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It’s 4:45 am, the sun is barely at the horizon, birds are just beginning to sing, and the air is crisp. Before the alarm goes off, another keener springs out of their bed, a look of determination and vigor mixed on their face.
They’re convinced a few hours of “rising and grinding” before their competition wakes up will be the key to total domination.
Sound familiar? It should. Every time you listen to a business podcast, read up on your favorite entrepreneur or scroll through Instagram, you’re bombarded with this exact morning routine for success.
But is this really the way you want to live?
For the majority of you, an alarm blaring in your ear before the crack of dawn is the polar opposite of motivational – it’s enraging. Forcing yourself to see the sunrise won’t create a daily routine that lights you up, enhances productivity, or develops the sticky habits needed to transform random rituals into daily practice.
What will create a daily routine that sticks? It’s all about creating the right habits.
The key to a daily routine that sticks is pretty simple
I don’t know about you, but my history with strong willpower isn’t exemplary. So, when I first went about creating a daily ritual, I wasn’t holding my breath it would stick.
Then I discovered the extraordinary power of habits.
“If you believe you can change – if you make it a habit – the change becomes real.”
― Charles Duhigg
When you establish positive habits, you no longer have to rely on willpower and motivation alone. You can build a structure that creates momentum to carry you forward – even on days when you’d rather stay under the covers.
Following a daily routine of your own creation can also help you narrow in on what matters, minimize procrastination, and improve your health.
The first step is to focus on activities that’ll work for you. It can be tempting to mimic how Tim Ferriss starts his morning, or how Sarah Blakely finishes her day – but these routines might not work for your life. Think about what activities resonate most with you – the ones that’ll push you to become the best version of yourself – and focus on them.
As an example, if you work Tuesday – Saturday with a start time of 1 pm, it’s unlikely a 6 am date with your trainer is priority one. Look at your lifestyle first and then continue forward. The key to creating a daily routine that sticks is getting into regular and consistent patterns to form habits.
The best daily routine for success is YOUR OWN
Here are the four questions you should ask when setting up your daily system:
Are you prepared for the rest of your day?
Does it get you closer to a value or goal that’s important to you?
Is this something that makes you happy?
Can this activity be sustained?
An effective daily routine can be found in the answers to these questions. Ideally, you’ll combine all four to create the ultimate day.
Why I gave up my membership in the #5amclub (and never looked back)
Before we dig into the essential parts of a daily routine, let’s put an old debate to bed. Over the past few years, word on the street has been that early risers are the “disciplined ones.” Bounding out of bed each day at 5 am to go for an eight-mile jog (#chasingsunrise), high-fiving passersby with joy and motivation.
Night owls and late(r) risers, on the other hand, filter through a different lens. Lazy, directionless, and disorganized are just a few of the gems thrown around. However, getting enough sleep and waking up according to your body’s natural rhythm can ignite a far more productive day than forcing yourself out of bed hours before your brain is ready. That there’s a recipe for burnout.
It also sets the stage for disappointment. A night owl can’t force themselves to wake up before the sun regularly without backlash from their body. To give yourself the highest chance at building a habit, you want to work with your natural rhythms, not against them.
If you’ve always been more productive in the evening, stop fighting that impulse and instead adjust your routine to take advantage of your most creative hours. Set aside time to work on your drawing, diversify your skill set, or spend time on a hobby.
The epic rise of the night owl
Late risers can find comfort in the productivity of Reddit’s founder Alexis Ohanian. Not getting to bed before 2 am most nights, he’s rarely up before 10 am. In spite of that, Ohanian made it to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list two years in a row, and at last check, Reddit valuation is $1.4 Billion (not too shabby).
If that’s not enough reason to embrace your night owl tendencies, recent studies have found we’re:
So, the next time a friend asks what time you got up in this morning don’t be ashamed if it’s after 5 am – you’re doing just fine on your own rhythm.
Time to get your mind on the right track
“The mind is just like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets, and the more it can expand.”
― Idowu Koyenikan
If you analyze productivity experts’ daily routines, you’ll find a few things in common. Almost all have an element of focus on the big picture: goals, gratitude, and targeted planning.
Without clarity of mind, it’s challenging to focus on even the smallest task. Let’s look at three ways you can narrow in your laser with these daily routine examples:
The reason a tech-free morning will set you up for success
Picture this: The sun is shining in, you’ve just woken up, and for a moment you’re basking in the quiet peace of the morning. You reach over to grab your iPhone, and the spell breaks – emails, texts, DM’s – you’re thrust into someone else’s schedule. When the first thing you do after you wake up is reach for your phone, you become reactive – and what we’re striving for is proactive.
Begin your day focused on yourself by staying unplugged from the online booking that came in overnight, the drama playing out in your text messages and the world according to Twitter (it’s never good news anyway). At the very least, wait until after you’ve gone through your morning routine.
There’s no better way to start your day than visualizing how you’d like it to unfold. Be as detailed in your mind as possible and stay positive. If you struggle to picture how you want your day to turn out, whip out a notebook, and write everything down instead.
Visualization works alongside your subconscious mind, a powerful connection that’s eager to soak up your vibe (good or bad). The more often you focus through this practice, the easier it becomes for your mind and body to align on your goals.
Your new daily routine maker is in your junk drawer right now.
Pull out that $1.29 BIC pen you tossed into the drawer and dig out the journal you bought intending to write in (someday). Taking the time to write every day improves your skills as a communicator makes you more creative and can increase happiness. Whether you want to list five things you’re grateful for, knock out ten big ideas or free flow, the goal’s getting into the habit of putting words on the page.
Let’s prepare your body for battle (ahem, work)
“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”
— Bruce Lee, actor, and martial artist
You might not see your daily workout as an essential habit to create. The struggle to pull yourself out of bed can feel like an uphill battle, let alone having the first person you interact with be an overly enthusiastic spin instructor.
Know that you’re not limited to the bass-filled Soul Cycle room or action-packed Muay Thai class to see benefits – you simply need to move. After a night of sleep, you’ve been inactive for hours, and it’s time to get the blood coursing through those veins. Send a shock-wave to your brain to signal hibernation is over.
Here are two ways to get your body in fighting form that doesn’t involve the gym:
Breathe the air in, breathe the stress out
Your body (and brain) cannot function without your breath, and the more you can train yourself to control its rate, the easier it’ll be to:
Recover from a hard workout
Improve your focus and clarity
There are several breathing exercises you can choose from, one of the most popular being the Win Hof Method. Practicing the following sequence helps to release more energy, influence your nervous system, and change various physiological responses.
According to Win Hof, “You are inducing voluntarily a short stress response which ultimately will lead to more resilience towards everyday stress, mentally and physiology and feeling more in control.“
To wake up refreshed you need to stick to a nightly ritual
Your key to a rewarding daily routine that sticks begins the night before. While there’s no “perfect” amount of sleep (everyone is different), the National Sleep Foundation has recommended a window of 7-9 hours sleep for those between the ages of 26-64.
Today’s been a complete disaster. If it wasn’t one thing, it was the other.
This morning, you’d shut your alarm off instead of hitting snooze mutating your 7 am wake-up into an 8:30 am panic attack. The snowball effect of your horrid misstep was numerous canceled and rescheduled appointments. How to wow your clients? I think not.
And yet, it didn’t stop there.
On your way to soccer practice with the kids, you swore you’d heard a “clinking” noise coming from underneath the car. Then again, with all the screaming and fighting, it was kinda hard to tell. To be honest, you were just relieved to get them out onto the field (translation: away from you). All you needed was five minutes to soak in the sweet glory of silence.
Alas, nothing good ever lasts.
Ten minutes into your ride home it felt like the Incredible Hulk had taken ahold of your Camry, violently shaking you for his amusement. As you made a beeline for the side of the road, kids frozen in the backseat, you officially gave up.
Once you’d safely stopped, you frantically searched for your roadside assistance card hidden somewhere in your car (fingers crossed that the renewal payment got checked off your to-do list somehow).
After several minutes, you located the crumpled up card (paper, seriously?!) and dialed the number. Dispatch explained they’d send someone out as soon as possible and stay calm and hold tight.
What felt like an eternity later, you saw headlights coming up the road, slowing down as the vehicle approached your location. Stuffing down memories of 80’s slasher flicks, you opened your door to wave over who you hoped was your white knight with a tow hitch.
As a shadowy figure emerged from the illumination of headlights, you relaxed – had this nightmare day finally come to a close?
Out of the darkness came a voice: “Hey, I’m Tony from Hane’s Towing, I’ve got donuts here for you and your kids.”
Had you heard correctly, or maybe you hit your head getting out of the car?
As you stammered an eloquent: “Hi, huh?!” You felt a box of donuts being pushed into your hands as Tony smiled at you and nodded toward the little people in the back of your car. It was then you’d remembered the call with dispatch.
During the harried call, you’d inadvertently unloaded about your day from hell after requesting back-up to your location. Upon hearing your troubles, the dispatch crew had passed along a message to Tony (the driver) that you could use a pick me up. So, Tony had run with it and grabbed a box of donuts along the way.
Wow, talk about going above and beyond.
As your kids happily mowed down on some crullers, you’d begun to think about all the different companies out there. Competition is more fierce today than ever. In the age of social media, small businesses are in direct competition with global brands (but on a much lower budget) – how do they set themselves apart?
Well, the first way is focusing on making their clients feel special.
If we’re honest with ourselves we want two things from the business we’re loyal to:
Recognition for the support we show through spending our hard earned money
But how exactly can you as a small business rise above the noise to make your clients feel special? Here are 25 ideas to wow your clients:
1. Keep your promises (it’s the least you can do)
The first step in how to wow your clients is simple – keep your promises. Sounds easy enough, right? Shockingly, it’s one of the most overlooked ideas to improve customer experience in small business.
Keeping your promises begins by clearly outlining the expectations for your clients – from their experience with you to any deliverables and deadlines (ex. Your client’s custom tattoo sketch will be ready in 48 hours and in their hands). The more clearly this is stated to your clients, the better. Vagueness leaves openings for misunderstandings, which can lead to disappointment.
Once you’ve laid out your promises, provide a detailed plan to your staff on how you intend to keep them, and it’s full steam ahead.
2. Surprise your client with the unexpected
Who doesn’t love a surprise? OK, there are a few of you out there, but let’s not focus on the negative here.
In your business, you can use surprises in two ways. The first is to give your client more than they were expecting. You don’t need to give away the farm to make a lasting impression, but we all love to feel like we’re getting a little something extra.
For example, let’s say you have a client sitting in your chair at the barbershop who’s there for a fade. As you’re chatting you notice his 5 o’clock shadow and for the last 15 minutes he’s been talking about how stressed out he’s been lately. How about offering a hot shave on the house?
With a little surprise, you’ll be showcasing your skills and helping to create a brand advocate who will spread word of mouth and eventually bring in more ideal clients.
Next up, follow up with your clients when they’re not expecting it.
Your shop will benefit in a couple of different ways if you start to incorporate this into your business strategy. Following up allows clients to give you positive (and negative) feedback, which helps you identify any possible problems you need to fix before they turn into huge issues.
For example, if you’ve added or changed a service that’s getting a lot of questionable feedback, it might be time to consider making adjustments.
3. Blow your clients mind with your psychic ability
I betcha didn’t think upselling was going to be a way to wow your clients did ya? Well, it’s super important your clients know about all of the services (and for some of you, products) you offer.
If you’re able to help your clients in more than one way (read: address multiple pain points) they’ll be happy to spend their money. The one caveat? You need to come from a place of service, not sales. The focus is on how to wow your clients by solving their problems – not padding your wallet. We can all smell a sales pitch coming a mile away.
It’s incredible how far a simple “thank you” will go these days – it doesn’t need to be complicated. The key is to put in some effort and be genuine. Here are some ways you can “thank” your clients:
Send out a small birthday gift to your VIP clients (ex. a gift card to Starbucks)
Write a blog post expressing gratitude to your client base
Offer a discounted service for every “100th” client booked
Deliver personalized notes to your clients thanking them for their visit to your shop
When you show gratitude to your clients, it sets you apart from the thousands of other businesses that take their patronage for granted. Taking the time to connect with your clients reaffirms their decision for choosing you.
5. And the winner is…a tried & true customer connection idea
It’s no secret people love free things. When you combine free with a giveaway – you’re a winner!
Here’s where you can reward the clients who’ve been with you since the beginning, “fans” that can’t get enough of your social media accounts or those who shout your name from the rooftops.
Whether it’s a special discount for your email list or a giveaway on Instagram, get creative, and reward your most loyal clients.
6. Show off your charitable side
If you’re looking for customer connection ideas that will wow your clients, think about donating in their honor. With social entrepreneurship on the rise and many people making personal contributions to causes near and dear to their hearts – this is an opportunity to set yourself apart.
Use social media to your advantage and check out which charities your clients are actively supporting. Once you’ve gathered some intel on your VIP clients, reach out and let them know how you’re going to be contributing.
Alternatively, your shop could hold an event where the proceeds or a portion of the sales get donated to a local charity. It’s a fantastic way to connect with your community and your clients.
7. Put the spotlight on the real stars of your business (no, not you)
There’s no better way to bring awareness to the culture of your business than through the stories of your clients.
How did the custom tattoo you created for a client impact their life? What was it like for them to go through the process? This is where following up with your clients comes into play. These personal stories showcased on your Instagram or website will highlight the experience felt in your shop and set you apart.
You’ll also find putting your client narratives front, and center online makes them feel valued. Your clients will be encouraged to speak with pride about doing business with you.
8. Build your business in a house made of glass
When it comes to your business, your shop, and your policies, it’s imperative that you’re an open book. Transparency builds trust with your clients. They want to be able to learn as much as possible about you and to be able to ask questions if they have concerns.
There are numerous ways you can show transparency in your business; here are just a few of our favorites:
have a clear, easy to locate refund policy
never reply with canned responses to your client’s questions (i.e., social media, email, blog comments)
show your humanity (translation: always admit when you’re wrong)
write blog posts that discuss the wins, the struggles, and tough decisions
Burnout as a word is pretty deceptive. It sounds like at a moment’s notice you’ll be bowled over by an avalanche of stress, overwhelm and sadness before finally combusting into a blinding flash of light and smoke.
In reality, burnout rolls in like a thick fog, snaking through your cells and smothering you until it’s engulfed your brain, body, and soul. You’re left disoriented, wondering how you’ll ever find your way free again.
It can take anyone down – whether you’re running the show solo or working with a team – burnout doesn’t discriminate.
Round-the-clock communication is part of our new reality and the always-on-call workplace culture has become commonplace. We’ve reached a breaking point where more work, more stress, more responsibility, more hours must stop. Our mental and physical selves won’t handle any more tension.
“Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to:
physical and emotional exhaustion (being too tired to produce quality work)
cynicism and detachment (no longer caring about the work produced)
feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment (feeling like the work you do makes no difference)
When in the throes of full-fledged burnout, you’re no longer able to function effectively on a personal or professional level.”
So let’s clear something up straight away. Burnout is more than merely feeling stressed, irritated or tired from a long day at work. We all have days when we feel down, overwhelmed, or like the world’s hell-bent on stopping us—hauling ourselves out of bed requires a Herculean effort. But it’s not every day.
When you’re on the cusp of succumbing to burnout you’ll feel exhausted continuously, like your work no longer matters, and you’ll have warped and often pessimistic conceptions of both yourself and others.
While the symptoms can look different from person to person, there are some common threads:
Signs of physical exhaustion: chronic fatigue, insomnia, always falling ill, and weight gain or loss of appetite.
Signs of emotional exhaustion: anxiety, depression, and anger issues. A tendency toward pessimism, cynicism, and detachment.
A drop in productivity. Your overworked brain starts forgetting essential tasks regularly. That, along with an inability to concentrate and pay attention, generally leads to a vicious cycle, where the workload only gets bigger.
You can see what a potential force of destruction burnout can be in your life. So, what do you need to look out for in the workplace that can lead you down the wrong path?
Six major factors that contribute to burnout:
The expectation of a bigger workload and longer hours
Micromanaging, over scheduling, loss of a predictable income, loss of trust and lack of respect.
An imbalance between your personal and professional life
The first question we ask when we meet someone new is: What do you do?
We’ve collectively become so obsessed with our careers that we no longer spend enough time developing a separate identity, nor do we care to know about yours. On top of that, our vision of success has warped dramatically over the last few decades causing this preoccupation to skyrocket.
When we look to our pinnacles of “success,” we hold up Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Beyonce as our measuring sticks. We focus on the concept that to succeed we need to do more. If we just outwork everyone by putting in more hours, give up more of our life – hustle harder – we’ll be successful.
Why is this dangerous?
The flip side of working harder and putting in more hours to be successful is burnout. According to author and workplace expert Rahaf Harfoush:
“Since the industrial revolution productivity has been linked to output but now that most of us have moved into productive creativity/knowledge positions it’s impossible to measure our output in the same way – continuous output leads to a crash.”
The messages we’re receiving is if you aren’t successful (like Richard Branson) it means that you aren’t working HARD enough. That’s incredibly dangerous for a variety of reasons. First, let’s be real and remember along the way each of the people we put on a pedestal has had support – a lot of it. That could be in the form of child care, coaching, financial backing – the list goes on.
Even more concerning is for those of us that are:
Working multiple part-time jobs
Going to school
Caring for aging parents, or children
All while working full time. It begs the question…
Are they not working hard enough?
I recently saw a “motivational” post talking about Beyonce’s preparation for her 2018 Coachella show. This person was explaining how Beyonce had worked tirelessly for 8 months all for a 2-hour live performance. She was stating that if Beyonce could sacrifice all that time for a 2-hour result – what’s your excuse for not getting off your ass for your career/dream/tiny goal?
Really? Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see a lot of similarities between Beyonce’s life and my own. How about you?
It’s time we redefine what success looks like to be more compassionate and sustainable. We need to step away from the “hustle harder” culture. No more, “If they’re working at 100%, I’m gonna rise up and grind out 150%”…it needs to stop.
In Rahaf Harfoush’s book, “Hustle & Float” she defines this white water rafting term:
The Hustle: is what you do to avoid the obstacles and get where you want to go. The Float: is when you let the river do the work (lift your paddles out).
If you have too much hustle you make mistakes and get exhausted, with too much float it’s boring, and you lose control of your direction. What you need is balance.
We have to collectively wake up as a society to change the definition of “success” or burnout rates will continue to skyrocket. We can no longer continue to strive for the unattainable standards set by the outliers.
I know it can seem a bit intangible if you’ve never experienced burnout, so I’ll make the reality of it a bit more personal to you. If burnout seeps into your business, here are 7 ways it could impact you:
1. Your creativity hits a wall
There’s no worse feeling than waking up as a writer and not being able to write. I’ve spent hours staring at a blank screen wondering how long it’ll take for that blinking cursor to dance with ANY letters.
The same frustration happens within all creative fields; you all experience moments where the spark isn’t there – you’re forced to slog through and do your best. Real problems arise when you feel as though you have no control over your creativity, begin to feel dispassionate towards your work, and close your mind off to new ways of thinking.
When these feelings begin to build it’s time to implement a strategy to claw your way back to your art. You should never give up on your passion.
2. Productivity levels drop
There are tasks that all of us find tedious on the best days – checking email, posting to social media, following up on appointments – you get the picture. When you’re staring down the barrel of burnout, it’s a lethal mix of anxiety, stress, exhaustion, and apathy – all of which can kill your productivity.
This combo can wreak havoc on your workflows, causing you to miss deadlines, anger clients or begin finishing tasks at a slower rate. You may even find yourself pushing aside any responsibilities you dislike for later – but never actually getting to them.
Setting up automated tasks can be a useful weapon to combat the overwhelm often experienced by small businesses. Here are a few ways that can help:
When the stress at work becomes too much to handle, many people decide the best way to escape is to jump ship and leave their job altogether. This hurts your remaining team in several ways. According to 2018, Gallup Poll burned out employees are:
63% more likely to take a sick day
2.6 times as likely to leave their current employer
13% less confident in their performance
In many cases, when you have a co-worker leave due to burnout, it signals that it’s time to look at your work environment. Rally around your remaining staff and have an open, honest dialogue about some of the most common stressors leading to burnout and how your workplace is going to address them:
Frequent scheduling conflicts or interruptions
Unpredictable schedules that don’t let you get enough rest
Added responsibilities that go beyond your initial job scope without a raise in pay
Interpersonal demands such as dealing with demanding clients or co-workers
It’s a hot debate these days on how to go about becoming an expert at something.
In one camp are those who say “talent” is grossly overrated. With dedication and deliberate practice, you can accomplish anything.
Across the pond is the “you’re born with it, or you’re not” camp.
Hours of sacrifice, blood, tears, and practice won’t make you an artist. You need to be driven by natural forces beyond your control.
What does this have to do with the habits of great tattoo artists? Being known as an “expert” pays off – no matter how you get there.
It buoys your reputation, increases your value and boosts your self-confidence to be mastering a skill. Not to mention it gives you credibility and helps you build a business you love.
So, we’re going to look at 7 things great tattoo artists are doing every day as they work towards mastery.
1. Check their personal issues at the door
Let’s face it; in 2019 the majority of our connection comes from a digital community that’s not so warm & fuzzy.
But as tattoo artists, you’re in a unique position. You play the role of sounding board, confidence builder and even healer to your clients in real life. You form a tight bond as you create one of a kind pieces from personal stories, struggles, experiences & memories.
Your clients are earnestly searching for closure by the time they end up in your shop. There’s no room for the drama playing out in your life to rear its ugly head. Finding a way to enter the shop free from anyone’s personal issues will elevate your mood, clear your head and separate your work from the pack.
And hey, when you need to talk, that’s what your hairstylist is for right?
2. Own up to their mistakes
We all make mistakes. You’re not a robot (right?), and neither am I, so until the time comes when we’re all replaced by the machine race we need to accept perfection doesn’t exist.
To state the obvious, tattooing a symbol backward or misspelling a name is terrifying because it’s permanent. There’s no delete button or eraser – but even after you’ve triple checked it happens to the best. Growth occurs between your error and the solution.
The best option is to face the situation head-on (I mean, it’s going to be obvious but don’t ever play the blame game), provide a fix immediately and apologize. You need to swallow your pride and ego; doing whatever you can to make it right.
Malcolm Gladwell famously stated you need at least 10,000 hours to master a skill. Well, oh boy. As tattoo artists, you’re trying to become a virtuoso at many: color theory, drawing, concentration – all on a living, breathing, sweating, target. 10,000 hours is barely scraping the surface.
You need to crave the art of tattooing to be happy. Those who do it, do it for love – not the money, and certainly not the fame. When they’re not tattooing, they’re sketching or trying their hand at painting as a side hustle. They live, eat and breathe the art as a form of self-expression.
Setting clear boundaries should never be considered a bad thing. Respectfully communicate with your clients, treating them how you’d want to be treated. It’s unnecessary to justify why you make the decisions you do in your business, but sometimes sharing a little background information can help your clients understand your situation.
For example, if you have a policy that requires your clients to pay an up-front deposit so they can secure a tattoo appointment, feel free to explain why. Establishing clear boundaries is all about creating habits. If you don’t stand your ground on the policies that mean the most to you, it’ll be hard to rally your clients to respect them or your business.
5. Never stop setting goals
The best tattoo artists aren’t bubbling over with creativity at every moment, and they definitely make mistakes (see #2). The difference maker is they always set concrete goals to improve – even if it’s just by the smallest amount.
No matter where you’re at in your career, evaluate your progress. Think about how you can push yourself further.
Have short term goals you set and shatter in a day, then long term ones you might never fully realize – and be okay with that. Know you’re pushing forward and always progressing towards a target. The most successful tattoo artist will step out of their comfort zone and focus on areas that need improvement.
By avoiding the cocoon of familiarity and continually seeking to improve, you’re ultimately going to reach maximum personal potential.
6. Prioritize their physical and mental health
As tattoo artists, understanding and improving what fuels your work, the part that makes it unique and stands apart from everyone else’s takes time and can be insanely stressful.
Keep your mental health in check by:
Not letting your job title/career define who you are
Work on creating the optimal work/life balance for you – it’s different for everyone
Automate your processes to give your mind a break and save time
Build a team of support around you
Do what you love
On the physical side of things, tattooing is back-breaking work – in the most literal sense. When you’re hunching over for hours at a time, it becomes unsustainable if you neglect your body. Staying bendy and healthy is a must-do if tattooing is going to be a lengthy career choice. Those in it for the long haul make time to hit the gym and also toss in some yoga classes now and then.
I’m embarrassed to tell you how long this blog post took me to finish. While writing, I’ve easily gotten up to make a prosciutto & swiss cheese sandwich, played tug of war with my pug Otis, Marie Kondo’d my Spring wardrobe and dabbled in a bit of web design. That’s right, my name is Emma, and I’m a (recovering) multitasker.
You see, I’ve spent the last 20 years of my professional life touting my “ability” to start multiple tasks and work on them simultaneously. As technology has taken off, it’s only gotten more complex. On a “good” day I’ll have 7 tabs, two live chat boxes, and multiple browsers open with a side of iPhone buzzing with notifications. Oh, and did I mention I “can’t” work without my favorite music?
Now, you’re probably wondering, how do I get anything done? Well, it’s challenging to say the least.
Even though research and science have been whispering multitasking is passè, it wasn’t enough. Not until a gnawing pit in my stomach grew every time I sat down to start my day did I realize something had to give. #anxietysucks
So, today it’s an epic productivity showdown between multitasking and single-tasking. We’re doing a deep dive into how you can train yourself to find the competitive advantage by staying focused.
According to Neuropsychologist and brain-training expert Theo Tsaousides, “Multitasking divides your attention from 100 percent to different portions, so some smaller amount goes on one task, some smaller percentage goes on another task. You ultimately are not giving your 100 percent focus and attention to what you need to be working on.”
What that means is focusing on more than one task at a time, or repeatedly switching back and forth between two or more jobs, can leave you less targeted and less efficient than you may think.
And it gets worse. So much worse.
Stanford University researcher Clifford Nass found that people who were considered heavy multitaskers were worse at sorting out relevant information from irrelevant details:
“We have scales that allow us to divide up people into people who multitask all the time and people who rarely do, and the differences are remarkable. People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted.”
They also showed greater difficulty when it came to switching from one task to another and were less mentally organized. The horrifying part though – was these results happened even when these people weren’t multitasking. The study revealed that even when these chronic multitaskers were focusing on a single task; their brains were less effective and efficient.
If you still feel like you don’t fall into this group, after all, multitasking is your jam…keep reading.
The effects of daily multitasking
When you find you’re having trouble focusing on one task at a time it could be damaging your brain – even just watching someone who’s texting while talking to their co-workers and eating the lunch can drop your comprehension by a whopping 17%!
Look, daily multitasking affects your ability to:
Be effective while you’re multitasking
Be useful when you’re not multitasking
Prioritize to achieve your goals
Use your short-term memory
Find your flow
It takes time for your mind to adjust to a shift in focus. Each time you change your attention, you’re forcing your brain to re-focus, and this can drain you of energy, time and productivity.
As a shop owner, multitasking is the ultimate optical illusion. It tricks you into the feeling of productivity and lulls you into a sense of security with the comfort of frenetic activity you’re intimately familiar with already. Multitasking has likely become second nature to you – the idea of focusing on a single task will seem foreign.
Let’s make single tasking a whole lot more familiar.
It’s difficult to wrap your head around why focusing on one task at a time would be beneficial to you in the long term. Even when we hear stats like multitasking can cause long-term damage to our brains, or we make more mistakes when we multitask. For those of us who are accustomed to buzzing around, the very thought of taking a step back and slowing down seems counter-intuitive. But it doesn’t have to be.
Begin your day in the present
When was the last time you started your day without first rolling over and checking your messages or hopping onto social media to review your shop’s Instagram page? For the majority of us, traditional alarm clocks went out of style with acid wash jeans. When we jolt awake with that familiar beep, we immediately connect to a digital wonderland. Distraction and multitasking begin almost immediately upon waking – how many appointment bookings came through since I went to bed last night, who won the basketball game – how do I have 5 missed text messages already?!
How do you begin the day grounded in the real world? First off, don’t sleep with your phone. Easier said than done I know. Mine has resided underneath my pillow, a headphone in my ear, streaming podcasts to my sleeping brain for the last decade. I get it.
Starting your day free from digital connection puts you in the present. You’ll begin to build more focus and intention without the distraction you’d be receiving from outside noise.
Take some baby steps to focus down to single tasking. Rather than making dinner while listening to music and having an in-depth conversation via text message – try cutting out the digital part of the equation. Or, the next time you’re watching TV and reading a book, shut off the television. It’s shocking how much more information you’re able to retain when you’re brain can focus on one task that requires conscious thought.
Make your most challenging task priority #1
There’s a strategy I love called “Eating the Frog” born from something that Mark Twain said:
“If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”
Now, that’s disgusting, and I love animals, so I’m not encouraging eating frogs, but as Brian Tracy explains in his theory, your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you’re most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.
We all do this. I understand in service-based industries there are tasks you’ll have to complete whether you feel like it that day or not. For example, a back piece booked months in advance needs to be started even when you’re exhausted or have a mile long to-do list.
But what about those tasks that are super important yet you’re still procrastinating over because you’re unsure how to handle them? Like the client who’s requested a cover-up you know isn’t going to be possible. You’re hesitant how to approach the situation, so instead of handling it, you avoid it altogether. Or maybe, your shop has reached a point where you need to hire another artist or barber, but the job is so daunting you distract yourself with other tasks – emails, socializing with staff and cleaning out your office.
It’s time to eat that frog.
Remove all distractions
Distractions can be different for everyone, but they’re all around us and growing exponentially as time passes. Perhaps you’ve allocated yourself an hour for office time each day to get a leg up on staff scheduling, get meetings set up and put together some reviews. You feel like you’re on a roll – except you’re not. As you sit down at your laptop to get started you log in to Instagram to see how the shop page looks and then peek at Facebook, somehow you end up on Youtube – now that’s three tabs open and 45 minutes deep. You haven’t even started your planned tasks yet.
Recognizing what’s going to knock you off course is imperative. Take the preventative step to remove all distractions before you get started: set up a “do not disturb” on your computer (use an app like Rescuetime), turn off your notifications, communicate to your staff that you’re off limits for a certain period (barring emergencies). Planning is the key to success here.
Embrace progress over perfection
Nobody’s perfect and aiming for it will always do more harm than good. The quickest way to derail yourself is to shoot for the unattainable. Instead, strive for progress over perfection and celebrate the steps along the way. Giving yourself the flexibility to muff up or stall throughout your journey will take the pressure off and inevitably make it more enjoyable.
When multitasking is ingrained in your DNA (like it is in mine) merely understanding how to make the shift to single-tasking isn’t enough. We’ve been led to believe that if we’re not always working on multiple things we won’t get ahead faster than those who stand in our way – and after all, isn’t that the end game? Well, not so fast.
I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer not to cross the finish line an anxiety-riddled mess, drained of my creativity without a short term memory to speak of. So, let’s take a look at 5 reasons single-tasking is the clear winner when it comes to improving your productivity while maintaining your sanity.
1. Lowers your stress, anxiety and promotes your overall happiness
When your brain isn’t being forced to flit back and forth between competing tasks your cortisol level drops (translation: your stress level lowers). Now that your body isn’t in a constant state of panic trying to decide what to do next and trying to remember what it was doing, your anxiety level starts to fall inducing a feeling of calm. Without increased stress and anxiety would you be happier? Yep, thought so.
2. Increases your productivity and commitment
Commitment is tough; I think that’s why multitasking is so alluring. You feel like you’re super productive, but you never have to choose one task to commit to…interesting theory right? Well, with single-tasking you need to go all in. Doing so will elevate your rate of productivity. According to Dr. Wagner who was part of the Stanford University Research Study of heavy multitaskers:
“When they’re in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, they’re not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal. That failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.”
Ouch. This is an excellent demonstration of why it may be time to stop sending emails to your clients when you’re engrossed in those hockey playoffs on TV. By doing less, you might accomplish more.
3. Strengthens your self-discipline
When you start any new routine it takes will power and self-discipline to get through – single-tasking is no different. It might feel uncomfortable forcing yourself to focus on one item when your brain is jumping from one thing to the next, and your body is itching to skip to the next. Try to remember building this new skill will strengthen your self-discipline, just like waking up every morning and meditating or going for a run.
4. Enhances your creativity
It may seem counterintuitive, but when you challenge yourself to remain focused on one task, you’re allowing your creativity to flow. A prime example of this is one many of you will be familiar with: sketching.
As artists, taking the time for free form creativity is imperative, but once you’re busy with client work, it can get pushed aside. Making it a priority to sit and get absorbed in your art for an extended period will allow you to get into a flow where your creativity takes off.
5. Builds your attention span
You’ve all heard the comparisons of our current attention
The desire to reach perfection is a goal all of us can identify with. The career, the family, the body – we’ve each spent too many hours trying to re-create an “ideal” that’s frankly unattainable. But for many of us, the failure to reach these targets is more than just a blow to our egos.
As perfectionists, our self-worth, value, and esteem are inextricably tied to the unreachable standards we’ve set for ourselves.
Let’s look at 5 ways you can reach high-level achievement without being a perfectionist.
1. Aim for good enough
If reading that title gives you chills, you’re in the right place. As a perfectionist, your expectations at this point will be entirely out of whack, so the thought of setting your standards to “good enough” will be terrifying. But hear me out.
How many times have you started a project only not to see it through because it’s never perfect?
For example, your busy shop needs a website to refer clients to, but you’re procrastinating on taking the first step. You’re unable to explain what you see in your head, and the fear of an unrealized vision is holding you back.
This is where you need to find a balance for yourself. If you aim for good enough, it gives you the flexibility to put your project out there – warts and all – without getting caught up in continually trying to improve, polish and adapt something before launching. This is what’s commonly referred to as progress over perfection.
When you’re continually procrastinating or starting and stopping because you’re waiting until something is perfect, you’re missing out on so many opportunities. Nothing you create is ever final, it can always be tweaked and changed after you release it into the world – but no one will see it if you’re still waiting until it’s “perfect.”
2. Challenge your perfectionism mindset
“You’re not doing it right; let me show you how to do it correctly.”
Does this sound familiar to you? As perfectionists our brains see in terms of “all” or “nothing,” “success” or “failure” and “black” or “white” – we see things as correct or incorrect with little wiggle room, for ourselves or those around us.
This perfectionism mindset is unrealistic in today’s world. Not only do we tend to live day to day in the “grey” zone but forcing yourself to make each decision on such a cutthroat scale can be devastating to your self-confidence and self-worth.
In reality, not one of your peers or role models achieved their success without many bumps in the road. Tattoo artists begin as apprentices with many pieces they’d prefer you not see, barbers have a story to tell about that one cut that went awry – it’s our failures that make us human.
The path to success happens step by step (often going in both directions), not overnight or in an “all or nothing” manner. To overcome this hurdle you need to allow yourself to do things imperfectly and incompletely – no more “pass” vs. “fail.”
Your focus needs to be on how to travel from the beginning through to the end and to focus on each move in between. Be mindful of the progress and failures you’re making along the way so you can learn from those lessons and build your success.
3. Change your goal setting strategy
Did you make a goal list this year? With perfectionism, it’s difficult to choose what potential achievements should be a priority when everything seems important.
Say hello to analysis paralysis. It’s a good friend to perfectionism and a cousin to procrastination. This is the family tree Ancestry.com doesn’t tell you about. With your ability to endlessly focus on the minutiae of each task it can prove impossible to get anything done. You become paralyzed when trying to decide how to move forward on, well anything.
Even though you’re struggling to get started on your goal list for the year, as a perfectionist you’re super attached to what you’ve written down. Often you can see your goals as a representation of your self-worth and set about beating yourself up if you don’t meet the unattainable targets you’ve set for yourself.
So, how do you start not to dread looking at that list? Well, you need to redefine what a goal means to you.
For example, let’s say one of your goals was to increase your income for the year by $8,000 by August 1 by scheduling ten new clients. Your plan for this was to update your online portfolio, adding your appointment scheduling link to Instagram, and you’ve signed up for a convention in June. Now, if this goal is absolute and you don’t meet the targets you’ve set out for yourself, then you’re a failure. Completely terrible self-talk and as we’ve been discussing, not reaching a goal isn’t representative of your self-worth.
Whereas, if you make your goal a guide, there’s built-in flexibility that you can use as a pathway to success. So, if you end up landing six new clients and bringing in $7500, that’s successful for many different reasons. You can evaluate what did and didn’t work for your next goal-setting session. It also reiterates that you’re more than “success” or “failure.”
Don’t stop setting giant goals for yourself and your business, but remind yourself that achievement isn’t always the most critical factor. You need to readjust your mindset to evaluate and enjoy your progression towards each of your goals.
4. Celebrate the journey
When was the last time you celebrated a mistake? I don’t remember the last time I did. More often than not as perfectionists you don’t focus on celebrating anything. With such high expectations of yourself, you’re rarely satisfied with the final product, even with positive feedback from your clients and mentors.
It’s time to celebrate everything you’re doing. Start living in the moment and acknowledge how capable and worthy you are. That means including perceived mistakes and failures into your celebration as well. Maybe you finally set aside an hour in your day to dedicate to drawing – but you haven’t gotten around to implementing it, just celebrate the first step you took.
Taking the opportunity to focus on what you have, versus what you don’t will make your life so much more enjoyable in the long-term. Teach yourself to value all opportunities (failures and successes) for what they are – chances to be grateful for an experience that lets you learn and grow.
5. Delegate and move forward
The idea of relying on someone else to handle a portion of your dream may be as appealing as swallowing glass, but the alternative isn’t pretty either. Your inner dialogue is telling you going it alone is more comfortable, faster and the job will get done right if you’re the only one doing it.
But let’s step back into reality for just a sec. There’s a reason people suffer breakdowns, get searing ulcers, and end up sitting alone on Saturday after spending another 16 hour day at work – they don’t want to delegate.
I understand as a single entity you’re able to do everything exactly the way you envision. The thought of relaying instructions to another human; having to deal with their mistakes and the possible communication breakdowns is daunting. But, you need to get over yourself and delegate.
Here are 6 reasons why:
To scale your business (add more chairs to your shop for example)
Increase your clientele
Keep your high standard of work
Excel with your clients
Maintain quality relationships
Stay healthy (physically & mentally)
Look for the people who get you and your business, then train them to help you in the areas you need it. Be clear about your expectations and keep communication open and honest. It’s going to take time to loosen your death grip, but if you don’t, the stress of life is going to force you into early retirement. Be open to the fact that no one will do things exactly as you would, or as you’d expect – and that’s fine.
The goal of delegation is to relinquish control and accept help from others.
Perfection is an impossible outcome
Perfectionism isn’t simply striving to perfect something – your art, your craft or your game. It’s the drive to improve or repair one’s imperfect self, believing that you’re flawed and equating mistakes and failures as a diminishment of your self-worth.
Perfection is an impossible outcome, and those who become preoccupied with it ultimately set themselves up for disappointment. Instead, learn to embrace failure as a learning experience and celebrate your progress over perfection.
Detailed Hands Barbershop is located in the heart of Renton Wa, offering more than just quality cuts, they provide the full barber shop experience. Owner, Toby Johnson has been cutting hair for more than 15 years, and his goal is to give his clients a style and cut that’s personalized to fit – for Toby, it’s all in the details.
Here’s what Toby told us:
“We like to focus on the details! One stop shop for male/female grooming and we also provide nail and pedicure services.”
Key Takeaway: focus on providing a full-service experience for your clients.
Brittney, of Brittney’s Barbering located in Washington, Utah knows that client satisfaction is one of the keys to a successful business, and these days just “being good” isn’t enough. Brittney said:
“I think my service sets me apart from the other shops in my area. My haircuts include hot lather around the neck and ears, hot towel with a little massage on the back of the neck with a hot towel, followed by aftershave and the hair styled.”
Brittney also mentioned:
“I have a barber chair that is 80+ years old, and it’s been reupholstered in plum crazy purple and white stitching to make the purple pop more which is another thing that sets my shop apart.”
Key Takeaway: to get your clients talking you need to give them something extra special.
Give your clients hassle-free appointment booking options
Boston’s Off the Top Barber Shop opened its doors in December of 2015 with owner Daniel Powers focused on sharing his passion for cutting hair and making clients happy at the same time. He let us know that two things set him apart in his neighborhood:
“Besides attention to detail, hassle-free appointment booking sets my barbershop apart from the rest in my area.”
“I opened up the shop in August 2014. By April 2015 I was so busy I had to start taking appointments via text message and phone and writing it into a schedule calendar. I noticed that it was taking a lot of my time from cutting hair to respond to the text messages and phone calls. Something had to be done.
At the end of January 2016, I happened to stumble upon BookedIN and tried it for the free trial month. It was a blessing sent from above. I integrated it to my website, and it was a success. Clients love it and find it so easy to use. I still get new clients from Google, Yelp, Facebook Instagram and they all say all barbershops should have this feature.
I love the reminders it sends to the client for their upcoming appointments via email and text messages.”
For Valerie Toliver of Trans4mation Barbering (a.k.a. The Lady Barber of Altadena CA), her clients are more than seat-fillers – they’re family.
While perfecting her craft as a barber for 20 + yrs., and serving the community through her business, Kreative Kutz, Valerie realized her passion and set out to create a platform for youth to tap into talents & abilities through the Trans4Mation Barbering Institute.
Trans4Mation is an extension of the LOV Olive Branches organization currently providing community services throughout Pasadena and the Greater Los Angeles area.
“What makes me different is I care not just for their hair and looks, I care about what’s happening inside of them. I impart life strength healing encouragement into all their lives, so they feel good about themselves from the inside out, I have given them a Trans4mation One on one service.”
Micheal Vanhook of Crazicutz Barbershop in Burlington, North Carolina seconds the importance of building community relationships, here’s what he told us his shop is doing to help:
“Well, my shop is different in many ways. We take an interest in the youths educational effort. Not only do we strive to stay current with the latest services for our community, but it’s an atmosphere for the community to come and feel comfortable.”
Key Takeaway: Being involved in your community has a positive effect on everyone.
Located in Metchosin on Vancouver Island, Red Beard Barber is owned by Matt Priestly. Matt prides himself on being devoted to helping his clients walk out of his shop feeling more confident than they did walking in. At Red Beard Barber, Matt said:
“Besides the automated booking app we use, it’s an extremely traditional style shop. White smocks, straight razor shaves with handmade lathers brushed on and lots and lots of hot towels.
We still do all the modern styles, but keep the atmosphere and vibe very old school. Clients can partake in a whiskey or a beer with their cut on Fridays and Saturdays, so those book up the fastest. It’s a small shop, so people feel very comfortable and that leads to incredible conversation.”
Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to mix old world charm/tradition with modern styles and technology.
Originally from Akron, Ohio, Knavia set up her shop in Inglewood, California in 2013. Knavia has been a licensed professional barber for the past 11 years with a passion for men’s grooming that began when she was a teen. Her shop, Knavia’s Kuts is still a blossoming business with amazing clientele that she started in a location that sets her apart:
“I’m located inside of an office building where I remodeled my room and turned it into my own personal barber suite!”
Takeaway: Think outside the box when searching for a location for your shop
Farzad Salehi has been a barber for 30 years, and since opening its doors in 2006, Farzad’s Barber Shop has become the neighborhood shop in Yaletown, Vancouver, BC. Farzad offers old school to ultra modern styles, in a space that’s warm, relaxed and makes everyone feel welcome. He has a very personal take on what it means to be successful as a barber shop:
“We love our little shop and take a lot of pride into maintaining and keeping it spotless, we have never felt that our shop is apart from anyone else’s shop, we love what we do, go to work excited every day and go home excited at the end of the day…..We are happy to be the neighborhood barbershop for the last 13 years!”
Takeaway: Stay passionate, be humble and take pride in your work.
And, there you have it.
9 successful barber shops have shared the different ways they’re able to keep their books full using their unique strengths.
So, let’s do a recap:7 ways barber shops have carved out a spot for themselves in the community:
1. Focus on the Details
2. Go above and beyond
3. Give your clients hassle-free booking options
4. Foster Community Relationships
5. Set the perfect atmosphere/vibe
6. Unique location
7. Take pride in your work
What’s the one way your barbershop sets itself apart from the rest?
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments how your barber shop is taking your most exceptional quality and using it to grow your waiting list!