Most small businesses fail for a variety of reasons that you can control and avoid. Are you effectively using your time to make sure your business doesn’t become a failure?
In this post, I’m going to share with you my top six productivity book recommendations that you should read, so you can actually start taking action on what really matters in your business.
Hi, my name is Mei and I help makers, artists and designers make a consistent living from selling their handmade products online.
I’ve been self-employed and running my own businesses for over 14 years now and I know it’s a huge struggle to have self-initiative and motivation to actually do a lot of the work that isn’t fun for creatives to move your business forward, especially since we don’t have the same kind of accountability that a corporate employee would have.
If you stop showing up for your business when you’re just getting started, nothing’s really going to happen. You don’t feel the pinch. But if you stop showing up to work, you can bet your boss is going to fire you.
I put together a few book recommendations that I hope you'll really love and help your business grow.
The whole philosophy about this book is that the key to long term success is creating small automatic habits.
I think a lot of people have experienced this issue. They set a big goals, like I'm going to have a successful small business or I want to make $50,000 this year from my business (when they haven’t even started one yet) and then they find themselves just never getting there. That leads to feeling disappointed and then giving up.
The heart of that issue is that you haven't envisioned the small, actionable steps that you need to get there.
Instead of having a goal to lose 10 pounds, how about put on my running shoes every morning and just go outside? That sounds like a tiny thing, but what happens is once you set that small habit, well, hey! You're already standing outside. Why not go for a walk? Why not then go for a jog?
Before you know it, you're on the path to implementing the steps to getting closer to that goal successfully.
What I love so much about this book is that it's really an actionable process. These are real things that you can do to lead you to success.
This guy has an amazing story. I don't want to give any spoilers, but, James Clear was almost in a life-ending incident and he brought himself to a full recovery by using small, actionable steps.
This is amazing for your business – there are just so many ways to apply these techniques.
How about every morning you wake up and after breakfast, you jot down some creative brainstorm ideas for 10 minutes. Or you research 1 new media contact or influencer that you think might love your products. That's a small thing to do, but you might find that it completely transforms the way you run your business.
I always say it's important to distinguish between what needs to get done, the important or urgent things, and what's really important for your business.
There’s a difference between being reactive versus proactive.
We all do work in social media, right? I have social media profiles for my businesses.
Social media platforms are meant to be addictive. The dings, the notifications, that Facebook gives you, the little bubble that you get with the number in it, the hearts on Instagram, all of these things are meant to keep people coming back to the platform.
This is great for us as business owners because when we post great content and people come over and people see and engage with our posts, that’s good for the algorithm. The more people engage with your posts, the more your posts get seen by other people.
This is all good for us as a shop owner, but it's also really bad for us as humans because we can't spend all of our time browsing on social media.
How many times have you opened up your phone and before you know it, an hour went by, just like that?
I talk a lot about using social media effectively and as business owners, we sorta want to get in and get out and then get to doing the real work of running our business. The 80/20 rule where the most impactful actions you can take that will actually bring your business forward.
I don’t believe social media is that.
If you’ve watched my videos, I believe it’s media outreach and even doing Facebook ads if you have the cash flow for it.
Indestructible talks a lot about training your mind to block out these distractions and really getting your most important work done.
It's an interesting story because the author originally wrote a book called Hooked, which is about how to keep people on platforms longer. He realized a lot of the social media companies were using these psychological principles to get users more addicted to their platforms.
It's really something we need to be aware of. I’m not saying don’t do social media, but hop on and do our job, and then set it aside.
This is old school, I'm not gonna lie. The book is super boring, okay, but as your business grows, it becomes more and more important that you keep track of lots of little things.
When you start your business, maybe you're making your soaps, you'd spend lots of time making your items. You'd check your email in the morning and maybe only had 10 emails and you were plodding along. Maybe you weren't really very successful or selling a lot yet, but you also didn't have a ton on your plate.
But as your business grows, so does the amount of things you need to keep track of. I get so many customer emails and we have to answer them.
I also have to coordinate a photoshoot with an entire team. Your photographer, the model, the makeup artist. There's a lot to think about to get that done.
If you have a virtual assistant, you have to manage them and make sure they’re doing their job correctly, answer their questions, and train them.
Then let’s say you’re doing more wholesale now and you have to call your wholesale customers on the phone to get their payment information.
And on top of all of that, you have to make sure your marketing engine is working every day.
It's easy for balls to get dropped and that's when you start getting complaints from customers because their order didn't ship on time or isn’t going to arrive for a birthday party.
Having a system that works for you is super important and even if you don't do what David Allen does, which is having 30 file folders, literally sitting on a desk (I don't know if any of us are going to do that) the basics of having a system where things are assigned to a day is super important.
One tidbit that I really took from this book that I use in my personal life is when you have something that needs to be done, you need to either do it or make a decision about it. There's no point letting things just sit around forever because they're not moving forward.
So let's say, I mentioned the photoshoot example before. Let's say I'm planning a photoshoot and I'm just not sure what the style should be. I need to either sit down and decide now, or I need to put it on my to-do list for tomorrow to decide what the style should be.
I can't just keep this item around hoping I'll get inspired and I'll know exactly what the photoshoot style sheet should be because then it's really never going to happen.
That’s why I’m always saying, if you’ve had things on your to-do list that keeps getting carried over from one month to the next and it’s not getting done, you have to get clear on why you’re resisting doing it.
Maybe it’s because you don’t know how to do it, or you haven’t broken that thing into smaller steps so it feels overwhelming and you don’t know where to start. Or maybe you just have no interest in it and you need to outsource it.
The point is, take some action about it. This only gets more important as your business grows.
This next recommendation is a twofer, these are books written by Laura Vanderkam. The first book is 168 Hours, which is how many hours there are in a week. And I Know How She Does It.
Laura Vanderkam has five kids. And so she writes productivity books and interviews leaders of companies.
Her philosophy is basically, we all have the same 168 hours a week, whether you're running Microsoft, a stay at home mom, or running a nonprofit, it doesn't matter. We all have the same hours. So it comes down to how effectively we use them.
Both of these books are really good! All of her books are really good.
I find reading her books a lot breezier than say Getting Things Done, which is like I said, boring.
They’re super inspiring because most of us who are running small businesses have a lot of other stuff going on in our lives and managing our families and maybe our families who don't even support what we're doing and think it's just some crazy hobby.
Her books are really great to read just to get some perspective on time management.
If I tell you what it's about, I know it can sound a little woo-woo, but it’s really about positive thinking.
It's connected back to Indestructable and it’s that our brains just sort of run around doing stuff all the time and rarely is it focused on getting us where we need to go.
You're thinking, “Oh my gosh, did I leave the oven on? What should I be wearing on Friday? Did I send that email? I can't remember.”
It's super important to train your brain and this is what he calls mind hacking to get with the program and make your brain work for you.
He gives step by step instructions for building successful thoughts to make your dreams come true. This is a really important concept because we all have the idea that we want our business to succeed, but how are you going to get there?
One thing he emphasizes in the book is not only setting aside distractions that aren't helping, but also ones that make us worry a lot.
Getting stuck in that negative thought loop isn't going to help anything. What actionable steps are you going to take for your business to succeed? And how can you break down this bigger goal of success in your business into smaller steps?
I've already been talking about actionability with some of these other book recommendations. So what are the actual actionable steps that is going to help your business to succeed?
This one's a classic in the entrepreneurial world: the Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.
The disclaimer on this book is that I think this is more of an introduction to the world of being self-employed and an entrepreneur.
It’s nothing totally groundbreaking, but if you’re coming from a 9 to 5 lifestyle and you don’t have any friends or people in your network that are small business owners, then this is a good book to read.
This is great to just get the juices flowing for how to make your business more efficient.
A lot of us who start handmade businesses, we're really used to making the entire product ourselves, and making the jump to bringing in other people is so hard.
Maybe you're thinking that your social media would do a lot better, if you had a photographer. Maybe you were thinking you'd have a lot less stress if you had a web developer to help with your website.
Starting out with outsourcing, basically, the Four Hour Workweek is pretty good in terms of getting your mind to a place where you can brainstorm these possibilities.
I have a lot more productivity and mindset books that I love, but then this post would just go on forever. So maybe we’ll save it for part two of this video.
Share with me in the comments what YOUR favorite business or productivity books are!