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MY PRODUCTIVITY SECRETS

The best tips, tools, and techniques to help you clear your desk + get writing

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{ PRODUCTIVITY }

From blog posts to social media content to promotional materials to the words on your website… 

There’s a LOT of writing involved in running your own health/wellness business!

But between running the day-to-day operations of your business and actually caring for your clients/patients, when exactly are you supposed to find the time to sit down and actually write?

If this little riddle has been keeping you up at night, know this:

You’re in good company.

When I recently hopped onto Instagram to share a tip for wrapping up my session notes in a timely manner, the response was immediate and resounding:

“THANK YOU!!! This is my #1 struggle!!!”
“Brilliant! What was the name of that app again?” 
“Please share more of these! I need all the help I can get!!”

…and many more like this.

It seems, friend, that productivity is a challenge for many of us.

It certainly has been for me.

And after long hours, stress dreams, and more negative self-talk than I’d care to remember, I finally stopped and asked myself:

WHY is it so hard to get my writing done? WHAT is actually getting in the way? 

Here’s what I came up with:

  1. OVERWHELM: The feeling that I was drowning in a sea of To Do’s, with no idea what to actually focus on

  2. DISTRACTION: The state of being prevented from giving my full attention to what I’m working on.

  3. BURNOUT: Physical or mental collapse, caused by overwork and stress.

For me, these are the Big 3 that– if I’m not very careful– will take a nice, juicy chunk of work time and drain it of all productive potential.

So, I’ve had to outsmart the Big 3. I’ve had to get crafty and real with myself. And take active measures to stay just a few steps ahead.

Now, these are my challenges. Yours might look a little different.

But, trust me on this:

If you struggle at all with making the most of your writing time, you will find something useful here.   

So, kicking off 2019 with a super-tactical post, let’s dive into my favorite tools, tips, and techniques to clear your desk (and your mind!) and get writing:  

Productivity Secret #1:
Plan Tomorrow’s 3

I love a good To Do list. (Is that weird? Oh, well.

There’s just something about the process of listing everything out that helps me feel a bit more in control. Like everything’s wrangled. Sorted out.

And yet… of course… simply creating a list of tasks is not the same as actually accomplishing those tasks.

(If only, right?)

And what’s more: The longer the To Do list, the more formidable the pile of tasks on your desk starts to feel, and the more likely you are to slink away from your desk and relocate somewhere gentler and less threatening. Like the couch.

So, what’s my secret?

First, I engage in a giant brain dump. (OK, so it doesn’t sound particularly sophisticated… but, it’s effective. I promise.) I take everything that’s swirling around in my head and put it down into words, in a notebook, a Word doc, a notes app, or whatever.

Then, I mine through it all to pull out actual tasks, and I list these out in one place. (BTW, in my real life, this often involves going through my house/computer/phone, collecting all the mini brain dumps (e.g., post-it’s, scribbles on a pad by my bed, “notes to self” on my phone, etc.) and corralling them into one place where I can read through them all.

  • MY FAVE: I love Trello for this step. I use it to manage all my lists. Even for this old-fashioned, paper-and-pen kinda gal, the ease, functionality, and price (ahem, FREE) can’t be beat.  

Finally, the night before I’m scheduled to write, I go through my giant list of To Do’s and choose, with ruthless decisiveness, the 3 things that I absolutely must accomplish the next day. 

What you choose is entirely up to you, but I recommend you shoot for tasks that are somewhere between manageable and ambitious. To put it idiomatically: Don’t sell yourself short, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot either, y’know?

And this is key: PICK NO MORE THAN 3.

Once you’ve got them, write them down somewhere prominent. The goal is to sit down to work the next day and jump right into your 3 To Do’s.     

Productivity Secret #2: 
Worst Thing First

This technique has been called “Eat the Frog” which I find simultaneously intriguing, confusing, and needlessly aggressive. But, the name is not the point.   

It’s a really great strategy to boost productivity because it eliminates all of the hemming and hawing and general procrastinating we do when we’re faced with an unsavory task.

Maybe it’s the email you’re dreading having to send.
Or the financial update you’re afraid to look at.
Or the report that’s long overdue.

Whatever it is you’re dreading most, that’s what gets bumped to the front of the line. (Consider it the automatic #1 of your top 3 tasks.) 

Sound awful? It is.

But it also works like a CHARM. Every time.

So, don’t waste time questioning it…

Send the email.
Look at the numbers.
File the report.

Do it, and you’ll feel the kind of relief that should be bottled. Plus, the day can only get better, right?!

Productivity Secret #3:
Keep Email in Its Place

Are you using your email inbox as a running To Do list?

SHAME on you!

Just kidding!! I’ve totally done this, too.

But… there’s a better way.

First things first: You’ve gotta let go of the idea that your email inbox = your To Do list.

Not only does that approach make it all too easy for important things to fall through the cracks, but it also creates the kind of unnecessary bloat in your inbox that almost always leads to feelings of overwhelm.

And overwhelm = a productivity killer. (See above. :))

So, how do I rein in the email chaos? I like to play a little game with myself called “Email Ninja”. (<– I can’t take credit for this process OR this clever name, I’m sorry to say. I swiped both from Nancy Ray… I’m never giving ’em back. ;))

Basically, the game works like this:

  1. Open up your email and jot down the number of messages in your inbox. (Stiff drink and/or smelling salts optional, depending on the number you’re working from. Trust me, I’ve been there.)
  2. Set a timer and commit to reading/processing/deleting as many messages as you can in that allotted time. Work with unflinching, laser focus until the timer goes off.
  3. When the timer goes off, cross off the original number, write down the new number, and celebrate because You. Are. An. Email. NINJA!
  4. Repeat as necessary, whenever you can, until you reach the elusive “INBOX: ZERO”.

Once your inbox has been tamed, the next step is to get in the habit of taking any new tasks that show up in your email and transferring them to a dedicated To Do list.

  • MY FAVE: Again, for all my lists, I use Trello. It allows me to keep close tabs on all of my To Do’s, without taking up precious real estate in my email, and obscuring important messages there. 

Productivity Secret #4:
Outsource

If you’re a solopreneur, you’ve likely grown accustomed to that glam, jack-of-all-trades life.

Suddenly, you’re not just an acupuncturist or a dietitian or a couples counselor…

You’re also a bookkeeper!
And a graphic designer!
And a copywriter!
And a marketing manager!
 

Whew! It’s exhausting trying to do it all.

That’s why I highly recommend getting crystal-clear on which tasks only you can do in your business… And then outsourcing as many of the remaining responsibilities as you possibly can.

For example, in my therapy practice, seeing clients is the heart of what I do. After that, creating blog content to attract + educate prospective clients is my most important task.

That leaves all sorts of opportunities to outsource. Right now, some of the things I outsource include scheduling, billing, and office space.

What YOU decide to outsource will depend on your work, your unique talents and interests, your availability and energy, and your resources.

When it comes to content marketing for your health/wellness business, I think just about anyone can benefit from outsourcing images, graphic design, social media scheduling, and copywriting.   

For each item you delegate to another person, app, or tool, you’ll have that much more oomph to focus on your writing!


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Productivity Secret #5:
Go Off the Grid

No one likes this bit of advice (including yours truly…) but it’s one of the simplest + best ways to eliminate distractions.

You’ve gotta break up with the internet. Just for a little while.

Sitting down to write without even the possibility of checking email or social media is such a novel experience that most of us never experience it without the help of a power outage.

It leaves you with nothing but your mind to work with. And trust me, friend, that’s one powerful asset.

As practiced as I’ve become at writing under all sorts of conditions, when the chips are done and I need to get something done, this is the productivity secret I turn to.

Never tried it? Feeling skeptical? Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Visit the coffee shop of your choosing.
  2. Order a beverage and/or snack. IGNORE the WiFi code.
  3. Get yourself to a corner where you won’t be tempted to people-watch.  
  4. Switch your phone to Airplane mode and/or silence notifications.
  5. Open your laptop + begin writing! (Pair this with Secret #6 for extra brownie points!)
  • MY FAVE: Use Google Docs to write? Good news: You can enable offline access! Just open the Google Docs home screen –> click Main Menu –> click Settings –> turn Offline on. And you’re all set!

Productivity Secret #6:
Work in Sprints

When I shared this final secret on my IG story, the reaction blew me away. 

Burnout is a serious occupational hazard in the health + wellness world.

And if you’re already juggling a zillion responsibilities, nothing will burn you out faster than trying to crank out a marathon writing session!!

Seriously… writing is one of my favorite things ever, and I’d never subject myself to hours upon hours chained to the keyboard.

Instead, I’m a massive fan of working in sprints.

(Sounds too athletic, you say? Don’t worry. No sweating involved.)

To appreciate the beauty of the work sprint, we first need to understand a little thing called “Parkinson’s Law”.

Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

In other words, the longer you give yourself to complete a given task or project, the longer it’ll take you to complete it.

Ugh. Isn’t that the truth?!

It’s why you can spend all weekend vowing to get the kitchen cleaned up, but when your mother-in-law decides to drop by, you become a counter-scrubbing machine. (No? Just me?)

Or why back in college you wrote more of your term paper the week it was due than you did in the months leading up to the deadline.

When we apply Parkinson’s Law to writing for your business, we see that a big reason certain tasks (e.g., professional bio, new blog post, updates to your website copy) have been haunting you for weeks is that… well, you’ve given yourself weeks to finish them!

So, what’s the solution? You’ve gotta work in short, focused writing sessions.

I highly recommend the Pomodoro Technique, which breaks work sessions down into 25-minute sprints.

To guard against burnout, I’d give yourself 2-3 hours MAX (including breaks) and divide these into work sprints. You can simply use your own timer or you can use a dedicated app.

I know it sounds incredibly straightforward. And it is. But it’s also incredibly powerful.

Give it a try! You’ll be amazed what you can turn out in just a couple of sprints. 

  • MY FAVE: The Focus Keeper app (I use the free version) is the simplest, best timer for organizing work sprints, in my opinion. You can customize the length + number of sprints, the timing of breaks, etc. It’s been a game-changer for me in so many ways. Seriously, I use it all the time and could not love it more.   

LET’S TAKE ACTION!

OK, here’s your action step for today:

  • Pick 1 of the productivity “secrets” above + commit to trying it out this week! (Be sure to share your commitment in the comments below, so we can encourage you!)

Cheering you on!


When it comes to attracting the people you love working with most, you already have a powerful asset at your disposal! Ready to learn what it is, and start putting it to work for you + your business TODAY?

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HI!  I’M MICHAELA. 
I help health + wellness professionals connect with their dream clients through genuine, engaging communication. After spending over a decade studying, researching, and teaching psychology + communication principles, I started this business to empower health + wellness professionals like me to “preach what you practice”. I share practical guidance so you can get clear on your unique value, communicate it with heart, attract + serve the people you love working with most… and actually have fun along the way.

 

2 Comments
  1. Thank you for reading, and for the wonderful feedback, Sumeshnee! Please keep me posted on your progress so I can cheer you on in your business! (And if you’d like to be notified of future posts like this, you’re welcome to sign up at https://drmichaela.com/quiz/)! Wishing you well!

  2. Dr Sumeshnee Naicker says:

    Wow! Consider my mind completely impressed. I loved every bit of your blog and it rang true for me! I’ve been stuck in my vicious cycle for the last 3 months and I’ve desperately needed a plan! Thank you!

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