Change Catalyst with Shanna Mann: Strategy & Support for Sane Self-Employment

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Imitation Works: Copy Other People’s Routines to Super-Charge Your Own

I recently heard Sebastian Marshall, a person I admire a lot, describe his morning routine. I got a lot of good ideas from it, and then I realized; a lot of my best ideas and most powerful reassurances have come from hearing the specifics of how someone else does a certain thing. Just off the top of my head I can think of at least three examples.

  • Naomi Dunford reassured me that “faking it til she made it,” was how she got through the first several years of IttyBiz. It’s nice to hear people’s origin stories before they turn into mythology.
  • Catherine Caine outlined her marketing plan for a new product launch, and I thought “Is that all? I can do that.” And that’s when marketing stopped being this big mysterious thing for me.
  • Joel Canfield mentioned that when his wife Sue was in the hospital several years ago, her routines and SOPs for her VA clients were so well outlined that he was able to run the business for her. That was a tremendous encouragement to me and still remains the gold standard of how good my procedures are.

It’s all too easy to look at how the A-listers do things, what Havi Brooks calls “biggified” people. I got scared off marketing seeing people like Maria Forleo have a three ring circus for a launch. How on earth could I ever launch something, if that’s what was required? I was doomed to fail. Then a couple years ago, Catherine shared her plan and now since then, marketing and launching seem like no big thang.

So I thought I’d share a little bit about my life. I’m no Leo Babauta or Tim Ferriss, but I’ve got some things figured out that work for me. I’m going to shut up about context now and just give you the facts, hmm?

My Morning Kata:  Creative and High Value Stuff First

I run three businesses. I have an online retail business, an SEO content service business, and of course Change Catalyst. Which is to say that on any given day I could be running around like a chicken with my head cut off. But I have learned not to.

The first thing I have learned is that if you let urgent stuff take over, you’ll never get the important stuff done.

The second thing I have learned is that my morning hours are worth three times what an afternoon hour is worth (evening hours can go either way).

The third thing I have learned is that I don’t do routine. You might find this shocking since I am known as the systematizer, but the reason I had to write down all those SOPs in the first place is because it took me forever to remember how I’d done it last time, and even longer to recall the best way to do things.

But even more than that, I have found that it’s not good for me to have too strict a routine. It adds stress when I have unexpected circumstances come up, it adds resistance when for whatever reason I feel like I HAVE to do something I don’t WANT to do. And it adds a layer of complexity to a part of the day when I would like to be at my most creative.

Build from The Bottom to Dismantle Pitfalls

A good morning starts with a good night’s sleep, so I try to go to bed at an hour that ensures I’ll be able to wake up without an alarm around seven. (I still set an alarm, but I always wake up a few minutes early to turn it off.)

What I like most about mornings is that they have so much possibility about them. Mornings are magical; on a really good morning you could conquer half the known world before coffee break. But in the morning, my willpower is not fully on line yet, so I have to make sure that I don’t piss it away reading the latest troll-bait on Digg. Consequently, I have locked myself out of most of the internet using StayFocusd for 2.5 hours in the morning. I still allow Google (for docs, calendar and gmail), Pocket, Mint, Contactually, and a few others, but I don’t find them particularly distracting. They’re just there if I need to look something up.

Decide What You Want To Do Instead

Now that I’m locked out of the cookie jar, I need to find something productive to do. However, there’s no better way to make me not want to do something than to say, “Here it is, you have to do it, you can’t do anything else until it’s done.”

So instead I have a list of “preferred tasks”

  • Write morning pages
  • Write content for CC
  • Yoga
  • Eat breakfast (it’s a protein shake. I hate eating in the morning)
  • Shower, dress and put on makeup (while not mandatory, I definitely feel more of a badass on the days I wear my battle-paint)
  • Read something entertaining and thought provoking (usually while it eat my breakfast. That’s why Pocket is allowed. That’s my brain food)
  • Meditate
  • Email people with Contactually
  • Systematize some aspect of my business
  • Plan my day (this literally involves rehearse the plan for the day. There are a lot of moving parts. For instance, I sometimes have to really hustle to get the dogs walked in between calls. Poor things are elderly and have to go out every two hours.)

I don’t do all of the items on the list. Hell, I don’t even do half of them. If I do three or four, I consider it a win. Because I am locked out of all my time-wasters, I am left with the space to fuss, putter unproductively, and finally settle into work. It doesn’t much matter what I do, because all the stuff on this list contributes either directly or indirectly to my productivity and quality of life.

Why It Works For Me

This is particularly important to me to do in the early mornings, because if I get on a roll, I can maintain it until noon or 12:30. After that, I schedule my calls or I do the urgent stuff. The afternoons are very touchy productivity-wise, but the urgent stuff has a tendency to push itself to the front of my attention and that’s when it gets handled. Because I’ve been working more or less since 7 or 8, I usually knock it off around 4pm. That last hour is a loss most of the time anyway, but I have nothing much to do except putter around, tidy my desk, and feed and walk the dogs.

What’s a routine or habit you’ve found to work for you? Share it in the comments!