A recommended productivity stack for MSPs

A recommended productivity stack for MSPs

Paul Green Content, time management and productivity

Feeling refreshed after a little Christmas break? Raring to get going again and make 2021 a cracker of a year?

Hell yeah! That's the spirit.

But here's the thing - assuming you're already throwing everything you have into your MSP, you're not going to make big leaps forward this year just by working harder.

In fact, working even more hours is highly unlikely to give you an increased return. It's more likely to burn you out, and upset your Happy Balance.

What's that? It's the five things that most of us need to have, in the right balance, in order to be happy. They are:

  • Cash
  • Time
  • Family
  • Fun
  • Meaningful work

No point being a "successful" multimillionaire, if your family don't talk to you any more, and you have no time to enjoy the lifestyle your disposable income can bring ☹️

So, I'm going to to sound the cliché klaxon, and say instead of working harder, you need to work smarter.

Because actually it's true.

Albert Einstein is often misquoted as having said "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, and expecting different results". So if you want MORE - and better results from your MSP this year - then you need to tweak the way you're working.

Let's look at your productivity stack.

I LOVE reading about productivity, and tweaking how I work. Every time I find some way of improving what I do -- even if I feel it's shaved just a few seconds off a repeated task - it makes me feel great.

The recommendations I'm going to make to you here are, of course, my personal preferences. But you'll see I cover a lot of different areas of productivity. It doesn't really matter which software solution or productivity system you use. Just so long as you do something to help you achieve more, in less time.

You really, absolutely can get MORE done, and STILL be clear of work in time to play with the kids. Most days. That's how I enjoy my life, and you can do the same.

Right. Let's start with your mind.

Get the right mindset

Maybe you haven't realised it. But you are undeniably one of life's winners.

You're a winner just for being on the planet. The sperm that created you, had to beat 100 MILLION other sperm to the prize. Right from the instant of your creation, you were a 1 in 100 million winner.

And then you had the good fortune to be born in one of the richest countries in the world.

I entered my income into this How Rich Am I calculator... and was shocked to see that I'm in the top 1% of the world's richest people. And really, my income isn't that special compared to some.

And then, if your business has been going longer than 3 years; well that's also against the odds. 60% of new businesses fail in the first three years.

Do you see the point I'm making here? You and I are the lucky ones. The odds are dramatically stacked in our favour.

So here's the thing... with everything working for you and not against you... what's holding you back? What's stopping you from achieving the things you really want to achieve?

Most MSPs I speak to don't want to be multimillionaires. Sure, a bit of extra cash would be nice. But for most they just want to get their Happy Balance right.

Every time you catch yourself dealing with a password reset, punch yourself hard in the face and say to the bleeding person in the mirror: "This is why I haven't yet achieved what I want to achieve".

Here's a great mantra to live by in 2021:

You should only do, what only you can do.

Only you can grow the business 😃

I've got a lot more to say about how to do this, at the end of the article

Track your time

Last year I bought a Timeular tracker, which combines a physical 8 sided dice with an app that records and analyses. The physical element makes it easy to remember to track your time, all day, every day.

So long as you categorise your tasks well, once you've tracked a full week, you'll be horrified how much time you're spending doing things that other people could be doing for you. That's certainly how I felt. It directly led to me hiring two virtual assistants.

When you do free up some time, here's somewhere to invest it that will give you an amazing return in the long-term.

Find 90 minutes every weekday

We all know the challenge is to work ON the business, rather than IN it. But how do you actually do that?

90 minutes every weekday, focused only on working ON the business.

It's a simple and elegant answer. Because no matter how much your day is hijacked by technical, staff and client headaches, you know you've already done the important work of growing your business. Boom.

Your daily 90 minutes should ideally be at the same time every day (so it becomes a habit) - the earlier the better. In an environment where you won't be interrupted; especially not by your staff with stupid questions (that they really know the answer to, but ask you by default).

What to do in that 90 minute session? Any activity that:

  • Gets you new clients
  • Gets those clients to choose to buy more often
  • Gets those clients to choose to spend more, when they buy

Get organised and stay organised

The core principle of most productivity systems is to get everything out of your head, and then prioritise it. So you know what to do in what order, and what can be safely ignored.

There are lots of different systems around. Google things like Getting Things Done (GTD), the Eisenhower Matrix and the Pomodoro Technique. There really are many more when you look for them.

Me, I have my own system based on GTD, and adapted over the years based on what works best for me. I use an app called Todoist and dump every thought in my head into the inbox (through direct input, email or Siri). Then I prioritise each day around project work, tasks that need to be done, and a small series of other categories.

The final task for me at the end of each day is to check and prioritise the following day's task list. Not only does this give me closure to each day, but I wake up knowing exactly what I need to do, in what order. That's very motivating.

Create good habits

Checking the next day's task list is a good habit I've had for years. And I've got into plenty of other good habits since reading Atomic Habits by James Clear.

It talks about how having goals means nothing if you don't change the way you act every day. Removing bad habits and enforcing good habits.

It's a great book that's based on how we actually tick as people. Highly recommended.

Treat growth projects like you do technical projects

Your technical projects are probably highly organised, systemised and collaborative. Because that's what makes them less stressful for you.

Really, your marketing and growth projects should be treated exactly the same way.

In my business we use Basecamp as our project management software. The pricing is very fair - $99 a month for unlimited users and unlimited projects. And it's just beautiful, in the way it lets you collaborate with people inside and outside the business, in a logical and contextual way. Just get it; try it free for a month, and thank me later 🤣

Stop trying to do everything yourself

So this is the biggie in your productivity stack. Because it's the secret to growing your MSP, whether you're a one man band or have 40 staff.

We've all heard of the acronym DOA. In TV shows like CSI Miami, it stands for Dead On Arrival.

Well as business owners that's what we'll be if we keep trying to do everything ourselves. So let's change the acronym to Delegate Outsource Automate.

Remember my mantra to live by in 2021: You should only do, what only you can do.

  • That's at the heart of DOA:
    Can someone else be trained to deal with level 1 tickets? (YES!)
  • Can someone else write that blog article? (YES!)
  • Can someone else check the client invoices against their VoIP records? (YES!)

When you're brutal with yourself and take your ego out of the equation, there are actually only a small number of things that genuinely only you can do. Everything else can be delegated, outsourced or automated.

Because you have more important work to do.

Thinking... reflecting... pondering... making big decisions... driving action... developing your team... generally, just leading...

These are all things that only you can do.

Fiverr, Upwork and PeoplePerHour are your new best friends to find freelance suppliers. Find a virtual assistant locally, or through an agency such as Time Etc (they supply my VAs, and have a huge operation in both the UK and US. That's an affiliate link (the only one in this article) that gives you a free £25 credit, and a small financial reward for me).

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