#164: Getting Your Most Important Things Done Every Week without All the Stress and Drama

One of the key things I focus on with many of my coaching clients is productivity.

You could have great clients that pay you high fees. But if you can’t get control over your week, you’re going to burn out quickly.

Or maybe you don’t have great clients. And you don’t have time to market yourself better and more consistently.

My guest today is Jordan Baker, a personal productivity expert and the creator of Focuster, an auto-scheduling calendar app for entrepreneurs, freelancers and professionals.

Jordan takes a very holistic approach to productivity that’s well aligned with my own. If you’ve been through any of my productivity training, you’ll hear some familiar advice. But you’ll also get Jordan’s insights and practical ideas.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a paper-and-pen kind of person, or if you’re really into apps and tools. You’ll walk away from this conversation with some great ideas to help you get your most important things done—without the stress and drama you might be fighting every week.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Tell us about yourself

Jordan Baker helps business professionals manage their focus. He’s created software to help them do that.

You can’t affect the passage of time. But you can control where you put your attention.

Jordan spent a couple years in the corporate world before deciding to freelance. He’s worked freelance for 10 years.

He’s studied many different productivity systems, such as Getting Things Done, Tony Robbins and Steve Covey. One of the strategies they all share is to commit time in your calendar for your priorities.

He has also studied meditation and yoga, which has influenced how he approaches productivity.

What makes productivity such a big challenge for creative professionals who work from home?

1. Success is less well defined.

When you work for someone else, they tell you what they expect. As long as you meet their criteria, you’re being successful.

When you’re self-employed, you have to create your own definition of success. What do you want your life to look like?

2. No one’s checking up on us.

With this freedom to define our success, we have the capacity to indulge ourselves. No one’s checking up on us (unless you have a coach or belong to a mastermind group, etc.).

3. Lots of distractions.

When you work for yourself, it’s easy to take a longer lunch or take the afternoon off.

When you work for someone else, some controls are built in. As a freelancer, you have to build those controls yourself.

What do you mean by “focus”?

Focus = Intention + Attention

Intention: What you’ve identified as a priority
Attention: Your ability to execute and do what you need to do.

If you don’t have both of these pieces, your focus won’t be effective.

You can execute really well, but work on the wrong thing.

Or you could set the right priorities, but not actually do them.

Why do most traditional “to do” lists fail?

Traditional to do lists fail to set priorities. They don’t account for time and end up causing you more stress. They mix together things that will take five minutes and things that will take an hour. This makes it difficult to figure out what you actually need to work on.

You have to prioritize your list and estimate the amount of time you’ll need to complete each task.

Most of us have a mix of client work, marketing work, administrative work and personal stuff that needs to get done. What’s the best way to approach it?

One of the most effective techniques to solve this challenge is time blocking. Steven Covey came up with this idea.

Identify the different roles you play. Then look at your weekly calendar and block out times where you address these different areas of your life.

If you want to spend 50% of your time on client work, then you block off 50% of your time on your calendar. And you continue with other roles.

You look at your capacity and then estimate how you will budget it.

How do we get clarity on our priorities?

First, you have to set some criteria. Examples of criteria could include:

  • Does it make money?
  • Will it make the customer happy?
  • Does it move me closer to my professional goals?
  • Does it align with my core gifts?

Criteria will vary from person to person.

You can also assign weight to these criteria if they’re not all equally important.

What’s the next step?

Next, you start scheduling tasks into your calendar. You can then look at your calendar and see what you’re going to work on and when.

When you focus on your top priorities, you’ll feel more satisfied at the end of the day.

With this system, you make most scheduling and prioritizing decisions early in the week, which helps to reduce decision fatigue as the week goes on.

How can you turn things around when you start the day unmotivated?

Meditation is a great way to reset yourself when you’re feeling unmotivated or discouraged.

The core of meditation is to feel what is happening and not fight it or change it. Just experience it and accept it. When we fully experience and acknowledge what we’re feeling, it starts to dissipate and release its grip.

Then you can start to shift it.

What if we set out with good intentions but don’t achieve our goals?

Consider whether you’re setting your goals too high. Maybe you need to scale back your goals and put them on the top of your priority list each day.

Take an incremental approach. Set small goals and only increase them when you’re reaching your them consistently.

You have to build the muscle, and that can take time.

Also, set goals that you can control. For example, you shouldn’t set a goal of attaining X number of sales every week. That’s out of your control.

But you DO have control over how many emails you send or phone calls you make that can lead to sales.

Tell us about your productivity app

Jordan’s new app is called Focuster. It helps you manage your focus, not just your time.

It helps you visualize how much free time you have. It connects to your calendar. As you load up your day, your free time shrinks—which forces you to prioritize.

And when you add things to your day, it automatically schedules those things into your calendar. It can be tedious to do this manually.

Inevitably, some things will take longer or we get distracted. This app will move things forward if you don’t complete the task in the time allotted. It helps you get back on track.

It also sends you reminders and pushes your next priority to you.

Focuster offers a 14-day free trial. Learn more at focuster.com.


By the way … whenever you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you grow your freelance business:

1. Grab a free copy of my training class for writers who are new to freelancing.
It’s called “The 3 Magic Levers: How to Get Your Writing Business Off the Ground and Land Your First Paying Client.” Click Here

2. Download a free copy of my book for ESTABLISHED writers/copywriters.
You’ll discover how to quickly and predictably reawaken dead leads, generate new client opportunities and convert not-yet-ready prospects into freelance writing clients. — Click Here

3. Join our “Get Better Clients Academy”
You’ll get a personalized action plan based on where you are today in your business. Plus all the tools, scripts, checklists, cheat sheets and templates you’ll need to escape feast-or-famine … grow your income … and land clients who love and respect you. — Click Here

4. Get your website DONE!
If you’ve been struggling to get your website done … or if you’re not happy with what you’ve got today… let my team and me build you a beautiful website for your writing business. We’ll do all the hard work! Email me at [email protected] … put “WEBSITE” in the subject line … and I’ll reply with the details.