After 12 years in business, things run fairly smooth around here. I've made a bunch of mistakes, and put processes in place to help ensure that I don't make further mistakes. I've read lots of books and learned a bunch of things that changed my business.
Today is all about those books that helped my business in measurable ways.
I've talked about Deep Work before and I've read this book a few times since my first read. I still remember my first read through the book as it brought together so many of the thoughts I had about my work and how I should conduct it effectively. I went from feeling guilty about only doing calls one day a week, to shutting off my phone so that I couldn't get interrupted. I talked to my wife about the importance of focus and she agreed that I should mute her text messages because anything that needed serious attention would mean she'd call me.
Not only did following this book help me get more done in my day because I wasn't interrupted, it reduced stress I didn't even know I had. Interruptions had been causing constant low grade stress in my workday, and when those weren't happening my days simply went smoother.
I'm the spender in the house without question. For this reason I don't have a credit card, though my wife does because she's the saver. Even with these principles from Dave Ramsey setup for our family, my business finances were suffering until I read and implemented Profit First.
Once I was using Profit First principles to run my business finances everything just got easier. Even though when I did this it was two of the lowest income years in my business, simply running my business with the 5 fundamental accounts described in the book made it feel like we had way more money.
I've heard this over and over, so if you're struggling with your business finances, read Profit First.
There are kind of three books that should fit here under embracing the analogue that get listed in no particular order.
Each of these books contributed in their own way towards decreasing my use of digital organizing tools and helping me realize what really mattered in my work. While I had been using the Bullet Journal method for a while, a book was a great way to sit down and sort through the content and make my own notes and highlights with the method. I still find myself referring to it as I work to make my Bullet Journal as productive as possible.
Next, Digital Minimalism gave me a good structure to go back and evaluate my relationship with technology again. I had done some of this when I read Cal Newport's previous book Deep Work, but understanding the importance of a detox period before making decisions about what mattered helped me kick a few final habits with my devices I simply didn't want to have.
Finally, The Revenge of Analog is part manifesto and inspiration towards the beauty of analogue items. After reading Digital Minimalism I was looking at my library mostly one Kindle and realizing the deficiencies of the device[^That's a topic for another time] and reading this helped give me the push needed to start building my personal library again. Now I'm back to almost exclusively reading books I can physically hold and flip through pages with. I get more reading done, and spend less of my time on devices.
All of these combined to help me take breaks from tech so that when it's work time I'm ready to focus on the task at hand instead of feeling like I'm always on the computer and just want to get away from it.
When I first started marketing my business I used a scattershot or spaghetti approach. I tried a bunch of random stuff and guessed at what worked and did more of that guess. Unfortunately much of what I thought worked was more likely just stuff I enjoyed doing and didn't really measure up in the bringing clients in department. Traction is the book that helped me realize this.
To start I evaluated all of the places I write and produce content to see which really brought email subscribers and visitors to my site. The truth was that only being a guest on podcasts had any measurable impact on my numbers. Writing for 20 publications did nothing. Syndicating my content to Medium was negligible and only brought in pennies in revenue for the effort put forth.
If you're looking to market anything, Traction has a great system to help you get numbers down and then measure marketing channels against the numbers you want at achieve.
Some books take years to bear fruit and Real Artists Don't Starve was one of them. It took 4 years in particular for this book to hit me like a brick and change my mindset about what I do. Specifically, it changed how I think about my writing work for other publications and earned me 100x the cost of the book as soon as my mind changed.
See, prior to this book I'd regularly get invitations to write for publications and I'd accept them figuring that the exposure was worth it. Clearly from my discussion of Traction above you already know that didn't work. Then I remembered Real Artists Don't Starve and knew I was worth something when I wrote. That mean the next time I was asked to write I replied with a question about budget, and started writing for a client that had a decent budget per article. Since then I've never written for anyone else unless they're paying me.
While I've always been an early riser, When helped me realize that the tasks I do at certain times of the day matter. Now if I'm going to check my email I never check it first thing in the morning, but always leave it until the end of the day. Most of my email is not mentally taxing, so leaving it until a time when my brain is tired from a day of work is fine. Thus I can ensure that my fully ready rested brain is applied to problems that require intense focus.
When also helped me realize the importance of breaks in the day, specifically breaks away from my devices. I had already been getting up early and then taking a break around 0900 then working again from 1200 - 1500 but I didn't use the break time well. After reading When I started to truly take breaks away from devices and other things that were simply tiring out my mind. My afternoons quickly got more productive.
As I write this I've been up since around 0200. See I've got a sick kid and she was up a few times, then she had a fever and needed some Tylenol so I did that. By that time it was 0400 and I get up around 0445 anyway so I just got up and started my day. That means I'm tired and may need to nap but I'm still confident I can get plenty of work done today by asking a single question.
Given the resources and time I have, what is the ONE thing I can do today that makes my other tasks irrelevant?
This in an adaptation of the questions asked in The ONE Thing and it's a question I ask myself regularly. In the past under similar circumstances this question has meant I ignored my regular programming clients for a week while I finished a video course. No client noticed and the video course was turned in on time and I continue to earn passive income from it.
If you're having trouble deciding what the best thing to do with your time is read The ONE Thing.
That's it, the list of books that caused a true change in how I did business. Pick the one that most speaks to the problems you're having and read it. Then put what you read into action so that you can improve your business too.