Ross Simmonds is all about that lead life. He’s worked with brands ranging from Fortune 100 companies to startups, implementing and perfecting B2B content marketing strategies to bring them more paying customers. All in all, Ross is a digital strategist, entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and public speaker.
As a multi-faceted talent, Ross often writes about the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, along with the essential lessons he’s learned over the last few years on his blog. We talked to Ross about his own struggles and successes he finds organizing his day and how he stays productive juggling so many projects. Read on for to learn about his structured morning routine, how he combats distracting notifications, and why he lives and dies by his calendar.
What do the first 90 minutes of your day look like?
The first ninety minutes of my day, I do have a pretty standard process. I start every day with bulletproof coffee, which is essentially just coffee with a little bit of ghee and coconut oil. Then I typically plug right into my computer. I have a to-do list that I go through and make sure is up to date for today’s tasks. At this point, I still don’t go to my email or Slack. I’m just looking at a to-do list and fully run through that. From there, I start my day.
What’s your number one productivity/time-saving tip?
So I live and die by my calendar. I think that’s one of the most important things anybody can do as it relates to their own productivity. Your time is the only thing that you cannot necessarily control because time is a constant, but what you can do is influence the things you’re doing with your time. The best way to do that is by leveraging your calendar. Whether it’s personal life, professional life, working out, anything and everything goes into my calendar. If I have to run to the mailbox, I’m putting the time in my calendar to run to the mailbox. If I have a date night with my wife, then we schedule that in my calendar. I live by the acronym C.R.E.A.M., which means Calendars Roll Everything Around Me.
What’s your definition of productivity?
My definition of productivity is essentially getting the most important thing done based on the timelines that you’ve set out for yourself or that somebody else has identified that you have to reach. So, optimizing your time and sharing that you’re accomplishing the thing that you want to get it done on time.
How often do you check your inbox?
I probably check my inbox about four or five times a day, and that’s because I’m pretty much wired in all the way from when I wake up until I go to bed. I’d say four to five times a day I check my inbox, just making sure that things are going where they need to be. Often times, when I’m in my inbox, it’s not with the intent of just seeing what’s going on. It’s after I spent that time working and executing on a deliverable and then going back to my inbox to tackle a variety of other tasks. So, often times the task will be simply responding to five customers or a task could be blocking off time in my schedule for a business deal. I’m making sure I’ve added that time in my inbox. So again it goes to back to that four or slots in my calendar where it’s “Okay, check email.” Or “Take the time to actually build relationships with existing clients, past clients”, so on and so forth.
What have you become better at saying no to?
I think that the one thing that I have become great at saying no to is a quick call. So, a lot of people will send a random email with no contacts, no relationship. They just say “Hey can we jump on a quick call?” “I wanna chat to you about something”. I’ve become very familiar with saying no to those, and one thing that I’ve done to make sure that that’s something I can say no to quickly is having a handful of responses that are ready to go.
For example, something like, “Hey, interested if you want to give me more context, I’d be more than happy to set up some time to chat. But I’d love to get a little more detail before we schedule some time and save both of us some time in the process.”
Do you have a pre-bed/nightly routine?
I end my day with hot water, honey, and a little bit of apple cider vinegar. Then, I read. I turn off my phone and I turn off my computer and I just read good ole fashion paper inside of a book rather than spending time in front of the screen.
On Sundays, my nightly routine is a little bit different. On Sunday nights, I actually spend time crushing out the tasks in my main priorities for the upcoming week. I revisit my task list from the week before. So, it’s a little bit different on Sundays.
What’s the biggest hindrance to your productivity? How do you combat it?
So I think that the biggest hindrance to my productivity is just the constant notification dings and dongs and bells and whistles coming through all the different devices. People looking for attention. People sending tweets. People retweeting out to get your attention. I think that’s the biggest distraction because you get sucked into a bit of a hole very quickly because of those things.
The interesting part is that is part of my work, my role. I create those types of activities for clients and help them try to hook their customers into reading their content, reading their newsletter, or reading their notification on social media. However, it works on me too. I’ve started to embrace the idea of turning off notifications off my devices as much as possible and then being more proactive with when I’m going to check social media and check different channels.
What have you learned from your failures? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
I would say one of my early failures was when I signed up to speak at a conference and it was one of my first talks and I didn’t really prepare too much for it. I thought that I would be able to go out and do the presentation off the cuff. I get up, I do the presentation, and it went decently well but throughout the entire event, I felt like I was nervous and I was definitely anxious. At the end of the event, I had to leave immediately because I was a sweaty mess. It looked like I was in a wet t-shirt contest. So I left the stage, went home, had a change and it was all because again, early on it would’ve made my life way easier to just sit back and prepare for the presentation rather than winging it and I wouldn’t have been sweaty. But because I had waited until the last minute to prepare, it kind of backfired and as a result, I had to come to call it quits.
So the big lesson there was no matter how good you are at speaking, or how confident you are, you should always prepare even if it’s just a little bit.
What book has changed your life and why?
How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen. It breaks down both the professional and personal side of freedom and money having an overarching purpose for what you do, while keeping in mind what actually matters and what doesn’t.
What is the most worthwhile investment in time, money, or energy that you’ve made?
I would say it’s been yoga and gym memberships. Making sure that I actually have the time to actually take care of my body has been the real question. “Gotta have your mind right to keep your grind right” is what I always say and I think that’s definitely been an important part of making sure that I don’t hamper out.
How do you avoid burnout?
I think for me, the key to not having burnout is doing work that you care about. But also having people who care about you around you and that you’re being taken care of. Pencil in some “me time.” We’re not always needing to be plugged in and working all the time. I preach about the importance of Hustle and Grind a lot but at the same time, I recognize the importance of family going on trips. I really do believe you don’t live to work, you work to live. So I think that keeping that perspective will reduce the likelihood of burnout. Don’t get caught up in the rat race.
What have the last 12 months taught you?
The last 12 months have taught me the importance of delegation, I’d say. Over the last few months we’ve been growing the company, growing the team, and as result, I’ve been passing off more and more projects and allowing my team to do things that they get excited about. Things that I’ve often been excited about as well. By passing those things off, you give them the chance to kinda grow and learn from actually doing.
It opens up more time for me to work on the business rather than in the business and also gives me the chance to go to bed at a reasonable hour.
What’s one key ingredient to work-life balance?
Good question. So I think the key ingredient to work/life balance would have to be just perspective. I really think that it’s less like work/life balance and more like work/life integration. We all have one life, so you have to combine both sides and make them work together rather than try to balance them. You don’t need to have a 50/50 split.
At some point, you’re going to have a project that you want to go 100% on and you just have to let those in your personal life know that “I’m gonna be focused. I’m gonna be busy. I’m gonna be tied up and manage expectations appropriately.” The same principle applies with when you need to maybe go back to your company, back to your team and say “I’m gonna take a few off. I have to be with my kid, I have to be with my partner, I need to take a vacation.” All of those things are important and I think it’s just an internal recognition that that’s important and making it a priority.
Follow Ross on Twitter.