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3 min read

How Solopreneurs Can Master the Art of Stress-Free Productivity

How Solopreneurs Can Master the Art of Stress-Free Productivity

A few years ago, my previous startup won the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Company award. They had a conference for the winners and one of the speakers was a man named Les Mckeown who had authored a book called Predictable Success.

I was impressed and bought the book which led me to a quiz on his website that determined your Leadership Style.

There were 4 possible results:

  • Visionary
  • Operator
  • Processor
  • Synergist

My result came back a Visionary and I was psyched... I’m a VISIONARY!

Then I dug into what he meant by "Visionary." Visionaries walk into meetings with some new, bright idea, and then (figuratively) light a match and burn all the work done for the last month to focus on something new. Visionaries are always coming up with new ideas but don’t finish them because some other big new idea pops into their head. Visionaries have very messy offices.

Not exactly something to brag about.

This trait manifested itself in a number of ways. One of the most damaging for me was that there was ALWAYS something more interesting to do than organize. As a result, my desk, my files, emails, were all a disaster. Nothing was organized nor where it belonged. Deciding what needed to be done next wasn’t obvious, and if needed to find something, I could lose hours looking for it.

At night I would wake up, remembering something that I had forgotten to do. I finally learned to get up and write it down so I could go back to sleep. Sometimes I just stayed up and did it. To say I was sleep-deprived and stressed is an understatement.

Then, one day I was in an airport bookstore and I saw a book called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen.

"Stress-free productivity! I'm in", I thought to myself. I bought the book on the spot and read it on the plane. It changed my life.

David Allen had devised a system for managing all the “stuff” we deal with in life and had developed a way to process it so that nothing important fell through the cracks and nothing irrelevant clogged up your life.

Solopreneurs face a unique set of challenges. They manage every aspect of their business. And they’re usually in a one-person business to find a balance between work and life. Yet solopreneurship can be one of the most challenging kinds of businesses to manage efficiently because of all the different aspects being under one person’s purview.

In my opinion, the Getting Things Done (GTD) process is quite likely a more valuable tool for solopreneurs than any other group of people. And I’m going to lay it out for you… right here… for free!

There are 5 Steps to GTD:

  1. Capture Everything

We have stuff… so much stuff coming at us every day. Emails, phone calls, text messages, Slack messages, social media… It’s completely overwhelming. It’s no wonder that things fall through the cracks. GTD emphasizes capturing everything that has your attention. Write it down, record it, or save it in a digital tool. The point is to get it out of your head and into a trusted system. We call these inboxes.

  1. Clarify the Path

Now, on a regular basis, you process your inboxes. Go through each item and decide: Is it actionable?

  1. Organize with Purpose

As a solopreneur, organization is critical. Sort those clarified tasks into categories: immediate actions, projects, waiting for, and someday/maybe. Assign due dates and priorities. By having a clear system, you'll find that tasks become less daunting and more doable.

If the item ISN’T actionable:

  1. Put it in a Someday/Maybe file for the future (for things that may become actionable)
  2. File it in a reference file (for things that you may want to refer to (instructions, warranties, and so on)
  3. Trash/Recycle it

If the item IS actionable:

  1. Do it if it will take less than 2 minutes
  2. Delegate it to someone
  3. Defer it to be done by you on a future date
  1. Review Regularly

Regular review of your tasks ensures that you stay on top of your commitments. Weekly reviews allow you to adjust and realign your actions with your goals, providing direction and motivation. This keeps your task list from getting overwhelmed with stuff that’s no longer relevant.

  1. Engage

With everything captured, clarified, and organized, you can engage in your tasks with confidence. Knowing that you have a plan allows you to focus on the present task without the nagging worry of forgetting something. David Allen describes this as “Mind like water” meaning you are clear and focused.

GTD has helped my productivity and my stress level so much. I used to be in the middle of one thing and then something I forgot about would pop into my head and I would change gears. It was a very inefficient way to work.

OK, I still do that sometimes, but waaay less.

Getting Started

If you decide to do this, David Allen (and I) recommend starting strong. Take the time to go through all of your stuff… emails, Post-It notes, papers, and so on and process them. When you’re done, you’re going to feel amazing.

So, if you feel overwhelmed, if you feel like you’re dropping the ball, or that you don’t know what to do next, get a copy of Getting Things Done and dig in. You won’t be sorry.

Shameless Plug

LifeStarr is building an app for solopreneurs to help them run their businesses and their lives more efficiently. While not a pure GTD app, it uses some of these great ideas along with some novel ones to let you use GTD concepts to work directly with anyone (even people who don’t use the app).

We are looking for Beta Testers. In return, you’ll get lifetime access to the paid version of the app.

Click the button if you'd like to learn more.

Become a Beta Tester