The fact is, for most entrepreneurs, life at most times is overwhelming. There are moments when you’ll find yourself with so many ongoing fires in the proverbial oven, the easiest thing to do is put yourself on autopilot and keep going, with no strategic focus in mind.
You’ll find yourself engaging in social media, meetings, business operations, emails or text message correspondence and surfing your favorite websites. You'll spend time catching up with colleagues, friends and family.
But, making an effort to increase productivity at your business? That one may well be the first thing to go.
And that's a problem because, in today’s increasingly over-stimulated entrepreneurial climate, becoming more productive is something every entrepreneur must strive to achieve. Not that writers and speakers haven't addressed this problem repeatedly: In his popular book, Getting Things Done, David Allen addresses the “two-minute rule”: If you can get it done in two minutes or less, just do it. Allen goes on to categorize everything else into seven more categories, including "trash," "someday," "delegated" and "calendar."
While there are many such books and resources offering entrepreneurs advice on how to manage their time and maximize their efficiency, the mere act of thinking about becoming more productive and setting the necessary factors in motion can be challenging. Below is a cheat sheet to help you increase your own productivity, get the most out of your day and stay ahead.
1. Prioritize your tasks and customize a schedule.
Setting a goal and prioritizing its importance is a must. When it comes to prioritizing for yourself, set aside blocks of time for specific tasks or limit yourself to certain activities at the beginning of the week. Also, maintain a crystal-clear picture on your needs and wants, identifying the key items that will impact your business' bottom line.
Pay less attention, meanwhile, to the tasks that impact only a secondary aspect of your business and that thereby have no direct impact on revenue generation.
Let’s be honest, successful entrepreneurs should be able to identify those actions that have the greatest impact on their business' success. Doing so keeps them informed of what's happening and allows them to delegate tasks that another person can execute. They're also happier doing this, too: When you work on something that directly affects your bottom line, you enjoy it more and are more productive.
The advantage of being an entrepreneur is that you have the autonomy to organize your day and set your schedule as you please, letting you ultimately focus on key items at critical times when they will deliver the biggest impact. In Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, Brian Tracy talks about an entrepreneur using his or her schedule to advantage, to delegate and eliminate tasks. The key point is to know how to be truly efficient at generating results.
2. Keep distractions to a minimum.
A study of the world’s most successful business leaders would reveal many shared habits, but a key one would be focus. For any entrepreneur, the power of focus is undeniable. Being able to unscramble the to-dos in your brain, to commit to key items, is a proven, effective strategy.
Every minute spent on distractions does nothing but cut into your productivity. When it comes to emails and texts, try to check them while you're on the go, to save on time. Keeping your phone on silent mode or offline altogether, while you're at work, also helps with focus and limits distractions.
Check out Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, by Chip Heath. In this book, Heath provides useful principles for successfully making changes, no matter what they are. Being able to strategically focus on long-term business goals without regular interruptions is a change worth implementing.
3. Recognize that 'failing to prepare means preparing to fail.'
No saying for entrepreneurs is more important than this one: “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” Consciously deciding where your entrepreneurial path should begin and end is key to success. You may have also heard another saying, “Always start with the end in mind.”
Well, there’s a reason why the resumes of the most successful entrepreneurs read like a strategic chess game. The ability to actually execute a game plan puts you one step ahead. Whether your business is selling widgets or developing apps, knowing the end game will allow you to structure the entire game in the desired direction.
Today, entrepreneurship is mostly about creating relevance, then maintaining it, so you can compete in a very saturated market. This is where productivity comes in. Maximizing productivity by developing a keen focus on results-driven actions is what leads to success. But the latter is less likely if you don't start with that first step: the priorities list.