The Hamster-Wheel School of productivity

Successful entrepreneurs know there's a difference between motion and productivity.You’ve probably seen cute little hamsters running on their wheels. They look so darn adorable, don’t they? Furry, cuddly, goofy looking as they go in endless circles, working so hard to get nowhere.

Do you ever have a sneaking suspicion that you bear some family resemblance to them?

Stop and think a moment about whether you’ve ever found yourself doing any of the following:

I suspect you’re one of the many, many entrepreneurs who has told herself that if you just work harder, you’ll get better results. Or maybe you subscribe to the “work smarter, not harder” school. But no matter which approach you take, you’re still at risk for spending your energy on the wrong activities if you don’t take some time to stop and think about what you’re doing and how and why.

Are you ready to leave your wheel behind? Then start applying some of these tactics; they’ll help you replace mere motion with actual progress.


Ensure you’re moving in the right direction.

It’s very tempting to do what the latest gurus say should be done to build a successful business. It’s up to you to determine whether their recommendations are right for your business.

It’s also possible to unconsciously apply other people’s definitions of success to your business, whether those definitions really resonate with you or not. You owe it to yourself to candidly identify your success criteria and what actions will enable you to meet them.

Schedule time to re-energize yourself.

Nobody can run flat out indefinitely and still produce good results. Self-care is as much a business development tool as providing high-value content to your clients and prospects.

What can you do to boost your energy on a regular basis each day? Would it help to play with your dogs? Walk around the block? Dance to a favorite song? Watch your fish swim tranquilly? Whatever works for you is the best thing to do.

One tactic I’m still working to establish as a habit: I set one online timer for 50 minutes and another one for 10 minutes. When the first goes off, I set the second and move away from my desk. Sometimes during that 10-minute re-charge I do a little yoga, or I use the Step platform in my office for some gentle aerobic activity, or I water my plants. The point is that I get off my butt, move my body, and rest my brain.

Schedule time to evaluate your activities, goals, and progress.

This can be a very challenging step for several reasons, because it assumes you have clearly identified your goals, have consciously developed strategies for achieving those goals, and have identified criteria that will indicate when/if your strategies are indeed moving you forward. Unfortunately, too many entrepreneurs have failed to complete one or more of those key activities.

If you realize that’s true for you, then your pre-work is to get clear on goals and important strategies and tactics for goal achievement. Then you get to schedule and commit to taking time on a regular basis for evaluation. This may take 30 minutes, or it may feel more appropriate for you to spend a half day on it. You may decide to do a quick evaluation once a week and an in-depth one once every month/two months/quarter. Again, whatever works for you is the right thing to do.

Challenge your assumptions.

This is one of my personal favorites (just kidding) because challenging your assumptions is so…challenging. Many, many of the assumptions impacting your business are unconscious, so your very first step is to make them explicit. For example, are you assuming that you have to be on Facebook because “everyone” is? If so, do you know that your ideal clients hang out there? And if they don’t, why do you?

This is a great time to enlist a trusted friend to help you see assumptions and expectations and constraints that you are unconsciously applying to your situation. Any time you can get input from someone who’s not living in your skin with you, you’re very likely to become aware of things that you’ve been taking for granted. If these unconscious habits and assumptions are serving you well, becoming aware of them is a great reason to celebrate and pat yourself on the back. If, on the other hand, they’re counterproductive, becoming aware of them enables you to change them for the better.


What do you think of all this? Do you realize there’s a little rodent somewhere on your family tree? Or have you evolved to the point where you’re running your business by design, rather than default? Let me know what you’ve done to ensure that your business succeeds as a result of conscious, intentional choices.

(By the way, thanks to Haundreis for posting the darling little rodent image in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)

This entry was posted in action plan, focus, goals, productivity and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Hamster-Wheel School of productivity

  1. Pingback: Do you just make To Do lists, or do you TAKE ACTION? | Stepping Into Big

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