’s resistance. So this can be challenging, and I still have no clear definitive answer on this, but experimenting with it has definitely helped. So there’s a lot of different approaches to this. When it comes to productivity, entrepreneurship and that kind of thing. There are people who say you should always be only working when you feel in alignment and when you’re feeling motivated and inspired and in flow. And there’s the other school of thought, which is, doesn’t matter how you feel, you just need to show up and follow through and get you done.

And I’ve kind of been experimenting with what’s in between those two things? Because there are times definitely, as I mentioned, I used to spend a lot of time trying to motivate myself. I was like, I need to feel motivated, and if I’m motivated, I’ll have more willpower, more courage, I’ll be able to do more things. So I was constantly trying to motivate myself and letting myself off the hook when I wasn’t feeling motivated, which meant I spent a lot of time doing busy work, because I often felt motivated to do things that didn’t really matter because they were less vulnerable, and I rarely felt motivated to do scary things, because, hey, they’re scary. Why would I feel like doing something scary? And then I’ve also done the follow through, no matter how you feel approach, and that has a lot of benefits to it as well. But also for me, I found like there’s this in between ground that I think we all need to figure out for ourselves where we need to actually rest and where we actually need to show up.

And I think for me, that has been at least discerning what is a true desire to rest. What does that feel like like when I truly need to take a break and when am I just experiencing resistance because I’m asking myself to do something outside of my comfort zone, and I’m never going to feel like it, so there’s no point waiting to feel in alignment with it, because that’s probably not going to happen. So again, I don’t have any definitive answer on this, and I think it’s a matter of experimentation, but by being willing to experiment with it, I have started to figure out for me, hey, this is what it feels like. It’s challenging to articulate, but this is what it feels like when I actually need to change what’s in my calendar and just put a huge chunk of clean rest in there and take a step back and take time off, or I can feel as well, like, Yes, I could continue to do this today, but I know that tomorrow, if I do it, and if I do it, first thing, it’s going to take a quarter of the time and be five times as fun to do it, because I won’t be in this mood that I’m in currently. There are other times that I’m like, I actually like, I know what it feels like now, in a lot of instances of like, I don’t feel like doing this now, but I just should get it done now. That’s going to be in my own best interests.

So yeah, figuring that out, being willing to play with that and experiment with that, and not just having like, a hard and fast you always have to follow through, no matter how you feel, or you always have to be in alignment, but figuring out, okay, like, when is it, and I think this is, like the key question here, when is it a need to rest, and when is it just resistance to doing something courageous? Because we can feel that resistance and think that means we’re out of alignment when we’re not we’re doing. Feeling resistance, because we’re asking ourselves to go outside our comfort zone. Our brain is freaking out because that’s dangerous. So it’s like, oh my goodness, no, you should just rest. Just take it easy. You’ve worked so hard this week, blah, blah, blah, whatever your brain says to you to try and get you to rest.

And it’s just figuring things like trying that. And what I found helpful to try that and to figure that out is to have a hypothesis. Okay? I think this is me actually needing to rest. I think this is me actually just feeling resistance, and I need to just keep showing up anyway as planned, and then reflecting on that. And I know that doesn’t sound like rocket science. It’s not. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but having a theory about okay, I think I really need to rest, and then taking the rest and going reflecting in hindsight. Okay? Was that actually what I in hindsight needed, or was that me just buying into the fears and insecurities that I had? And again, that’s challenging to answer. There’s no real definitive answer, and only you can really answer that for yourself, but asking that question has over time, really helped me to figure out the difference in the feelings between those things, and so I can now much more easily discern like, Okay, I could keep doing this now, but I know that if I just leave it until tomorrow, it’s going to be so much easier.

And I do that and it is. Or there are other times where I’m like, actually, just do it now, and that’s the best outcome, and there was just that initial hump of resistance. And so, for example, this comes up with recording podcast episodes. And I love recording podcast episodes. I still experience resistance to doing them a lot of times. There are some times where I’m like, oh my God, I have so much to say, and I’m just going to hit record and like, amazing. Most of the time, though, because recording a podcast episode involves risk. I’m risking rejection, I’m risking failure, I’m risking shame, judgment, all those things. So as much as I love it and as comfortable as I am with doing it, I still feel resistance around it, and even today, when I was thinking about starting recording the podcast episodes that I’ve recorded today, that my brain was like, ah, do we really need to do that today? And all of this like the usual, basically, and I could just tell like it’s that handbrake that’s trying to come on to maybe get in my own way, so I don’t have to put myself out there and risk shame and uncomfortable feelings.

And instead of going actually, I don’t feel this superflow today, so I’m gonna leave it. I said to myself, Okay, well, I’m just gonna try and we’ll see how it goes, and if it ends up being completely shit, I don’t have to publish it, which I tell myself, but I know that if I record it, I’m going to publish it, because I’ve trained myself to do that, because most of the time I don’t feel like the episodes are great, and a lot of times my brain is lying and they’re helpful to other people. So I’ve just learned to dismiss that. But it’s kind of like if you want to get yourself to go for a run, telling yourself, Well, cool, I’ll just run a kilometer, and then I can walk the rest of the way. And you kind of know once you get started that you’re just going to run the whole thing. I like to do that with myself, with work, sometimes with podcast episodes, especially of well, if it’s shit, then that’s okay. But I’m just gonna show up and try anyway, because it’s very easy.

And this relates to working out as well. It’s so easy to try and judge whether it will be a good session or good work before we even do it. And I used to do that all the time with workouts. That’s why I really wasn’t that all or nothing mindset and contributed to that. But like, I don’t feel like I’m going to do a good workout today, so I’m not going to do one at all. And once I really tend to, well, doesn’t matter whether it’s a good one or not, there is no good workout. I’m just going to show up. And if it’s just a token workout where I go through the motions, that’s fine. If it’s a really great one, that’s fine. But by getting myself to the gym or doing the workout. Often, once I got there, it was just overcoming that initial resistance that was a challenging thing.

And so I’ve found different ways to trick myself into getting started, such as today, with the podcast episode saying, Okay, well, I’m gonna give it a shot recording anyway, and if I just really can’t get my words out, then I won’t record. But then I sit down with my microphone, and it’s completely fine, and it was just my brain not wanting to risk the shame that might come with me publishing podcast episodes. And so this is why I think as well, when we like, Oh, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. And like, within that, there’s this idea of, if you love what you do, you’ll never experience any resistance. But there’s still a lot of resistance for things I love doing the most, because, again, they involve me putting myself out there. And I think truly, what makes it fulfilling to do what we do is that we have challenges and we overcome them, and I. We feel so proud when we do that, rather than having everything be super easy all the time.

I know I’ve talked before about ease, and we want to have things be easy in the sense they’re not over complicated because we’re over complicating them to feel deserving, but we want them to only be hard because they’re courageous. And so even recording episodes now that still requires courage. As I’m recording my brain is still most of the time saying that didn’t make sense. You didn’t describe that well, here you are another tangent, and I keep going anyway. So I’m proud of myself for that, but asking yourself that question when it comes to resistance and motivation and rest to really just figure out, Okay, do I think here I need to rest, or is this just some resistance, because I’m asking something on myself, and my brain is wired to avoid what it perceives to be dangerous, coming up with a hypothesis, following through with what you think the situation is, and reflecting on whether your hypothesis was correct or incorrect, quote, unquote, in hindsight, and then adjusting next time.

That has made such a difference for me, and has really helped me to be more productive, but also have a better relationship with myself and to be more kind and generous with myself as well. And sometimes you just need to give yourself a kick in the pants and do it anyway. And other times you really do need to rest. So you at least need to start asking yourself that question. At least I did. And number 12 is focusing on a limited number of projects at once. So this involves having a not to do list and also being patient, because in that all nothing mindset, we want to do all the things yesterday, like we want to be in all the places and have everything done instantly.

And what has been so helpful for me a daily habit, a work habit that has allowed my business to grow is focusing only on a limited number of projects at once, so that I could put more energy into them and create more momentum and have them have more success, rather than trying to do 20 things at once haphazardly and being busy all the time with that, but not really feeling like the needles moving with any of them to instead, just choose one or two projects per quarter and to focus on those, and to be willing to experience FOMO, and to be willing to have your brain tell you you’re not doing enough and you should be doing all the things, but to instead go actually, this is a focus for this quarter, and I’m really going to focus on it so we can make some progress.

And in future quarters, we can do other things, but having that not to do list and shelving things for the future quarters. And when I say quarters, I mean in three month periods when we have our impossible goal in PGSD, we work in a yearly goal, and then and quarters to help us achieve that goal. So I work in 90 day increments, and having only a couple things to focus on, it’s so challenging to do, but it makes such a difference. And I love having a not to do list and putting things on there that I really want to do, but I’m not going to do this quarter so that I can do other things. And that’s just another way of avoiding busy work. Sometimes it can feel like cool. These are all needle movers, but if you’re doing too many projects at once, then it’s kind of busy work, even though it feels like a needle mover.

So I hope this episode has given you some insights into productivity, how you can structure your day and structure your time, so it will help you release your handbrake, and you can get out of your own way and get shit done. But I’ve obviously just had to do a whole heap of things in this episode, but I recommend just taking one thing that I mentioned, seeing if you need to work on actually doing that in your life as well. It might not be what I described my interpretation of it was that worked for me, but that principle so think about the principles I shared in this episode. If there’s one that you could look at in your business to help you to change your daily work habits a little bit so your business can grow, then do that. Just focus again. One thing, one thing. I don’t want you to be like, oh, I need to do all these 12 things. Just find one that resonated with you, and even if you intellectually understand it, look at, am I actually doing that in my work day. And then start experimenting with that. So with that said, hope you’re having a beautiful day, and I will talk to you in the next episode.

So I really hope you enjoyed that episode, all about the improvements that I made to my daily work habits. Obviously, throughout the episode, I talked a lot about power planning and how that really helps me to actually practice and live all of those changes. So I mentioned there is a free training in the show notes, we can sign up and learn more about power planning. And I also want to invite you into PGSD, Perfectionist Getting Shit Done that you are able to join us right now in my coaching program and get the complete process for power planning. You will also learn how to get out of your own way, how to trust yourself, how to upgrade your self image, how to create self confidence. We do a lot of personal development work in PGSD, and we give you the practical tools like Power Planning and like having a growth goal, as we now call it, to really help you to release your perfectionism handbrake. So you can go to samlaurabrown.com/pgsd, to find out more and sign up and join us inside today.

Author: Sam Brown