What a fabulous week it’s been implementing some of Nicole’s amazing tips! If you missed it, here is the full interview with Nicole Smith of The Artisan’s Business Solutions.

Nicole and I walk through her top 5 tips to getting your business life in order, and restoring harmony and balance to your life overall. We looked at:

  • Understanding your work rhythm

  • The four D’s – Do, Delete, Defer and Delegate

  • Removing distractions

  • Time blocking

  • Working in sprints

Some incredible productivity tips here!!

Nicole has even been good enough to include a very special offer for us here in the Write It!/Innovators and Content Creators universe. She’s put together a wonderful organisational starter pack for us to get all our ducks in a row and start smashing out ALL of our goals! If you’re interested, pop on over to Nicole’s website and find out all the bits and pieces included…


Lizzie 0:00

Hi everyone and welcome back to the Save Your Sanity series. The series for saving time and getting shit done. Today we have a very special guest with us. We have Nicole Smith from The Artisans Business Solutions. Nicole works with small businesses to review their practices and develop customised strategic procedures that save time, reduce costs support positive business performance and ultimately design the business that aligns with the life you want to be living. Hi Nicole!

Nicole 0:38 Hello. Thank you very much for having me. I’m really excited to be here as part of the community and have a chat today. Lizzie 0:46 We’ve got some really, really good tips coming our way today. I know we’ve been chatting today and as previously, and everything you say it’s just like, “Yes, let’s do that that’s so helpful”. So, a few different tips today, don’t we? We’ve got your top five and tips for getting your, your business life under control, don’t we? Nicole1:13 Absolutely. Yes. So when you approached me about what are the best things for time management to get you back under control, remove that overwhelm you know get some structure around it, I’ve put together these sort of five top tips that I generally, you know, share with my community and my clients that are really beneficial and will help you get on your way. Lizzie 1:38

Top Five. Understanding your work rhythm, what’s that about?

Nicole 1:40 Okay, so when you hear rhythm, you automatically think music, but what we’re actually talking about here is understanding when is your most productive working zone. So, some of us like I know, Lizzie, yourself you’re a morning person. You get up super early, and that’s your most productive zone. So that’s fantastic you already have identified that, and when you’re looking to plan your day, you know that that is the area where you’re going to be most efficient and most productive. There’s other people at the other end of the scale, where they’re night owls, so you’ll see them online til midnighte or beyond, and that’s their most productive zone. And so understanding, being very honest with yourself and understanding when your zone is, and where your work rhythm is is actually going to support you to be able to design the way that you work on a daily and weekly basis, so that you’re not flying against the grain and it doesn’t feel natural for you. So that’s what we’re talking about with your work rhythms.

Lizzie 2:44

Cool, because it’s not exactly, especially as business owners and people potentially working from home, like the two of us … um 9-5 isn’t really a thing anymore, is it? It’d not a reality.

Nicole 2:56 No, not at all. And especially you know, I’m here in Victoria at the moment so we’re in a stage 4 lockdown. So we’ve had two little kids here under 5, my husband’s working full time, I’m running a business. So it’s just, you know, being aware of where your work zone is, but also what’s going on in your life right now and adjusting the way that you design things so that you know you’re setting yourself up for success and not failure. Lizzie 3:25 Yeah, sure. Yeah, I know for myself, any anything that happens after about four o’clock, is not my finest work. So… I’m ahead of the curve on tip one. Yes! The rest of it. I need the rest. So the next task, the next tip is declutter your task list with the 4 D method. What’s that? Nicole 3:51 Okay so this method, it’s a really simple and easy method that you can use in when you’re looking through your emails, and when you’re then moving across to your task list. So, I know task lists can become quite an overwhelming thing to maintain and haven’t become a massive list and you’re actually, it just becomes very overwhelming you don’t want to be in it because you actually don’t know where to start. So using the 4 D’s method, you’re going to just clean that really frequently, so you know that the tasks that are remaining on that list are your really key chunky important tasks that you need to prioritise. So I’ll run through what you need to do. So the first thing is you Do. So anything that you identify that can be done quickly in two to five minutes, get in there. Get it done, respond to it, action it so it’s complete. It’s off the list. That’s one more thing that’s gone. Lizzie 4:52 I have to say that that, those tasks are the ones I leave til last. I’m of the feeling that I’d let them all build up so I just smash them out all at onces but I think back to perhaps your way is better of actually just doing them at the time rather than letting them pile up. Nicole 5:10 Yeah, so we’ll talk about. I’m going to talk about time blocking in a little bit, but when I do this particular exercise, I do it in my through administration block. So I know that I’ve scheduled time to be able to declutter my emails, declutter my list, so that you know that it’s okay for you to do those tasks. I think a lot of the time were questioning, oh that “I should be doing, XYZ” where it’s just as important to get those little things off. I actually had a really good conversation the other day with someone about, if those little tasks are sitting there, by you not doing those tasks, who is it actually impacting? So, you know, if you have a team for instance, and they sent you a “Can you please do dah dah dah”. And you just sit on it. That team member’s going to be sitting there going, “why aren’t they doing that tiny little task?” So, yeah, this is benefits all round.

Lizzie 6:17

Yeah, absolutely. So that’s D number one. That’s Do. what’s do number two, I mean D number 2?

Nicole 6:26

Delete! so, as I said, this task list can be very overwhelming. And all the little tasks there that are screaming at you because you haven’t completed them, can actually become quite stressful for you if you’re a you like to achieve and you like to get things off that list. So, and I know as business owners and entrepreneurs we are creative people and we have these amazing ideas and concepts that just pop up at any given moment, and we chuck them on the list. However, sometimes they’re not all in alignment with what your focus is for the moment, and having them there, as I said can just keep that little extra bit of stress. So, when I say delete. I mean, remove them from your main vision list there. Put them into a wish list or put them into another sub folder that you know is really important, but you don’t need to be looking at those right now. It’s not really your focus. There’s also things there that you know could have been a great idea at midnight when you woke up and your mind it’s like your little monkey mind’s going, and then you’ve revisit it, ande actually that’s not that’s not gonna work for us.

Lizzie 7:35 So things we come up with at the pub? Not necessarily the best ideas? Nicole 7:36 Maybe not. Sometimes they are, but not always… so yeah, just getting them off the list is a rejuvenating replenishing activity to do Lizzie 7:43 2D’s down, 2 more D’s to go… Nicole 7:45 Delegate! My goodness, delegation. I am such an advocate for, you know, whoever says to me, I’m always talking about, “delegate, delegate, delegate!” Now, um, people think that they can only delegate when they have a team working for them, but that’s really not the case these days. There are so many amazing business owners, if you look just in your community, and there will be so many providers there that will be able to help with a myriad of different areas and functions in your business. It could be from bookkeeping to social media management to, you know, VA services. All of those things so having the identification of those tasks that if you were doing them you’re not really working in your genius zone and you’re really not giving yourself the opportunity to add the value to your clients or the growth of your business that really you, you could be doing. So that’s delegate. Lizzie 8:47 Okay, I like it. Because I think that was the first thing as soon as you said ‘delegate’, I thought ‘oh it’s just me here. I can’t delegate to my three year old! She doesn’t care!’. Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I mean we’re all part of groups, business groups that have, you know, are looking for X, Y and Z service and then, like, 50 of those types of people pop up. And it’s, it doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive, or … If it is an expenditure, it’s an investment in being able to focus on the tasks that you do best, would you say? Nicole 9:32 Absolutely. If you think about the time that you may be spending on a task that you’re not really, maybe the most efficient at, think about how much time has taken you. So for instance like MailChimp. Right. And that’s not always everyone’s cup of tea. They’re not experts at that, but there are people that are experts at that. Something that might take you 20 minutes could take someone 5. That 20 minutes could be spent on something else that’s, you know, more revenue driven or customer focused, or, you know, something along those lines, Lizzie 10:06 It’s very tempting. I like that. I’m thinking of all the things I would outsource, including …whiny childminding… Nicole 10:09 That’s right! It’s not just about the business tasks you know like when it’s not lockdown. I have a cleaner that comes in every week, and helps with the cleaning. Because I know that, you know, my time is better spent in doing whatever else that needs doing you know. Yes, so it’s not just for applying to business tasks. Absolutely. Lizzie 10:29 Yeah, because I think as small business owners and entrepreneurs and people who are working in relatively small operations… we’re balancing all of it at once. It’s not just what we’re doing in the business because the business is 24 hours and our lives are 24 hours a day, as well and just finding ways of working all of that together, I guess is the key. Nicole 10:53 No, because we we haven’t started our business to be working hard all the time right so I know for me it’s about designing a life that would be fabulous for my family and for me, you know that’s the one of the reasons why I’ve started my business. So if you’re working harder all the time and don’t get me wrong, I know that there are elements where you do need to be writing and working hard. I’m under no illusions but if you forward think, ‘where do I want to be’, ‘what is that going to look like’, then that will help you really be clear about, ‘okay, this isn’t where I need to be working’. ‘This is where I need to be working’. Lizzie 11:34 Excellent. Yes. Yes. Yes, please. What’s next on the D list Nicole 11:39 Defer… And what I mean by defer isn’t, don’t do it. These aren’t your key, bulky chunky tasks are your businesss growth or your client activities that must be done. So these are the things if you’re in your email, for instance, and you’ve done the other four D’s and you’ve come to this file, you need to pop that onto your task list. So as you are prioritizing, you know that that is a really important chunky task that needs to be completed. Lizzie 12:12 Defer and procrastinate are not the same thing, either are they? For anyone who’s unsure… Nicole 12:20 No, definitely. Exactly. Lizzie 12:23

So those are the 4D’s and we will have… Nicole’s provided an amazing download, so that’s going to be on the website from Thursday. So if you’re unsure of any of those or you’d like to revisit it, it’s going to be on the Write It! website as part of our blog, and transcript and video that’s going to be there. Next one… you kind of alluded to it earlier. The next one is all about time blocking


Time blocking, yes. So if you imagine if you had, the world was endless and that you could even design your day the way you’d like to work. We introduce time blocking. So we’ve already identified, if you’re a morning person or an evening person. Say you know what you’re working rhythm is, you have an idea of the type of tasks that you need to complete. Because you’re looking at a task list, you’ve done your review all of that sort of thing. Now we’re looking to allocate time within your day so that you know exactly what type of tasks, you’re going to be doing as you go through the day. So, there’s different sort of categories, you’ve got like deep work, creative thinking time, personal is very important. The first thing I say to my clients is your non negotiable items are the first that need to go into your diary when you’re planning your, your time blocking. So, you know, if you’ve got zoom class. Exercise classes, or exercise class online, you know, that’s really important to continue on your exercise and your mental well being. During this time, in particular, going and collecting your kids from childcare, from school, you know that’s, you can’t really leave them there, so that’s pretty much it.

Have your breaks as well, like your lunch break. I’m sure it’s not uncommon to be at your desk all day and forget to eat. So putting those things in your diary, it’s allowing yourself to “cool, it’s time for me to actually have a break” and have a lunch break. I also suggest as well in between each of the categories to have a little bit of a transition time. So it doesn’t have to be long, it could be five minutes, you could have a longer one which is 10 minutes. It just allows you to get out, walk away and rejuvenate yourself so that when you come back to your desk, your mind is fresh and clear. You might have gone outside, got some fresh air, get some sunlight, filtered water, coffee, come back and you’re ready to tackle that next task with your brains on and switched on and ready to go.

Lizzie 15:01 That sounds good. My, my, my little watch here tells me to get up every hour, and it’s sometimes I obey it, and sometimes I can’t or I am literally in the middle of a thought I need to keep typing. And then another two hours has passed and I don’t think you’re probably at your most effective when you haven’t actually moved a muscle, for, you know, several hours at a time.

Nicole 15:22 We think we’re invincible but really you know when you’re not doing your best work, and it’s, you know, a lot of the time it is that fatigue and it’s that I’ve got to just put my body to go because people are relying on me and I’ve got to do it. Whereas, you’ve really got it it’s not what you know put your oxygen mask on first isn’t anything that in mind, because if you’re not rejuvenated if you don’t have your oxygen, you can’t give to the best of your ability as as you would like to.

Lizzie15:53 You’re absolutely right, I’m going to have to have serious words with myself about, about all of this, basically. Food for thought. Definitely.

What about removing distractions?

Nicole 16:10 Removing distractions. Right so when you are working, you know, you’ve got distractions everywhere at the moment with the kids at home so that’s distraction. Unfortunately there’s not too much you can do about that, apart from planning the day around that type of thing. So you know that you’ve got online schooling, for instance, you can actually plan around that. So you know that there are times, it might be that you have to become an early morning person for the next, you know, six weeks in Victoria. So that you can really get ahead of the game with that sort of thing. But ultimately, close down your browsers. Turn your phone on silent, turn off your notifications, like all of these things that are yeah that’s a no brainer. But actually do it. Put that energy into, I am working on this now. And I don’t need to be destracted. Because if I’m working on this and the next thing we’re going to talk about something that’s going to support the switch I might actually just talk about it, it’s relevant so the Pomodoro method, which is a method about working in sort of sprint blocks. So with pomodoro you have a timer, you set it for 25 minutes. All the distractions are off. Everything is turned down. No notifications. You set go and you focus for 25 minutes on a particular task at hand. Once the timer turns off you get up, you walk away. You have a break for a few minutes, you come back reset and off you go again. And you do that four times. So that’s a pomodoro sprint block of the four 25 minutes with the tiny breaks. At the end of that you have a longer break, and you can actually go back in for another set of four. And you can work the whole day like that it’s not something that sticks with you and you react well to that. But yes. It’s a good little tip. I find when I’m in that zone… If you haven’t tried it, all I’ll say is just give it a go and see how you feel. Because I know for me personally, I get amazing results when I’m working in that zone. Lizzie 18:22 Or do you, in theory, then… If you’re doing 25 minute blocks would it be, each block is working on the same thing or would it be different things and you can like circle back to the first one again, or how would you, how would you approach it?

Nicole 18:36 It really depends. So it depends on how so you… this is complementing the time blocking that you’ve already done. Yeah, so you’re just working through your day. So if you’ve got a project that might take you I don’t know, five hours to do but it needs to be done, then you’re working on that five hour block through the sprints.

Lizzie 19:02 Things are gonna get organised. Oh yeah. I think every time I’ve come away from speaking with you it’s like, “Oh yeah, that was good.” “Yup, try that.” I suppose the more organised you get, the less clutter there is in your brain and the less time you spend thinking about how you’re going to do something just going and doing it. Nicole 19:24 That’s exactly right. And also you know you talk about all the mind pops that happen. You might be in the zone and all dah dah dah happens. Have a notebook next to you and a pen or I use Slack, or I’ve got my Click Up and just quickly note it down, get it out and focus back in. Don’t let yourself linger and go off on a tangent outside because that’s what you’re thinking of now. You’ve got to get it out, and you can come back to that. Like that’s fine at the end of the sprint when you’ve got time to allocate to that. So that’s part of that removing the distractions that’s a massive one that happens to people. You know, you get that, oh I’ve gotta do… whatever it is… Lizzie 20:05 You’re right. So many distractions available to us. Aside from our phones, which okay you can put it on silent. I have my phone on silent when I work but the screen is facing up. And that’s enough for me to like, look over and “oh I’ve got a thing.” So I like I found I need to, at the very least turn my phone over. And I’ve got a function on my computer, that says that’s called focus, right, but it’s still lets pretty much every Facebook notification through but nothing else. So, I really struggle to ignore it. So yes, closing down the browsers seems like something that I should have been doing, a long time ago. But let’s see, how man, at the momnet, I have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 separate browsers, open, all with different tabs within them. And mostly because I don’t want to lose my place with each project that I’m working on so I see the value in closing all of that. I’m really going to struggle to do it but I think it’s it’s definitely worth giving it a go.

Nicole 21:12 And it sounds, it sounds like you know the other thing that when I’m talking about time management is having one central location. So I use Click Up. It’s like Asana, it’s like Trello. They’re all very similar. Very personal preference. But if you’re using your browser as your to do list, which sorta sounds like it, you know, moving them into a central location like that and you can have you notes and you can have your links that are all in one location, you won’t have to keep all the stuff open. So you go into Click Up, or whatever you choose, that’s the task I’m working on. There’s the information I need. The links and then focus on that. Finish. Close it down. Go to the next one.

Lizzie 22:01 Yeah, this is wildly different is that like, yeah, that’s my lack of organizational style is just, yeah, that’s that project up there and that has this Facebook pages attached to it oh here’s all my research along the different tabs and here’s the tool that relates to that. And, yes, there are improvements to be made.

Nicole 22:23 And all this is like not an overnight thing, right. So it’s understanding how you want to work going forward, and creating a habit about it. Alright, so you know that it’s going to benefit you in the long run if you invest that energy in making that a habit. You know giving yourself a reward of without having all of those multiple, you know, tabs open, it’s gonna allow you space to be able to really focus on what you’re doing and remove that overwhelm. Because every time you see a tab you’re like “Ooh, I’ve just gotta…” You don’t need to. You need to focus on the task that you are working on right now.

Lizzie 23:07 Oh Nicole. I’m so glad that you exist in the world. Really. Just knowing you exist and you’re doing this for people. So this is your business isn’t it this is what you do for people every day is you… sort them out! Nicole 23:20 I love it, I love it yeah. You know this is just one element. You know, it’s just a process. If you think about it, that’s all it is is a step by step process of how you’re going to manage your time. And I look at bigger, wider than that as well. So it’s workflows and systems and how we can introduce simplicity and efficiency to businesses so that you’re removing the overwhelm and the stress and everything that comes with being a business owner, and a family member, and a person in life. You know, we want to be able to enjoy our time not be, you know, losing sleep over, you know elements in your business that can you kind of have control over. Lizzie 24:03 Yes, yes. And I think you and I will be having a conversation after us about whipping me into shape. Because, yes, you’ve just described me to a tee. I’m feeling a little like, oh, I’ve got all these projects. I’m overwhelmed and I just need to be done and uh, oh I’ll deal with actually organising myself later. So you have a bit of a special deal for us as well at the moment, don’t you, Nicole? Nicole 24:20 Yes, so I put together a little bit of a time management activation plan. So it’s gonna be a three week process and you have a look at how you’re working at the moment. We put together some proposals and some suggestions on where you can improve things, and then help implement it. So obviously it’s virtual, at the moment. But yeah all the details are on the link there, so please get in touch if that’s something that you’ve been struggling with, and I’d be more than happy to help you get organised. Lizzie 24:53 Fantastic. There is no one better onthe planet to help. Actually super nice as well. It helps if you’re nice!

Nicole 25:02 I just, I love it and I just want everybody to, you know, experience what it’s likebeing organised. It’s just so refreshing.

Lizzie 25:12 There is another way to live! She’s living it! Nicole, thank you so much for sharing these amazing tips with us. There’s so much value in this, what,15 minutes that is going to make a massive difference to so many people so I’m really grateful for your time today.

Nicole 25:36

Oh my absolute pleasure. It was enjoyable. I love chatting with you every time.

Lizzie 25:39 Let’s do it every day. Podcast coming soon… All right, thanks so much Nicole, we’ll see you another time. Nicole 25:45 Bye everyone!
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