As a busy entrepreneur, what is one productivity hack you swear by?
The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Block Out Chunks of Time in Your Schedule
As a busy entrepreneur, there is an endless list of tasks to complete. By blocking out chunks of time in my calendar and dedicating each chunk to a specific task, it allows me to focus on completing that task without getting distracted by other things or trying to multitask. It’s been a game changer for me and my busy team!
2. Systematize Your Team’s Tasks
There are many tasks within an organization that will be benefited by systematization. For example, do you know how much time it takes for your social media manager to upload and schedule their posts? Do you have a structured checklist for reviewing blog articles? While these are very basic forms of systematization, the sky’s the limit to how this can boost your organization’s productivity.
3. Shut the Door
I’m all about “ask me anything, anytime,” but to do what I need to get done, I need time to myself without any interruptions. I designate a few hours each day to be by myself. I shut my office door and get to work. My employees are encouraged to email me or send me a chat during this time if they have questions. The door is open at all other times.
4. Track Your Time
More than knowing where I spend my time, using a timer like Toggl jumpstarts my work ethic daily. Knowing that I am on the clock focuses my attention on the task at hand, to the point where all other distractions fade to the background. I try to time all important tasks, but I always track the first important task of the day.
5. Touch Everything Only Once
One of my employees tries to touch each task/email/message just one time. In practice, this means trying to make a decision (act now, ignore forever or move into a different queue) each time you are faced with a message. I used to return to the same message several times without making a decision when I likely could “act now.” In only a few weeks, I’ve seen a marked difference.
6. Meditate to Reset Yourself
Entrepreneurs by nature are busy, full of ideas and constantly looking for new opportunities. We work endlessly to make new processes to save ourselves or our companies five minutes a day because time is money. But if all of those ideas are in a constant cyclone inside your head, it can be hard to focus. Ten minutes of daily meditation makes the entire day more productive.
7. Plan Out Your Meals
I spend my Sunday evenings cooking 14 meals so I don’t have to think about where to eat, what to eat, or what’s healthy for the entire week. It gives me an additional three hours of productivity per day. When 3 p.m. comes around and you’re as productive as you were at 10 a.m., running your business changes. By controlling what’s in my body, I avoid the dreaded afternoon sluggishness.
8. Figure Out Where to Invest Your Time
You have to schedule your time in a way that’s efficient and in a way that works best for you. Be diligent and guard your work time. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and you have to use them to provide the most ROI for your efforts. Do the hard work to assess what truly is the best investment of your time and shed the rest.
9. Get Good Sleep
I find that if I am not well rested, no matter what productivity hacks I use daily, my efficiency is negatively impacted. One of the single most important activities I can do to increase my productivity during my work day happens at night when I am not working. Good sleep makes my mind sharper, and keeps me focused and efficient during my work day.
10. Set a Distraction-Free Time Block
My daily time block is essential to my success. I have a few hours daily when I allow myself to focus on my most pressing needs. When I am in my time block, I don’t allow any interruptions. No social media, no calls, no meetings. I’m always amazed at how much I can do in that short span of time.
11. Choose One Daily Priority
Each day, I choose one big priority and dedicate most of my time to it. For me, this is better than a huge list of priorities. It encourages me to break tasks into workable chunks and helps me feel that I’ve accomplished something important every day. It also lets me deeply focus on what’s important and then set it aside, rather than making a little progress on lots of different tasks.
12. Use a Handwritten To-Do List
Work from a handwritten daily to-do list. It should have three categories: one for things you have to get done that day, a second for things that need your attention but can wait, and a third for minor stuff you can knock out on slower days.
13. Work From a “Must-Do” List
To-do lists are great, but they can still encourage procrastination by flattening priority. Add some hierarchy to your daily agenda by writing down two or three actions you “must” complete by end of day and tackling those first.
14. Know When to Take a Break
I like to take breaks throughout the day or for a few minutes at the top of the hour to check texts, go on Facebook or take a walk. Breaks can freshen your mind and walking can give you some added physical activity. It’s not good to sit in one place all day long. Take a break for your physical and mental wellbeing. It will help you perform better.
15. Do the Least Appealing Tasks First
We all have tasks that we don’t enjoy — ones that are boring, repetitive or offer no immediate sense of accomplishment. I try to automate such tasks as much as possible, but for the rest, I have a simple rule: Get them out of the way first. I make a concerted effort to do undesirable tasks first thing in the morning when my energy and willpower are at their highest.
16. Take Advantage of Task Management Software
If you want to make the most of your day, be devoted to using task management software. I use Asana, but there are a lot of options out there. Everything I am working on goes into that system — no managing my to-do lists on sticky notes. This lets me see all my tasks at a glance and keeps me from getting caught up in random side projects.