Earlier this year we rescued a puppy from the local SPCA shelter, adopting her into our family. We intended to adopt an older dog knowing that puppies can be quite a handful, but as soon as we met her we knew there was no turning back…
To be transparent and as a disclaimer to this article, taking care of a dog is a big responsibility and should not be taken lightly. I am not advising that you adopt but if you choose to do so now or in the future be sure you are prepared for everything that goes along with it. Please do sufficient research and understand all of the responsibilities associated with pet ownership before taking any action in that direction.
If you’ve ever had a puppy before, you are familiar with how much attention, play, and exercise they need.
Here’s why our puppy made my life better, and ultimately more productive...
Solopreneurs need companionship…
As an independent worker I spend a lot of my time alone, working out of my home office. The constant isolation was beginning to wear on me, having no colleagues and only a few weekly in-person sessions. Getting a dog gave me another living creature in the house to interact with and take care of. This elimination of “constant loneliness” significantly shifted my mood, which permeated into my work, marriage, and other areas of life.
Entrepreneurs and business owners could use more breaks…
Having a puppy forced me to take regular and much-needed breaks. Every hour or two I get up, stretch, play, laugh, and take her for walks. Before, it was easy to go an entire day without putting on real clothes or ever leaving the apartment. With frequent breaks and fresh air built into the day I no longer experience long periods of sitting or lack of sunlight. Without these breaks, I was burning out earlier in the day, wasting time watching TV shows, and mindlessly reviewing social media simply to get those addictive “hits” of distraction. My mind now has sufficient time to clear itself between tasks and projects.
A built-in excuse to get more exercise (without going to the gym)…
Followed by breaks, taking her for walks finally got me outside and moving! With an average day of only 1~2,000 steps before (thanks Fitbit!), I’m now closing in on an average of 10,000+ steps per day. I feel more energized, less sluggish, and much more focused. This activity also helps me through my daily 3 PM slump, gives me fresh air, and sparks creativity. Although I am also able to work through harder projects for longer, I still recommend self-directed individuals do their best to create and stick to a strict work schedule (with breaks and actual time-off built in). Don’t try to work straight from 9 am until 9 pm – maximize your working hours and then shut down at your predetermined time.
The easiest way to say hi and make new friends…
These frequent walks have introduced me to many of the neighbors in my neighborhood. Having new friends that live nearby gives me the social interaction I lack by not working in an office or having colleagues, and gives me the “water cooler” time that full-time employees get to experience when they step away from their desks.
Exploration spurring creativity…
On these walks, I get to explore new parts of town that I would never have visited alone. We find new parks, trails, and meander (accidentally) down dead-end streets that have stunning homes and hidden beauty. Exploring new areas not only helps me learn about the town that I live in, but the walk combined with the new experience sparks new ideas for problem-solving and creative endeavors.
And finally, PRODUCTIVITY:
The most important part of all this is how she helped make me more productive!
1. Increased Efficiency – Less Time Wasted
There are very few moments where she doesn’t want my attention, and therefore those moments I have to myself are now used in hyper-focus mode. Since I have fewer working hours in the day, I’m now able to get twice as much done per hour. This is Parkinson’s law in which he states “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Despite having less time for work-related activities, I’m able to get more done.
2. Better Prioritization – First Things First
Having less time forces me to think critically about what the most important tasks and projects are for me to tackle and accomplish that will produce the greatest results. This ties into the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. If 100% represents 24 hours, and now only 20% of my day can be spent on high-value work activities, I’m forced to carefully evaluate and choose the 20% of tasks which will produce the top 80% of the results I want to help achieve my greatest goals, namely producing income and improving my business.
3. Focusing on ROI – Learning to Say NO
Now that I have less time and must use what’s remaining more efficiently, I am forced to home in on the 20% of activities that will give me the greatest result and focus more on the cost and return on investment of non-income or goal-furthering activities. If I have a certain number of hours in a day that can effectively be used for productive work and I’m asked to take a trip to NYC or attend a particular event, I more acutely realize:
A) How much will it cost to leave my pup at home? Will I need to hire a dog-walker? How about cost of train tickets or other transportation, food, etc.?
B) Aside from financial cost, there’s time cost. How many hours will this take away from time I’m spending on the 20%? Does this activity fall in that 20%? How much time is lost away from hourly paid work? Will there be any remaining “work hours” available upon my return?
Of course, I still value time spent not on work, i.e. quality time with friends and family or pursuing my hobbies– but when asked to participate in business activities that are no longer worth the cost it is much easier to say no and focus on targeted activities that matter to me in the long run. That is not to say that the other activities are not worthwhile or valuable, but simply don’t fit into my current needs and are costlier to participate in than to skip.
With a reduced time-frame, narrowed focus, and eye on cost/return on investment, I am now able to work more efficiently and productively in my entrepreneurial setting.
Again, I’m not suggesting that everyone run out and get a puppy – the cost and experience isn’t going to be the right fit for everyone. But take a moment to think about what small changes, similar to those above, might help you achieve a more balanced, more productive, and healthier lifestyle. Even if you don’t have a dog, can you schedule in more frequent walks with a timer? Could you be more mindful about creating limited windows of time or saying no to projects that don’t help you reach your goals?
Please share with us in the comments below any past or recent changes in your life that have made you more productive!
If you can’t adopt but want to help in other ways, please consider donating (time or money) to your local animal shelter or cause of choice.