Along my entrepreneurial journey, one skill I have had to work hard to refine was productivity. After starting my business at age 14, I've spent the past eight years of my life constantly juggling various school and work commitments whilst trying to maintain a social life, stay fit, be a good friend/family member, and have hobbies and interests outside of work. It's been a learning experience to say the least.
I often get asked how I manage to fit so much into my day and the truth is, it's been a journey over the past eight years to continually optimise myself and my day. But here is how I've done it, and some of the strategies I've picked up along the way.
Before starting my business I was a relatively high-performing student, always working hard to maintain good grades, and always signing up for extracurricular opportunities such as the school musical, debating and sports. Because of this, I wasn't unfamiliar with 10-12 hour days at school with various rehearsals, competitions, performances and meetings, but as my business continued to grow, I had to find a new way of approaching my day to ensure I was making the most of the same 24 hours we all have.
Starting my business, BOP Industries, in year nine, it was all relatively easy to manage for the first year or two. I would head out to the local markets each weekend and set up my stall for a few hours, selling keyrings to anyone that would come by, pack up and go home. During the week I would go to school like a normal student during the day and either during lunch or after school each day I would visit the school's design and technology labs to cut out some more keyrings on the laser cutter for the following weekend. That was all pretty easy to manage.
But as I got towards the end of year 10 and started year 11 things started getting busier. At this point, I was selling keyrings online and we were fielding anywhere from 1,000 - 5,000 orders a month. I'd saved up enough money to buy my own laser cutter and on top of that, I was also dabbling in the hologram space, creating holograms for the events and marketing industry whilst simultaneously learning as much as I could about this emerging technology. During this time our holograms were gaining significant traction nationally so I also found myself missing weeks of school at a time travelling across the country for various events, meetings and activations.
On top of all that, throw in Year 11 studies, a whole host of extracurricular activities, and the general trials, tribulations and packed social calendar of a 15/16-year-old. It's fair to say that things were getting pretty intense.
At this point, I was sleeping between 3-6 hours a night, drinking more caffeine than was previously thought humanly possible, and napping in class a little more than my teachers would like.
The final straw at this point was when I was in term four of Year 11 and I came down with glandular fever. Now anyone that has had glandular fever before will know it is not a fun experience. Often triggered by burnout, I found myself unable to get out of bed for about six weeks at the end of year 11.
Now you'd think after that I would have learnt my lesson and tried scaling things back, or that I would try a different approach. I'm not sure if it's my stubbornness or the lack of foresight that comes with being a teenage boy, but either way, I got back on my feet after recovering from glandular fever and kept going just as I always had, only to come down with Laryngitis towards the start of year 12. Again spending about 4 weeks in bed recovering.
At that point, I decided it might be time for a change.
I've spent the past 5 years since year 12 working to understand my body, my mind and how I can optimise both to increase my productivity and get the most out of my day.
It's important to understand that everybody's mind and body work differently so it's important to tailor these tips to you, but hopefully, these strategies can help you if you're looking to perform better in the workplace, start a side hustle, launch an idea, or just optimise your life.
Here are some of my top tips:
#1 - Understand When Your Mind Works Best: Our minds are complex things and they all work in different ways. Spend some time getting to know when your mind works best over the course of the day and the week. Then structure your tasks around that. For example, I know that my mind works best early in the morning so I always wake up early and head straight into the office to smash out my 'non-negotiable' to-do list tasks of the day. By 3-4pm my brain is pretty fried so I normally leave the office then, do some exercise, cook dinner, and then log back on around 7pm to continue working until 10pm on my deep work as I know I'll have no distractions.
#2 - Rest Is Important: Your brain is like a computer. Think about a computer that hasn't been shut down in weeks with over 100 tabs open. It's going to be pretty slow, super clunky and not overly useful, especially when compared to a computer that is shut down each day and only ever has 3-5 tabs open.
Your body is the same, make sure you're getting a good night's sleep, eating well and scheduling time to spend with friends and family. Whilst it may feel frustrating when you have lots to do, taking that time will ensure you're performing at your best when you are working.
#3 - Find Those Body Hacks: As well as understanding how your body works best, I also recommend finding those things that can help you do your best work. For me, I spent time growing up in China as a kid and since then I've been fascinated by herbal teas and the effect they have on our body.
Today I have a cupboard full of herbal teas that can help me focus, rest, exercise and do a whole range of different things at a high level. Find what sort of body hacks work for you.
#4 - Create A Space You Love To Use: If you're going to spend a lot of time working on your project, idea, side hustle or job, you've got to create a space that you want to spend time in. It's a little trick I use on myself to make it not feel like I'm working. Think about where you like to spend time and consider creating a workspace either there or in a space similar.
This could be getting a killer work-from-home set-up, a membership to a coworking space, frequenting coffee shops, or getting a laptop with a great battery so you can work outside. If you work in a space you love, you're likely to be happy working longer and therefore you'll often get more done.
#5 - Link Back To Your Motivators: At the end of the day, you've got to think about your why. Understand what you hope to achieve by doing all this work, and reward yourself along the way.
For me, I love to travel and I would say that is always my main motivator. Because of this, I try to schedule frequent trips for work or holidays to keep me motivated, and I set myself goals throughout the year that have a small reward attached. Identify your key motivators and make sure to set goals with rewards attached to keep encouraging yourself to solider on.
These are just some of the many strategies I've tried and tested along my journey over the past six years, but for me, these are the five I've found most effective. Whether you're wanting to increase your performance at work, start a side hustle, or just get more out of your day, I hope these tips help you achieve the goals you set for yourself.
About The Author: The tech-head prodigy behind BOP Industries, Scott Millar is a young entrepreneur taking the world by storm. Compared to a young Steve Jobs after turning a year nine business project into a thriving business, Scott finished high school and deferred university to run BOP Industries full time, now with a growing presence around the world. As a now 22-year-old, Scott has recently been named one of Australia’s top 30 under 30 in business, Asia Pacific’s Inspiring Youth Leader for 2019, Queensland's Small Business Leader for 2021, Griffith University Entrepreneur In Residence and an LGBT advocate and leader in Australia and overseas. To find out more about Scott and to see if he's available to speak at your next event, head to: www.iamscottmillar.com/speaking