All entrepreneurs face a common issue: how to get more things done in less time. When you’re just starting your entrepreneurial journey that problem can seem insurmountable. You’ve got a ton of things screaming to be done while you’ve still only got 24 hours in a day. So here are some productivity tips for entrepreneurs that will help you focus and get the right things done.
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Be more productive by getting the right things done!
Here’s the dirty little secret about productivity that we’re often not told…you can get a lot of things done, but unless they’re the right things then you’ve wasted your time.
So before you go off on a frenzy of work just for the satisfaction of marking things off your To Do list, ask yourself this question:
“What do I need to do in order to move closer to achieving my business goals?”
Stephen Covey tells us to “begin with the end in mind.” And this needs to be the first law of productivity because it’s the base on which every other task is built.
If you prefer to listen than read this video summarizes the main points. And I would love, love, LOVE for you to subscribe to my YouTube channel! You can find a link to it at the bottom of this page.
Set very specific goals (not those vague hazy ones!)
So how do you know what the “end” is? You set goals.
- You set your yearly goals. What do you want to achieve by the end of the year in your business? Get specific and clearly define what successful goal achievement looks like. Think numbers, money, customers, etc. And yes, write it down and refer to it frequently.
- Break those yearly goals down into quarterly goals – this helps you think about the progress you need to make each quarter to reach the yearly goals (think of them as your mile markers). After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day and goals aren’t achieved magically without being broken down into specific tasks and milestones.
- From the quarterly goals you start to determine what you must get done each month. This becomes a specific task list that will guide what you do each month.
- Now, look at your monthly task list break these down into the things that must be accomplished each week.
- Next you schedule your the weekly tasks into your daily calendar.
Once you’re got a clear picture of what your business goals are then you can work on the productivity piece – where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.
The key to continuous productivity really lies in your daily calendar (which is why I love Planner Pad). It’s there that you manage to actually DO the things that achieve your goals.
There’s a great video Laura Smith has in the Productivity Bundle that I highly recommend. It’s one of several great products you get access to.
Use the 3 D’s
Determine what to Do, Delegate, and Dump
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”
But what you may not have heard is the follow up – that not everything is worth doing in the first place!
So here’s where you need to look critically at all those things that are screaming for your attention. Determine which ones are really worth doing – and that means the ones that will truly move you closer to achieving your goals.
Those are the things that need to get done – the DO’s
But then the question becomes whether YOU are the person best to do the task. Not every task is one that you must do yourself. There are tasks that should be delegated to someone else to do.
So how do you know what you should delegate?
Look at the task and ask yourself these questions?
- Is this something that ONLY I can do?
- Is this something that is in my skill set – do I have the ability to do it and do it well?
- Is this something I actually enjoy doing?
- Does this task have a good ROI (return on investment) for the time it will take me?
- Can someone else do this task easier, quicker, more accurately, and cheaper?
And then there are going to be tasks and activities that just need to be dumped. You don’t need to waste time doing them and you don’t need to pay someone else to do them either. They just need to go (and you need to let go of any guilt that might arise from doing so).
Consider the ROI value (return on investment) of each task
If you’re not familiar with the concept of return on investment here it is in plain old everyday language:
Return On Investment is when you get enough back out of something to make it worth what you put in to it.
That something might be a task, an event, an activity…it can be lots of things. And the thing(s) you might get back out of it could be money, progress, more clients, more product, etc.
When you start thinking about your work tasks and activities in terms of ROI you’ll begin to really hone in on the things that make a difference and are worth doing in the first place!
Use the Eisenhower matrix to determine task importance
Even if you’re not familiar with the name, I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of the Eisenhower Matrix. It’s a system where you assign urgency and importance to various tasks.
The Eisenhower Matrix has some commonalities with the Do, Delegate, and Dump method. However, it makes has an important distinction that make it an even more effective tool in helping you determine what activities to work on.
And that is the concept of importance.
I’m not going into detail here on how to use this tool because I’ve written about the Eisenhower Matrix in another post. Please go read that post for a more detailed explanation of how you can use it to increase your productivity.
Related Post: 24 Time Management Strategies You Can Start Using Now
Realize that not all work tasks are equal
This is where the Eisenhower Matrix really comes in to play – and that is the recognition that some tasks…while perhaps not screaming out for immediate attention…truly ARE more important to your long term productivity and success than other tasks.
For example, if you’re a blogger then setting aside time to research affiliate networks or sponsored partners might not rise to the same level of urgency as getting those posts written and scheduled. But in the long run, those are the tasks that may be income producing and therefore truly important to your ability to remain in business.
If you’re a product creator, setting aside time to sketch out your next project may not seem as important as answering customer emails (and yes, being available to your customers and/or clients IS important!).
But if you never set aside time to do the important things that will move you to the next level, then how do you expect to ever GET to the next level?
Magic only works in fairy tales…and your business guaranteed a happy ending unless you work to make it happen.
Choose a planning system you will use
There are lots of planning systems. Your first decision is whether you prefer paper or digital systems. There are pros and cons to each.
Pros and cons of paper planning systems
- Paper planning systems are great for those who remember things when they’re written down (and who enjoy physically crossing things off their list).
- You never have to worry about losing your information because of a blip in the software of because a device needed charging or backing up.
- Paper tends to appeal to those who are more visual and like to have information in a tangible form.
- Paper systems can get messy and unmanageable as you need to track more information and projects.
- You don’t have the ability to have multiple copies…without duplicating your efforts.
- They tend to be less portable – especially as you keep more and more information in one.
Pros and cons of a digital system
- They’re portable. You can carry a ton of information on your phone, tablet, or laptop.
- You can generally sync information across devices. With cloud storage your data is accessible by whatever device you have in hand.
- Complicated processes like mind mapping tend to be neater and the mess in your brain can be turned into a neat, easy to follow final product
- You’re at the mercy of battery or electric power to access your information. It’s not always a problem, but when it IS a problem…it’s a pretty big one!
- You’ve got to track different pieces of software and accounts…which means user names and passwords. And don’t forget to change them regularly (honestly, I have so many passwords that it makes my head spin some days!).
- Sometimes tiny screens and keyboards are a pain unless you’ve got 20/20 vision and skinny, nimble fingers.
Personally, I’m primarily a paper girl but I do use digital tools when I find that they’re more flexible. I’m particularly fond of Trello and use it a lot. For mind mapping I love my account with Lucid Chart. I’ve got the paid account and it’s worth every single penny.
Schedule and plan like your life depended on it
If that sounds melodramatic then so be it. The truth is that your business does depend on the quality of your planning and scheduling.
You’ll find that you get more accomplished in a shorter period of time if you use time blocking. Time blocking is where you decide on a certain time slot and focus on one type of activity.
You can set this work block up several ways: to batch similar tasks, or to simply focus on a single project.
I use time blocks frequently to batch tasks. For example, if I’ve got a lot of graphics to create for posts, social media, or products, it’s easier…and faster…to work on them all in one sitting. That way I’m able collect the photos, open the software program I need to use, and simply work on tasks that are all similar in nature.
Otherwise I’d be opening and closing out of my graphics program at odd times. And every time you switch tasks, you are losing time and being less efficient.
Likewise, if I’ve got a big project I need to make progress on, I can set a block of time to simply focus on all tasks that relate to the project. I’ve also heard people talk about working in “sprints” but the concept is the same. When you’re working on something, eliminate the distractions that are caused by flitting between different types of activities. A focused time block allows you to get more done in a shorter period of time.
There’s a great book in the Productivity Bundle about the use of time blocking.
Do the work…even when you don’t feel like it!
There will be days when you do not feel like working. There will be days when the lure of something…anything…else is more appealing than the work you have on your calendar.
You’d rather watch Netflix. You’d rather scroll through social media. You’d rather paint your nails or work in the garden. You’d rather do anything else.
Get off the couch (or walk away from the garden), march yourself over to your computer, sit down, take a look at the daily plan, and do the work anyway!
Whether you feel like it or not!
The cold hard reality of being in business for yourself – and being your own boss – is that you have to have the discipline to do what needs to be done even when you don’t want to do it.
Because there are going to be lots of days when this work at home thing isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. The money seems to be going out faster than it’s coming in. Your customer list is too short. You’re not seeing much benefit for all the work you’re doing.
And it would be awfully easy to throw up your hands and quit. Or at least to take a really long break from it and do nothing.
The question, though, is how much do you want to succeed, and what are you willing to do in order to increase your productivity so that you can make it happen.
I’ve mentioned products a couple of times that are part of the Productivity Bundle. I bought my own copy of the bundle because there are always new things to learn. I like that for a low price I get access to several books, courses, and planners. In my opinion it’s a good investment because getting things done in an efficient and timely manner is one of the things that separates successful businesses from the ones that don’t make it.