Did you ever have that horrible feeling at the end of the day when you look back and realise you've achieved nothing very much at all, even though the day has been full and busy?
I know that feeling. It's not a good one.
It leaves you feeling frustrated and annoyed because you know you could have used your time more wisely and gotten closer to your goals. You feel like you've squandered yet another day.
To be successfully self-employed takes focus. With no one but yourself to guide and direct your days, it's easy to let the time slip by filled with everything from doing your laundry, to replying to emails, to plucking out leg hair (yes, that's my favourite.)
Your days disappear in a cloud of endless tasks and yet come the end of the day you've got nothing at all to show for it.
I really found this tough at the beginning of my self-employment journey, especially given that I spend the vast majority of my time working from home alone.
But little by little I've built habits that support me in my business and allow me to end each day with a sense of satisfaction about what I've accomplished.
So today I want to share with you one incredibly simple idea that has really worked for me. Doing this one thing means that every day I can say, "Yes, I'm happy with what I did today."
Knock down your most important domino first
"Every great change starts like falling dominoes." - BJ Thornton
In their book The One Thing, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan tell us about the world record domino fall in which more than 4,491,863 dominoes were lined up and how the setting in motion of the single first domino "cumulatively unleashed more than 94,000 joules of energy". Apparently that's as much energy as it takes an average-sized man to do 545 pushups.
Apply the same strategy to life and you get a pretty good recipe for success. When you line up the right things, in the right order and then topple the first one, you set in motion an unstoppable series of events.
With every domino you topple over, momentum and energy build, allowing you to not only topple the next domino but to topple dominoes that increase in size as you go.
Gary and Jay write,
"The moon is reachable if you prioritise everything and put all of your energy into accomplishing the most important thing. Getting extraordinary results is all about creating a domino effect in your life."
Knocking down dominoes in action
So what does this actually look like in the real world? Well, here's how I use this strategy in my own business and life.
I know I'm at my best first thing in the morning. So from 0700 - 0900 each morning from Monday to Friday I have a reminder in my calendar that tells me to "knock down my biggest domino."
In those two hours I sit down and I do the thing that I know will be most beneficial to me and my business.
That biggest domino is always changing, depending on my short and long term goals. For instance, in March this year I placed a real emphasis on growing my email list so that I could reach a larger audience with my writing and services.
For me that meant spending time on guest posts since I know that's both an effective and enjoyable way (for me) to grow my audience.
So for a couple of weeks my daily domino was to sit and work on writing those articles. The result? Three guest posts accepted on high quality websites written specifically with my audience in mind.
The first of those was published this month over at Psycholocrazy (check it out here if you like) and the result of that was more sign-ups to my website this month than I've had in a long time. The next two will be published before the end of May.
There's something hugely satisfying about having done your most important piece of work first thing in the morning. That way, even if the rest of your day goes totally belly up, you can still go to bed at night feeling like you crushed it.
Picking your most important domino
It’s important to know what your most important domino is ahead of time. If you don’t plan this in advance, you'll find the day slipping away.
Decide the night before what your most important task is for the next day. That way you can get started with total clarity in the morning and without getting sucked into unimportant tasks.
Another simple idea I picked up is this little nugget of advice:
“Don’t leave your bedroom in the morning until you know what your purpose is.”
Now, that doesn't work for me because when I wake up in the morning the only thing on my mind is having a wee, but if it works for you, take it and use it. It's all about getting clear and committed ahead of time.
A word of warning
I mentioned earlier that I sit down from 0700 - 0900 to knock down my most important domino each morning.
In a way, that's a lie. In actual fact, my most important domino comes before that when I sit down to meditate each morning.
The meditation domino is the one that sets me up for the day and puts me in the right frame of mind to even begin knocking down my other dominoes.
It's easy to think that knocking down dominoes is about sitting down to do some business-related work. But your most important domino might be meditation, taking a walk, going to the gym or some other form of self-care.
At the end of the day, in self-employment, you are your business and your most important domino should always be about taking care of yourself. Only then can you move on to your world-conquering activities.