My definition of an entrepreneur is a little different than most. At its core, I believe the definition of an entrepreneur is someone who wakes up every day and makes something out of nothing.
Most entrepreneurs have an idea about a business before they have a plan and that idea is often fraught with challenges. Successful entrepreneurs have the ability to take an idea and turn it into a business by creating clear, definable systems and executions plans.
A defining characteristic of the entrepreneurs I engage with is that they are creative. Often inspired to dive headfirst, throw caution to the wind and go for it, these types of entrepreneurs fall victim to distraction more than any other group of people I know.
Entrepreneurs can sometimes have a severe case of ADD.
As a fellow entrepreneur who can quickly chase a string of ‘ooh look’ and ‘that’s an interesting app’ or get lost in social media and email, I’ve had to develop a few productivity hacks to help keep me focused.
Over the course of my business, I have found 12 things that I incorporate to help me stay on track and on focus. I hope they help you, too.
12 Productivity Hacks for Entrepreneurs
Reduce Context Switching
Create Your High-Income Activity List
Use a Virtual Scheduling Tool
Unsubscribe From All Non-Essential Lists
Have a Daily Plan
Learn to Say No
Meeting Free Work Day
Meditate Practice Mindfulness
1. Time Blocking
Time blocking has been so valuable for me since I’m often working on multiple client projects throughout the week, in a variety of industries and all who have different needs.
To begin time blocking, make a list of all of the tasks you perform throughout the week. Email, customer correspondence, accounting, planning, reading, scheduling, staff/team meetings, executing your services, creating products, errands, social media, blog writing.
Whatever you do to make your business run, make a list of all of the items.
Now, look at the elements that are similar and group them together. Email and customer correspondence. Customer meetings, staff meetings. Planning, scheduling. Social Media, blog writing. You get the idea.
Next, look at your calendar and plug those items into specific blocks of times on specific days.
By grouping your similar items, it keeps your brain from having to switch focus and allows you to move through tasks easier.
Ultimately, you end up saving time, staying focused and accomplishing more when you have a set period to get something done.
Below is a snapshot of what Time Blocking could look like.
2. Reduce Context Switching
Context Switching is an essential part of time blocking, but it deserves mention here. I learned about this from Todd Herman’s 90-Day Year Program, and it has been such an eye opener. In a nutshell, context switching is what happens when you move from one thing to another and back again, changing focus rapidly, without actually ever accomplishing anything. Computers context switch all the time, that’s how they operate.
When we context switch, we are less and less effective throughout the day.
Think about it… how many times do you switch from email to social media to your blog to your calendar and back to social media and email and chat?
Every time you do that, you lose effectiveness. In effect, if you have five different projects spinning at one time, over the course of a day you are 75% less efficient.
When you time block and limit / reduce context switching, you will become more productive.
3. Create and Execute on Your HIA (High-Income Activities) List
All businesses have a core group of tasks and behaviors that make the cash register ring. The challenge I see with my clients before they begin working with me is that they are spending the least amount of time working on their HIA.
Learning how to delegate, streamline, and schedule all other activities other than your HIA is the key to profitability for most entrepreneurs.
Until you become clear about your HIA, you will find yourself wasting time on key activities but not necessarily revenue generating activities.
If you highest income activity is speaking to audiences, whether in person or online, and you aren’t doing that then you have a huge problem, don’t you?
The flip side is that if your HIA’s are not what you love or are not as profitable as you need them to be, then you will want to look at what you need to leverage to either make them more profitable or find new activities that will get you closer to your goals.
4. Exercise First
You have heard this from others. It doesn’t need an explanation other than your day will get away from you most of the time, even if you are time blocking and exercise is usually the first thing to be eliminated.
Do it first, celebrate that you completed it and move on to work.
5. Use a Virtual Scheduling Tool
If you are still using a paper calendar and chasing people around to find a time to meet or have a call, you are wasting time. I use Google Calendar as my primary calendar and link it to a cloud-based scheduling app.
One of the smartest decisions you can make is to eliminate the back and forth emails and calls that it would take to find a time that works for you and your contact. Even is you have someone else make the calls and send the emails, you are paying that person to play chase.
I use YouCanBook.me. There are others — SimplybookMe, Acuity, Time Trade, VCita.
For me, it is critical. I live in Germany, and 90% of my clients live in the US in every time zone. Without my virtual calendar, I think I would go crazy.
6. Unsubscribe from all unessential email lists
Every time you click to open an email, even an email that you are planning to immediately delete creates a time suck and could send you off on time wasting journey.
You do not need to get emails from Amazon or Yummly. I promise. If you want something, you are going to go on to their app or website and search anyway.
If you MUST get emails like that, grab a free email account just for those unimportant emails. Send ALL newsletters, offers, subscription emails and time wasters there.
Then, once a week, scan and delete. I promise it will save you oodles of time.
7. Have a Daily Plan
Productivity experts often refer to the daily plan as a guide to keep you on track. In addition to your cloud-based calendar, a quick daily plan is an excellent way to stay on track.
I have my calendar online, and I have a daily plan that I print and keep with me.
I use my daily plan to jot notes, list my distractions and ideas and accomplish my need to check things off the list.
I admit it; I like to check things off, cross things out and see the progress on paper. What it helps me with is to not stray from what’s on the list. Because I have a notes section, I can write down ideas that fly in (often to distract me) and address them later or during my planning time.
8. Learn to Say No
Stop saying yes to everything that comes your way. Stop saying yes to projects or clients that don’t support your core business, HIA or goals.
The first thing I do with my clients is to help them determine their path to cash and create a plan around that path.
Anything that comes in that is not directly attached to that plan is put to the side for review later.
It’s also important to say no to those things that knock you off course. Just because you have 10 minutes open in your schedule does not mean you should shove a 30-minute task in and crowd everything else.
Honor your schedule by staying true to your time blocking. I always leave open slots in my time blocking for items that pop into the day or are not in my HIA.
9. Schedule One Meeting Free Day a Week
Do you have one workday that is open, without client meetings, calls, appointments?
I do. It saves me so much time. By blocking my calendar from meetings on Fridays, I can concentrate on projects without distraction. It’s also an excellent way to celebrate my productivity because if I have completed my tasks for the week, I like to take Friday’s off.
Meetings, no matter how important, take time away from concentrated work. If you can have all of your meetings on one or two days a week and leave at least one day open, meeting free, you will see how it buys back time.
10. Meditate Practice Mindfulness
Entrepreneur minds are overflowing with information…we’ve already discussed that. When you incorporate meditation and mindfulness, you can calm the storm of ideas and reprogram your brain.
I use the Calm App almost daily to help me find balance. It’s also an amazing desktop screensaver, see below. When I’m planning or reviewing something or reading, and not needing my screen, I’ll open the Calm app on my desktop. I love it.
11. Outsource Your Admin
What can you move off of your plate so that you have more time to focus on your HIA?
A lot of the administration tasks that you do from day to day can be performed by a VA or part-time assistant. Is it time for you to move to the next phase of your business so that you can focus on that which only you can do?
Every hour you spend doing work that does not directly increase revenue or awareness of your brand is an hour that keeps you from reaching your goals.
I am not of the school that a messy desk is a sign of genius. I believe clutter is a distraction. Your environment either gives you energy or takes energy away from you.
If you have a clean, organized work area, it gives your brain one less thing to think about doing. You don’t have to be a minimalist, but tidy is a goal.
So, those are the 12 productivity hacks for entrepreneurs that come straight from my playbook.
Of these 12 tips, which ones are you going to implement? I’d love to know. Shoot me an email, and I’ll support you from afar.
The bottom line is this: if you want things to get done, you have clear the path and make it happen.
Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible. – Francis Of Assisi
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