Running a small business is hard work. And staying productive
every day is often one of the biggest challenges, says Becca Brown, the cofounder and coowner of Solemates, a line of women’s shoe-care products, which she started with former Goldman Sachs colleague Monica Ferguson in 2009.
In fact, Brown says maintaining the same level of productivity every day is impossible.
“Some days, things flow and it’s easy to get a lot done, and by the end of the day I feel very accomplished and satisfied with the progress made,” she explains. “Other days, not so much.”
Since starting her company, Brown has realised that delays and setbacks are inevitable for any small-business owner. She says she has come to “appreciate the ebbs and flows,” and tries not to get so anxious when she feels like things are not progressing as fast as she’d like them to.
“I think that’s the difference when you have your own company — you always want to be further along and have things happen faster, and always feel like you need to be super productive,” she says. “On days when things aren’t flowing, you have to take a deep breath and realise not everything is going to get done today, and that’s OK.”
Rather than getting discouraged and shutting down, Brown does the following to keep her productivity levels up:
She makes lists … on paper
“This is old school, but it works for me,” she says. “This is something I have always done — from high school and college, through working at Goldman, in business school, and now running Solemates.”
Brown has a little notebook on her desk, and she writes down what she wants to get done each day. As she completes each task, she crosses it off. “Even if I don’t get to finish everything, I can easily keep track of what’s pending, and, as an added bonus, doing this gives me a strong sense of productivity as I complete things.”
She says she sometimes uses Evernote and the notes app on her phone to keep track of things, “but I still find that having a list on paper feels more satisfying than digital,” she adds. “That’s just personal preference. I think this tactic is probably a remnant from using a homework-assignment book in school — it always seemed to work well so I never abandoned the concept.”
She draws things out on a white board
“There’s a reason so many companies use these: They work!” she says. “My first manager at Goldman used a white board for our team, and it was so effective. When I launched Solemates, I actually had a white board in my apartment, and we have always used white boards in our office. It gives us a way to illustrate our short- and longer-term goals and have meaningful discussions around tasks that need to get done to accomplish these goals.”
Brown says she’s a firm believer in visualisation. “I’ve always played sports, and as an athlete, visualisation is crucial in creating positive outcomes. I apply this same tactic to Solemates. The white board allows us to see our strategy and goals, and when we see them regularly, it makes achieving them possible. Using the white board is a constructive productivity process and affirmation practice.”
She sets calendar reminders
“I have started to use these reminders in my calendar more and more,” she says. She sets deadlines and notifications so she is reminded when an event or deadline is approaching, or when she needs to start working on something.
“Instead of just having the reminder pop up the day of, I have it notify me a day or week or month before, because I find that setting myself up to have time to prepare is a better tactic,” she explains. “It’s also a way to structure my productivity and give myself little prompts on when to start working on a project, etc.”
She takes breaks
“I have learned that to be productive, you need to take breaks,” she says. “You can’t sustain a sprint or perpetual marathons without some mental and physical down time.”
Brown is a cyclist, and cycling “is all about efficiency and timing, and you have to be smart about your energy output,” she explains. “In running your own business you have to learn to embrace those times when you’re not 100% productive, and take your foot off the pedal for a bit to give yourself the time to reenergize so you can go again.”
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