The alarm clock buzzes —you’re praying it’s not real. You wake up and the phone resembles a Christmas tree of notifications: pings, whistles, and pop-ups galore.
You quickly check email to ensure there are no massive fires —and instantly feel overwhelmed. Another day, another challenge for you as an entrepreneur or high performer.
Predictably, starting the day this way will lead to scattered results, exhaustion and a heavy dose of burnout.
But it doesn’t have to.
In this post, Making, Marketing and Managing: How to Own Your Day —I’m going to share one of my favorite concepts in regards to setting your day up for fulfillment and powerful results.
As a side note, I did not invent this, I originally heard this from James Altucher —but is a framework I’ve been using for years and have taught my clients.
Although this post will focus on entrepreneurs —it could apply to nearly everyone who wants to take control back of their time, maximize their productivity and move the needle forward in life and business.
Let’s dig into it.
Cognitive Load and Early Mornings
The research is clear: willpower is highest in the morning —and so is our cognitive and physical energy.
We’ve (hopefully) spent the evening recharging and recovering, as well as digesting the prior day’s experience and releasing any pressing anxiety.
Most people will feel and perform their best in the morning —which is why it’s crucial to know what to focus on.
Daniel Pink’s book When is a fascinating read about the importance of aligning our most important work with our peak cognitive energy.
In fact, he detailed research in hospitals where one is most likely to have surgery complications in the afternoon, or the “trough” of our cognitive energy.
What does this mean for you?
Too often in a world of morning routines, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend: people wasting their greatest mental and physical capacity on the least important tasks.
(Like, uh, scrolling social media after doing a powerful morning ritual.)
This is where the making, marketing, and managing system comes in.
Before we dive into the specifics —let’s take a moment to define these:
Making is whatever you do creatively —make content, brainstorm a strategic plan, a blog post, the vision for the next quarter or work on your craft.
Typically, making requires the highest cognitive load of the three M’s and is done first to maximize quality output and set the tone for a fulfilled day.
For example: if you’re a writer, making may be to write 1,000 words when your energy is the highest —otherwise, it may not get done.
Marketing, as a business owner and entrepreneur —is anything related to lead generation, traffic, attracting potential clients and the sales process.
This is a vast world but think of activities designed to bring in current or future revenue to your business.
For example: if you’re an entrepreneur, you may spend the middle part of your day strategically planning and launching a marketing campaign.
Last, managing is the simple act of organization, processes, and systems to build the foundation for your business.
It’s the busywork that isn’t urgent —but still has to be done. This includes things like email, calendar updates, invoicing, admin work, etc.
For example: as a business owner, you may spend the tail end of the day finishing off tasks such as email and scheduling.
Now —wouldn’t it make sense to start the day with the activity that requires the highest cognitive load and also differentiates you in the marketplace?
I certainly think so.
But in coaching thousands of people, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend: they tend to scatter themselves too thin and leave the scraps for their most important work.
Caught in a cycle of being busy, they have a lot to do —but don’t get the most important work done.
Predictably, this leads to a lack of results and fulfillment. It can lead to closing up shop or thinking you’re not capable.
If you’re reading this…I don’t want this for you. The fact you’re here means you’re meant for something bold and powerful —and I want you to stand out in the marketplace.
Let’s dive into each of these and the best practices for how to set them up to own your day.
Along the way, I’ll be sharing my personal routine(s) to give you ideas on what to do with yours.
Early Morning: Making Primetime
Neil Gaiman delivered one of the best commencement speeches of all time in 2012 to the University of the Arts. Summed up three words, his core theme was simple —yet powerful:
Make good art.
From the speech itself, he expands:
“And remember that whatever discipline you are in, whether you are a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a designer, whatever you do you have one thing that’s unique. You have the ability to make art. Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art.”
Neil Gaiman, 2012 Commencement Speech
It’s a powerful reminder of the work we do.
Now, you may be saying: “Tommy…I’m not creative, nor do I make art” —both of which are untrue.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you are making art every day. Maybe your art looks different than mine, or Neil’s —it doesn’t matter.
The early mornings are making your art. Again, this is the work which is important and fulfilling, and usually not urgent.
Your art could be mapping out your digital course, crafting the copy for a sales page —or brainstorming the vision of the company.
For me, my making time is all about writing. Because I’ve identified it’s a skill I want to improve it, it makes my business better —and it makes me feel fulfilled and on purpose, it has to happen.
Every single day.
How To Maximize Your Making Time
Making is less about the quantity of the time spent and more about the quality: your level of focus, boundaries and discipline in doing your work.
This is when preparation and choosing the right environment are crucial to your success.
Here are a few ways to maximize your making time:
Prepare in advance. Set the stage for when and where you’re going to do your making work —clear your office space and minimize distractions.
Choose the right environment. The best makers have specific environments where they do their best work. Don’t take this lightly: environment plays a huge factor in your success here.
Set a tangible metric or target. I prefer the minimum threshold target —for example, as a writer I choose 1,000 words as my target when I’m writing a book or longer form blogs and essays such as this.
Create ruthless boundaries. Last, set yourself up for success with boundaries: disconnect from the world, tell your assistant and clients you’re unavailable and don’t let any outside noise derail you.
(Steven Kotler takes this to the extreme and tells you to buy a sign that says “f*ck off, I’m flowing”.)
Starting your day off with making before marketing and managing means you’ll be fulfilled knowing you set the tone for the day.
Middle Of the Day: Marketing, Sales and Cash
With your creative work done, now you’ll shift your focus towards the marketing aspects of your business.
Ideally, this is done when your cognitive load and willpower are still high —because this will require your creativity.
Marketing is a vast field, but these are the revenue-generating, traffic-creating, tribe-building actions that really move the needle to grow your business.
This could be anything from mapping out your next funnel, reviewing metrics and pivoting on a campaign —or moving the sales process along.
Again, the key here is to ensure these activities are connected to either growing your exposure to people that don’t know who you are or moving those who know you into the next stage of your pipeline.
During the marketing portion of my day I may be editing a sales letter, sending out an email newsletter, reviewing paid traffic, brainstorming and implementing new campaigns or even doing a live video on Facebook to galvanize my audience.
Often, small business owners don’t focus on this until they realize they need revenue —and it’s too late.
By spending chunks of focused time on marketing every day, you’ll be cultivating a crucial skill for getting your message out into the world.
As Academy guest Dean Graziosi has said: marketing is oxygen —when you don’t have it, it’s too late.
How To Maximize Your Marketing Time
You’re fired up to market, you’re ready to go —now what?
It’s easy to fall into a trap of “random” marketing…which leads to random results. Here’s how to maximize your marketing time:
Review the bigger picture. Look at your targets, where you’re going this year and quarter —and ensure you’re in alignment. What are the non-negotiable marketing projects that must be done?
Break down each part of the project. Launching a new funnel can seem daunting, right? There’s the up-front work: creating ads and assets, then there’s the fulfillment piece of landing pages and copywriting and finally, the systems and infrastructure. Break each part down and attack these step by step during your marketing time.
Fastest path to cash. As an entrepreneur, you’re going to experience ebbs and flows of cash flow…on the regular. Especially when you’re starting out. One of the keys I always focus on in marketing is what I call FPC: the fastest path to cash. What can you insert during your marketing that collapses the time to getting paid, while still working on your bigger picture projects?
You know you’re doing marketing right when you’re growing your audience, your email list, the platform you’re using —and converting more people to for revenue and sales.
Simple, I know…but many people have no system and don’t dedicate portions of their day to real marketing.
End Of the Day: Managing and Closing Open Loops
You’ve done the creative work that drives you and makes your brand, product or service unmistakable.
You’ve done the marketing work to get your work out into the world and produce cash flow.
Now what? You’ll finish your day closing open loops with small to medium tasks that are urgent, yet not crucially important (unless too much time passes.)
These are email, communication, meetings, social media, calendar updates, Slack channels, etc.
If you have team members, they’ve likely been doing some of this work along the way —but if not, now is your chance to close as many loops as you can.
The most productive people block time out for this instead of reacting 24/7 to their inbox, recognizing decision fatigue is a real thing.
How To Maximize Your Managing Time
Even though managing comes last, there are ways to ensure you’re maximizing your time, making clear decisions —and setting yourself up for success:
Chunk out your email responses. I personally write a bunch of emails in Google Docs, then transition to the email platform. Otherwise, my attention gets hijacked by a random request or customer issue that will be dealt with later on.
Use an auto-responder during the day. Chris Bailey, author of The Productivity Project talked about this on the show. I see several people use this, and I usually only deploy this when I’m writing a book.
Make quick decisions to ensure clarity. When our battery is running dry, we’re terrible at decisions. This is why no one crushes pizza and cocktails at 7AM, but they’re easy to do at 7PM. Be swift, and ensure you close as many loops as you can.
Set a cut-off time when done is done. Especially in a time of remote-work, our laptop is always open. Set strict boundaries and create a shut-down ritual. Michael Hyatt, leadership author and speaker, wrote about this in Free To Focus. He cleans his desk and does the same actions to signal his brain that work is done.
A New Framework For Success
There are two types of workdays.
The first is the day you were moving 100 MPH, crossed off 22 things off your to-do list —but you know you missed out. Sure, you did a lot.
But you didn’t do that one thing.
We all know how these feel and they have become much too common in a hyper-distracted, stimulated world.
The second day is the one where you moved with intention. You used focus time and weren’t in a hurry. You may have only crossed off three things on your list —but you got the big one done.
You did your creative work.
These days allow us to fully shut off and be proud of how we showed up and engaged with our work.
Personally, my entire life and business shifted when the latter become my new normal —and so did my mental clarity.
Which do you prefer?
Post to comments and let me know!