Last Updated 10 May 2017 | By:

Productivity For Entrepreneurs 101

(Tips, Tricks & Resources)

Productivity For Entrepreneurs 101

So, you’re actively working on upping your output, increasing productivity and making more of your time on this planet. Nice! Good for you. The world needs millions more just like you. That being said, all flattery aside, let’s go through some tips and tricks that can help you get more out of your day.

We’ll begin by gaining a better understanding of entrepreneur-based productivity, then talk about forming better habits, decluttering your lifestyle and more. It’ll be fun, and a sweet use of the next 10 minutes or so. Enjoy!

Part 1) Understanding Productivity

Does this ever happen to you? You walk into your office in the morning with just a few important things on your to-do list, and somehow they never get done by lunch.

Instead, distractions abound, and you end up doing a bunch of other things that while productive…don’t really push the ball down the field.

For example, let’s say you planned to:

  • Get through your email.
  • Write a proposal.
  • Compile summary notes after yesterday’s client meeting.
  • Write copy for a marketing ad.

By noon, here’s what you do instead:

  • Wrote out the first draft of a potential blog post.
  • Got caught up in accounting, an hour pouring over checking and credit card statements.
  • Tested a new cleaner on your hardwood floors.
  • Managed to get through the first three emails that had been sitting there for over a day.

How many days do you end up expending tons of energy on “stuff” but feel like an unproductive mess at the end of them? All tasks and activities are worthwhile, but we’re talking about the kind of productivity that takes a business from where it is and moves it forward.

The morning above is the perfect example of what author Jim Collin meant when he said “Good is the enemy of great.” If we spend too much time on the wrong things, there’s no energy or resources left over for the really great things that move your company onwards. Let’s talk ways to improve:

 

Create a To-Do List & Stick To It

As early as you can in the morning, or before bed at night, make a list of all the things you need to accomplish then set priorities. Decide which have priority and put those on the top of the list. Set time aside for these specific activities.

Don’t compromise. Unless the building’s on fire, spend the allotted time working on the things you’ve identified as most important first. A no-brainer but you’d be surprised how many modern entrepreneurs fail to leverage this routine.

 

Use Tools, But Don’t Make Them Not Crutches

Sure, use Insightly to collect and organize your tasks. Things like this help, but unless some part of the program reaches out from your device and slaps you when you go to work on something else, you can’t rely just on a software product.

The solution has to come from you. Minimize the amount of tools you use, and don’t overuse them to the point they become obstacles to your productivity.

 

Reward Yourself

Sometimes we avoid tasks because they aren’t fun, take too much time or are simply boring. One of the first things you need to do is figure out why you’re avoiding the task. If it’s going to take too much time, break it into smaller steps. Set aside a little time each day to work on it. Then give yourself a reward when you finish part of the project.

What should your reward be? Maybe it’s a walk outside, a few quick minutes on social media, a piece of chocolate or a conversation with someone you’ve been meaning to catch up with. A little positive reinforcement goes a long way when it comes to motivating us to work on things we avoid

 

Delegate

This is a fine line to walk when we’re talking productivity, because how much time must one spend to get their team taken care of and running on all cylinders? If and when you can, anything on your to-do list that isn’t one of your priorities should be outsourced to someone competent so you can focus.

The best members of your team in this respect are those that can get their tasks done without demanding much of your time.

Part 2) Essential Habits

What separates the truly successful entrepreneurs from the pack? Habitual behaviors, that’s what. There are many ways to become successful, however, most of the champions have habit in common that take them to the next level. Let’s chat about a handful.

 

They Set Specific (vs. vague) Goals

Lewis Carroll said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” This truth can’t be stressed enough! It’s easy to plan for your customers or clients, but what’s your plan?

Set short-term attainable and specific goals, then write them down. Review them (and ideally increase their specificity if there’s margin) every day. Set long-term goals and review them every week/month. If you know what you want and have a plan, you’re much more likely to get there.

 

They Learn New Things/Skills

Traditional education gets an entrepreneur only so far. Successful entrepreneurs take their education into their own hands; realizing that just because formal education is finished doesn’t mean they stop learning. In essence, it doesn’t really matter what skill.

The universe is relative, everything’s interconnected. In fact, the more outside your comfort zone, the better. Choose a skill you’ve never considered before! Pick up a book and consume it, read an article on an obscure subject, listen to a new podcast, do whatever it takes for you to get to that next level.

 

They’re Persistent

Entrepreneurs fail. It’s not optional. Entrepreneurs get rejected again and again. It’s not fun at first, but rejection and failure are something every serious entrepreneur has to get used to. Think back to that terrifying moment when you decided to go out on a limb and talk to your significant other, business partner, or your first client.

Did your heart begin pounding? What was the outcome? If it wasn’t what you hoped, did you recover? The more you tackle these hard conversations, the easier it gets.

 

They Surround Themselves with ‘Better’ People

I’m sure you’ve heard this saying before: you are the sum of the people around you. Part of the reason some entrepreneurs reach initial levels of success faster than others is because of the people surrounding them.

Find as many people as you can with the same drive and complementary skills, then feed off of each other’s energy and passion. Seek out mentors for yourself and mentor aspiring entrepreneurs. What you learn from both may surprise you!

 

They Seek Out New Experiences

Get out there and go adventure! Those that live their lives stuck in comfort zones never grow. Make it your personal mission to try something new every week or even every day if that’s plausible. The more fun you have, the more energy you bring into your work.

Leverage neat-creative tools like This Prompt Tool to spur and inspire you to try new (and sometimes scary) experiences. A habit starts with the decision to change. Once you make that decision, you’ll be well on your way to taking the next step in your entrepreneurial career.

Part 3) Overcome Procrastination

Everyone procrastinates. What separates the truly productive people from the unproductive is their ability to finish all of their important tasks by the time the deadlines pass (and often before).

For entrepreneurs or anyone else in the workforce, productivity is key. The results of procrastination aren’t fun, so it’s important to avoid it at all costs! Here are 4 habits that can help you crush the propensity to procrastinate.

 

Set Deadlines

If you’re not given a strict deadline, set one yourself and stick with it. Never save anything for the last minute because it’ll only cause unnecessary stress. Worried procrastination will still get the best of you despite setting deadlines? Go a further then. Heard of Todoist?

How To Use It: If a task takes less than two minutes, do it immediately. If it takes more than two minutes, it goes on Todoist. Set multiple reminders as soon as you take on a new project. If you have weeks, set a recurring reminder once or twice a week to force yourself to check in. If you have a few days, start it that day and put it on your list every day until it’s due.

As always, when implementing a new system, it’s important to go ALL OUT. Use your system to the fullest extent or you’ll eventually abandon it because it simply won’t work.

 

Remove Distractions

Another way to combat procrastination is to remove all potential distractions. While they take various forms for different people, once identified and removed productivity is greatly increased.

For some of us this may be difficult. Maybe you work from home, the laundry’s piling up and your dog wants out every six minutes. Distractions like these are difficult to combat but there are ways. Try switching up your schedule: wake up 15 minutes earlier for two days, then 15 minutes earlier than that. Eventually, you’ll likely find that those silent morning hours are your most productive.

Shut yourself in a room and don’t allow yourself to leave. Use a Pomodoro Timer to set specific times that you work, specific times to email, and specific times to mess with social media.

 

Complete Easy Tasks First

So you have an overwhelmingly list of tasks that need to get done before the end of the day. Try reorganizing this list by the simplest task to the most difficult. Of course the list is the same length as it was before, but you’ll start to notice that as you complete more tasks you gain momentum and even what were daunting tasks get done with far less fuss.

Still not enough? Try breaking your big list into multiple smaller lists so that they aren’t as imposing. Completing one list provides a sense of accomplishment and that may be just what you need to complete each of those more time consuming tasks.

If this doesn’t work, try the opposite. Organize your list to put your hardest task first and then swallow the frog (or get it out of the way). The rest of your day will be a piece of cake.

 

Change the Scenery

Ever come across the idea of “Don’t come in on work days.” For example, you could choose an off-site location for yourself then travel to the location and complete all of your work for the day in new surroundings. It’s a great way shake things up and bring a little more energy.

It’s something to try when energy levels start dwindling. Finally, remember this: everyone has the same amount of time in a day. What you choose to do with your time will ultimately define your level of success.

Part 4) Declutter Life

Do it, ace the clutter holding you back! From an early age, in consumer society we’re led to believe more “stuff” is better, right? This is completely wrong.

Our lives get overrun by possessions and tasks, and they end up controlling us, rather than the other way around. To declutter your life means to simplify things down to the core in order for you to be making less decisions and have more focus for the things that matter.

 

Reduce Unimportant Decisions

Decisions take time, and the amount depends on how hard those decisions are. Nonetheless, each one you make throughout the day contributes to a loss of time, and you make a hell of a lot!

Actually removing a percentage of decisions from your daily routine – what clothes to wear, food to eat, coffee to drink, etc. –  can significantly increase the amount of time you have to get things done.

The above are all decisions that you can reduce, by either setting yourself a diet plan, reducing the number of different shirts you have, trousers, and so forth. In fact, the majority of the decisions you make can be reduced. Consider how many people spend more time making decisions than actually following through.

 

Organize Yourself

When you declutter your life and reduce the amount of decisions you have to make, you’re essentially organizing yourself. What if all those little things on your mind could be done in an hour?

Things like housecleaning, shopping and other small jobs could be done very quickly if they were all completed consecutively within a short timeframe. Organize yourself. Get the inevitable out of the way early in the day before they become mixed in  with everything else.

 

Harness A Daily Routine

Similar to organizing yourself, creating and sticking to a daily routine stops you from over-thinking and losing track of things because the time you have every day is always used efficiently.

When you have a solid daily routine that you’re sticking to; when you wake up, when you exercise, when you go to work. Sticking to a routine stops you from thinking too much about when you’re going to do this stuff, and also stops you from wasting time due to constantly switching.

Here are some things to think about when creating your daily routine:

  • When will you be waking up and going to sleep?
  • What will you do before you go to work?
  • What hours are you going to be working?
  • When are you most productive?
  • Where can you relax/hobbies/gym, etc.?
  • What are the menial tasks you need to take care of?

 

Keep Your Computer Tidy

Chances are we don’t need to spend much time talking about this tip, right? If you’re computer is a mess, you know it. And, you know how to better organize and clean it up as well, which will improve work and productivity across the board. It goes without saying. It’s like reminding you to keep your desk clean.

 

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!

Sometimes you hear of very wealthy people simplifying their homes, their possessions, and their lives in order to focus more on what’s important and not have their minds clouded by everything else.

Neil Patel, a self-made millionaire is one of these examples. He got rid of all furniture and decor in his living room so he could do all his writing on his floor without distraction. Sitting on the floor! But he simplified everything and decluttered his life in order to focus all energy on his business.

Consider doing the same! It’s not always about adding more to your life. The more things you add to your life, the more decisions you add, not just on what to buy, but on when to use it, where to work, how to work, and the list goes on.

Part 5) Avoiding Burnout

Real burnout – the stuff adults and doctors warn about – will make you miserable.

Please don’t learn this the hard way. It will erode every part of your life, crush your business, and cause you to get emotionally/physically sick as a dog. Watch for warning signs and don’t ignore them. Address them immediately. Here’s some tips to avoid it.

 

Set Accessibility Boundaries

These days anyone with your email, phone number, and social media have access to you around the clock (if you don’t have notifications and alerts turned off!). Let yourself be undisturbed at appointed times. You HAVE to set boundaries and unplug or you’re going to burn out. It’s impossible not to.

 

Create Margin

Margin is life’s shock absorbers. It’s the space that provides reaction time for unexpected events.

In his book Triggers, Marshall Goldsmith talks about “The high probability of the improbable.” Because so many events are improbable we don’t plan for them. Actually, the probability that an improbable event will occur is very high.

For example, it’s highly improbable you’ll:

  • Spill your coffee on your shirt before you leave the house.
  • Have a flat tire.
  • Have troubles logging into your computer.
  • Be unable to print a document.

Creating margin allows time to deal with these incidental events by assuming you’ll need time to handle them. Try not to schedule everything so tightly. Hour long meetings would be scheduled for 50 minutes; give yourself 20 minutes to arrive at a meeting 15 minutes away. Pretty simple principle.

 

Mental Refreshment

Leaders know how important it is to bring their mental A-game every day. You can’t think about business ALL the time. Disengage. Spend more time reading, learning a craft, or listening to powerful interviews.

With the availability of podcasts and on-demand radio you can immerse your mind in non-work related topics as often as you need. Use your commute, TV time, and time spent cleaning to listen to great, mind-refreshing content.

 

Needed (Deserved) Downtime

Top performers know they need downtime to recover. Athletes cycle through their routines to allow the body to rebuild. Startup leaders take weeks off between major projects. Even the busiest executive takes periodic vacations. Lack of down time erodes leadership skills. Fatigue and mental exhaustion result in lousy communication, terrible interactions, and poor execution.

Don’t wait until an emergency reminds you of how dangerous burnout can be. Steer clear at all costs. Even if you’re on top of the world, recognize the signs and take action to avoid it.

Part 6) Top Productivity Hacks

Officially starting your first business can be an extremely stressful experience—you’re exploring new waters and you’ll soon have to take risks at a level you’ve probably only ever dreamed of before. Managing that stress and staying productive during your first entrepreneurial adventure is key to surviving and thriving. Let’s dig into a few productivity hacks.

 

Close Your Email

Most people confronted with this tip will say “That’s ridiculous!” or “But, I live in my email!” or “I have to answer people quickly and can’t just check email a few times a day!” or, a favorite, “It’s okay, I have a great system to manage it!” Don’t let your email control your productivity.

As a first-time entrepreneur, you’ll be asking for things from many people, and many people will be asking for things from you. Learn how to say no and understand that you don’t have to respond to every email immediately. Setting aside a few specific times to check your email every day sets boundaries.

 

Exercise

You don’t have to go crazy or even break a sweat. Adding a little exercise to your daily routine will help keep you healthy and increase endorphins, making you happier and more productive throughout the week. If you’re not sure how to do it, try starting small: take a walk around your building, take the stairs instead of the elevator, stand while you work. It’s not that tough.

 

Hold Yourself Accountable

If you say you’re going to do something, do it and do it well. As a first time entrepreneur your reputation matters and every move you make contributes to how other people perceive you. There’s plenty of entrepreneurs who are extremely likable and fun to be around but they fail to walk the walk.

They don’t follow through with what they say they’re going to do. To be more productive, you have to make the decision to be productive then follow through until you’ve reached your goals. You can read all of the productivity tips and blogs you can get your hands on, but without execution you’re never moving forward.

Part 7) Best Productivity Tools

You wear a million hats, and sometimes you do so much it doesn’t feel like you’re doing anything right. Does that ring a bell? So how do you find the time to do it all?

It’s simple. Automate. Everything. The key to small business success is having enough (and the right) systems in place so you can rely on them. Make the most of your time and money with these free tools.

 

  1. Buffer for social automation. Use Buffer to automate social presence on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., and leverage the light analytics built in as well. Cost: Free. Or upgrade for $10/mo.

 

  1. Dropbox is an easy way to store your documents in the cloud. And if you invite teammates to your folders, sharing is easy too. The nice part about Dropbox over Google Drive (see below) is that you can easily keep documents in the format they’re in without having to upload and download them over and over. Cost: Free

 

  1. Feedly RSS manager to funnel all the content you want to read to one place. And there are two major bonuses – no more annoying email newsletters (this one is huge, I despise email newsletters) and it integrates with Buffer. Cost: Free

 

  1. Google Drive allows collaborators to access documents at the same time, which is its advantage over Dropbox. It makes sharing extremely easy between teams. Cost: Free

 

  1. Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator does exactly what it says it does – so if you’re a blogger and you get stuck, open this tool up and put it to use. Cost: Free

 

  1. Inbox by Gmail organizes your emails so you only see what’s important. After much begging on social media and via multiple emails, I finally got an invite to the limited release and it’s awesome! Cost: Free

 

  1. Slack is a collaboration tool that’s out to replace email. Conversation history is searchable and it’s super easy to use. A number of my clients have implemented Slack for internal conversation and they’ve all seen improvement in their processes and communication. Cost: Free

 

  1. Square Cash is a secure payment tool. Many use it to pay freelance members but you can really use it for anything. With the Square Cash app, it takes just a few clicks to send money for free. Cost: Free

 

  1. Todoist for task management. It’s very popular and easy to use and implement. Cost: Free. Or upgrade for $30/yr.

 

  1. Trello for project management. Easily collaborate with teams and communicate requirements, due dates and more. Cost: Free. Get Trello Gold for $5/mo. or get it free by inviting your collaborators to Trello.

 

  1. Unfollowers.me to make sure you’re interacting with the right people on social and effectively increasing my fan base. Cost: 6.90/mo. base level but there are free competitors like Just Unfollow.

Meet The Authors

Meet The Authors: This comprehensive guide for staying productive while starting a business is a collaboration between successful entrepreneurs and business owners. A HUGE thanks to Jackie SteinmetzAaron ArmourLorraine Ball and Dan Western.