Monday Productive is a weekly interview format, featuring peak-performers from my network, who share 5 quick ideas on how to boost your productivity and stay at the top of your game.
Today’s guest is Claus Fraussing Nielsen. Claus is a down-to-earth and dedicated accountant, who primarily focuses on helping small business owners and startups with all aspects of financial accounting and reporting.
1. Happy Monday, Claus! Interesting times in the world these days. What helps you to stay focused on what you can control and create, as opposed to being wrapped into negative news, worrying and anxiety?
▶ I generally don’t allow myself to spend my time and energy on things that I have no influence on. I started to adapt myself to this mindset a few years back, when I was recovering from stress and have been holding on to it since then. I haven’t always been able to do so, and truth be told I still have to remind myself once in a while. Sometimes I do so by telling myself, that nothing good will come from letting my head hang down, when I am neck deep in sh*t – I am better off keeping my head up, and moving forward.
2. You are my accountant. But in reality, I was inspired to start working with you, thanks to your commitment and passion. One of the first things I read when I was checking you out online was your motto “I help small business owners sleep better at night”. Why is that important to you? And how does one find their “WHY”?
▶ When I was diagnosed with stress 6 years ago, I ended up spending my time looking back at my career – rationalizing about where or how I was “derailed”. During my trip down “memory lane”; covering 10+ years in auditing companies and 3 years as a Finance Manager; I realised that what really had made me happy and motivated me during my career, was when I was able to lift the weight of the small business owners’ backs by solving their accounting tasks and freeing them for concerns about taxes, VAT returns etc.
So, in my case it was actually quite easy to find my “WHY”. I just didn’t realize it was my why until I first heard someone talking about Simon Sinek’s approach in a podcast about 4 years ago.
As to the phrase “Helping small business owners to sleep better at night” it is derived from something a former business partner of mine used to say, and I feel it pretty much sums up, what I strive to do each and every single day – with the business owners being my customers.
3. Imagine you’ve had a very productive day. What made it so? What tools and strategies help you to stay at the top of your game?
▶ A productive day is when I stick to the tasks on my to do list, and finalise as many tasks as possible. Usually my strategy is to get the most complex and/or time consuming tasks done first thing in the morning. But sometimes, when I get the feeling that I am not really getting anywhere, I flip my To-Do list upside down, and solve as many small and/or simple tasks as possible. That way I get the feeling of getting somewhere, and I feel motivated for the bigger tasks once again.
My To-Do list is a combination of a spreadsheet, with all major tasks (annual reports, VAT returns etc) and my inbox, where the mails in my inbox all represent usually a minor task that needs to be handled.
When any task is finalised I make sure to remove it from my sight, and it gives me great pleasure to watch the number of tasks being reduced. If some of the major tasks are put aside, due to me awaiting a response from my customer, I make sure to hide the task in my spreadsheet – only tasks that I can do anything about are allowed to be visible on my to do list.
4. Achievement vs Fulfilment? Is it possible to have both? How does one find their own balance, their own “sweet spot” of living a meaningful and productive life?
When I had literally just met my wife, she told me that at some point I had to choose between having a 60-80 hours a week job or having a family, with her being a part of it. The choice was simple. So yes, I believe it is. It’s basically just a question of prioritising your life and, at least in my case, optimizing the standard procedures as much as possible, reducing the time spent on those procedures, hence enabling me to spend time with my family instead of spending the majority of my evening at the office, even though it might be my high season.
5. What do you do when you are overwhelmed or exhausted, but still have a ton of things on your to-do list and deadlines to meet?
It might sound crazy, but I make sure to get away from the overwhelming or exhausting things, maybe by going for a long walk, going for a workout or maybe even just leave the office a bit earlier than I was supposed to, to spend time with my family. Getting my mind away from the things that might overwhelm or exhaust me, helps me to gather the energy needed to get through the very same.
[BONUS] Name one to three books that helped you to become a better leader?
I don’t really read that many books, and those I do read I am terrible at remembering. But two books stand out: “Kick-ass” by Jesper Buch, the founder of Just-eat, and “Who moved my cheese?” by Spencer Johnson.
Thanks for reading!