One of the main keys to success is productivity.
When you are productive it allows you to get more done, which then allows you to maximise the growth of your business, which then allows you to make more money.
Productivity is about spending more time on the things that are going to make your business thrive and less time on things that are distracting or offer no value.
Many entrepreneurs get caught up in the chaos and distractions of the day leaving no time to even think about growth or stepping outside of the box.
Most people in fact, move about the day feeling perpetually “busy” but not really getting any meaningful work done.
“Busy” is almost an excuse that we use in society today to distract us from truly going after our dreams and pursuing what means the most to us.
As entrepreneur and author, Timothy Ferris states-
“The way we measure productivity is flawed. People checking their BlackBerry over dinner is not the measure of productivity.”
Being productive is at the centre of every successful business. If you want your business to reach new heights, if you want to find the time to have a personal life and take that vacation you have been dreaming about, it is time to rethink productivity.
Here are 10 tried and true productivity hacks that you can start implementing into your life and into your business right now-
1. Do Your Most Important Tasks As Soon As You Wake Up
Whether you are night owl or a morning person, there is a newfound clarity and calmness to your mind just after waking up.
Some of the most successful business owners and entrepreneur’s in the world swear by doing their most important and meaningful tasks shortly after waking up. This is because your mind is often sharp and ready to tackle the day head on.
After a long and restful sleep, your creativity and ability to problem solve is also high, which allows you to find fresh inspiration and a new way of looking at things that may have felt confusing or difficult.
One of the most influential authors, Ernest Hemingway was a big believer in working first thing upon waking. In fact, by doing your most important tasks as early in the day as possible, it allows you to feel more productive.
As Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook states-
“I think a simple rule of business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of progress.”
By narrowing down what your most important tasks are for the day ahead, it allows you to know where to focus.
To help you with this process, start making a list of all the things that you need to do. Get everything out on your list so you can see it all there in front of you.
Then start organising your list from most important to least important. The things that are at the bottom of your list can most likely be crossed off for another day. This will help your day to feel more manageable.
When you have narrowed down your most important tasks for the day, start with the one you enjoy doing the most.
This will help to kickstart your day off on the right note and will allow you to remain focused and productive to complete all of your tasks.
Defining your key tasks for the day is the cornerstone to efficient productivity, so once you are clear with this, the rest should be a breeze.
2. Track Your Hours of Actual Work
If you work from home or if there are many distractions around you at the office, chances are you are not really working a full eight hour day.
In fact, when you start tracking and writing down the number of hours you are actually doing productive work, you may be surprised to see how low the number is.
Things like reading emails, getting caught up on social media and reading interesting blog posts can very quickly eat into your day and reduce the number of hours you have to get your most important tasks done.
All of us want more time and in fact, most of us complain that we don’t have enough time.
If you want to start claiming your time back, you have to start prioritising where you are spending your time.
Time is money, but most of us are good with managing our money and poor with managing our time. Perhaps take a moment to think about how you use your time throughout the day and where you can create more efficiency.
If you are really looking to revolutionise the way you spend your time, you can even install a time-tracking app that can help to monitor your daily tasks, projects and even clients.
Often however, simply being aware of how you are spending your time is enough to make you re-think your behaviour.
3. Email Management
Emails are a huge time sucker. Any entrepreneur or business owner knows how draining and time consuming it can be to stay on top of emails.
Emails are an important part of any business strategy, but did you know that most successful entrepreneurs only check their inbox two times a day?
By checking your emails once at the start of your day and once at the end of your day, it can free up your time and allow you to focus on more important things.
When it comes to replying to emails, aim to keep them short and sweet.
In fact, most productivity gurus recommend limiting your emails to five lines maximum. This not only helps you to keep your emails to the point, but it also helps you to communicate more effectively and more concisely.
If you run a business that collects orders or leads through emails, perhaps consider setting up an auto-reply service that allows your customers to know when they can expect to hear back from you.
Even if you are just checking your email twice a day, you should be able to respond to all leads, customers and queries within 24 hours.
4.) Keep Meetings Short and Sweet and Limit In-Person Meetings
As an entrepreneur networking is all part of the game. While networking is a powerful strategy for building your brand, it can also serve as a distraction. This is especially true if you find yourself taking every single meeting that comes your way.
Even if you are just catching up for a quick cup of coffee, sometimes that quick coffee can turn into hours.
If you have to take an in-person meeting be certain that it is going to be worth your time.
Perhaps chat with this person over email or the phone first before you decide to schedule something in person. This will help you to weigh up whether scheduling the meeting is even necessary or worth it.
You can also cut the time that you allocate for your one-on-one meetings in half. This will require both of you to be more concise and straight to the point.
Staff or work meetings can result in the same distraction and can take up more time and more hours of productivity than they are sometimes worth.
Statistics show that most of them end up running between 31 and 60 minutes. That is a huge chunk of time, not just for you but for all your staff and employees as well.
If you have to schedule a meeting, find ways that you can make them more productive and less time consuming. A few ways to do this include-
- Sending out an email memo so staff can be debriefed on what the meeting is about and any important information they may need- this helps them to be organised and ready to go the minute they step into the meeting room.
- Ensuring that your meeting offers actionable advice that is going to be relevant and important to your staff. Make sure your meeting has an end goal.
- Setting a start and end time to the meeting, this will help to keep everything on track and limit unnecessary discussions.
- Be selective over who you invite- large meetings are often less productive and can distract from the main topics.
5.) Avoid the Myth that is Multi-Tasking
Think you can do three things at once? Think again.
If you really want to be productive, you have to give your full and undivided attention to what you are working on.
Even though it may feel like you are getting a lot done when you multi-task, truly being present for every task that you complete is not only more effective but it is also more meaningful.
When you are present it allows you to really understand what you are doing and what approach or new insights need to be taken.
It also allows you to avoid making careless mistakes or missing an important detail.
“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves”- David Allen
Studies have also found that multi-tasking can reduce your productivity by as much as 40 percent.
This is due to the fact that multi-tasking can often lead to mistakes and corrections that need to be made further down the track.
If you really want to be productive, it is best to avoid multi-tasking altogether and to dedicate and allocate your time to just one task.
For some entrepreneurs however, it can be very difficult to keep your attention glued to just one task.
If this is the case for you, consider choosing tasks that are automatic. These include taking a walk while you make a phone call or listening to a podcast while you work out at the gym.
By taking this approach, it allows you to to still complete two tasks at the same time, but doesn’t compromise on either of them.
6. Learn and Use The Pomodoro Technique
If you want to learn how to increase your productivity then you need to know about the Pomodoro technique.
This technique is one of the most famous time management techniques out there and was invented by Francesco Cirillo.
The Pomodoro Technique is based on the principle of doing a certain task for 25 minutes and then taking a break for 5 minutes.
By completing your work in this 25 minutes on and 5 minutes off cycle, it helps you to work harder and more efficiently.
On first glance, the Pomodoro Technique may seem counterintuitive and even disrupting to the flow of your work, but many swear by it and find that they are far more motivated and focused when they use this technique.
Knowing that you only have 25 minutes to complete a task before your break time, also allows you to work in a quicker and more precise manner.
Taking regular short breaks has also been proven to boost your levels of motivation and can also improve your concentration.
In fact, the Pomodoro Technique encourages using your five minute break time to do something productive and restorative for yourself and your personal life.
7.) Learn What Your Distractions Are and Block Them Out
Most of us know what our biggest distractions are, but at times we can be afraid to admit it.
Common distractions in the workplace include food, idle chit chat, social media, coffee breaks and cigarette breaks.
When you are aware of your distractions it becomes easier to learn how to manage them. It also becomes easier to avoid them and resist the temptation to be taken under their spell.
If you are lacking the will-power however, or finding it hard to remain self-accountable there are some tools that can help.
One of these tools include Focus, which can temporarily block certain websites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. This allows you to focus on important tasks and not get caught up on your social media feed.
If noise is a common distraction for you, consider using noise cancelling headphones or even earbuds that help you to keep noise to a minimum. When you have headphones on, colleagues and work mates are also less likely to disturb you.
If food poses to be a distraction for you, consider keeping some healthy snacks on your desk. By having something to nibble on in front of you, it will help you resist the temptation of getting up to grab a snack from outside or even in the lunch room.
Keeping a water bottle on your desk and taking sips when you feel fidgety or distracted is also a great and healthy way to keep your mind off food and on track with what you are doing.
8.) Listen to Music That You Love
Music is an excellent productivity tool for most people, however research has shown that it has to be music without lyrics.
Hearing words while you work can be distracting and can interfere with your thought processes.
Instrumental music on the other hand can be stimulating and can help you to get more done in a shorter period of time. It can also ignite your creative juices and help you to come up with better problem solving solutions and inspired ideas.
You can also combine music and the Pomodoro Technique by creating a 25 minute long playlist that you can use to time your working sessions.
In order to maximise your music listening sessions and productivity, here are some important factors to keep in mind-
- Research has found that playing familiar music or sounds can help you to stay in the flow of your work. This is because you are more likely to relax and tune-out to songs and tunes that you have already heard before.
- Background music that is in the Major key has been shown to increase productivity. This is believed to be due to the quality of the sound.
- Classical musical consistently ranks as being the most productive genre, especially Baroque style music.
- Ambient electronica music was also found to be a highly productive music genre due to the fact that it is rhythmic and repetitive.
Everyone has different tastes when it comes to music, but if you love to have music in the background when you work, try to play songs without lyrics and see how it changes up your productivity levels.
9.) Wake Up 30 Minutes Earlier
Even if waking up earlier seems like a terrible idea at first, most people who try it for at least a week are pleasantly surprised by the results.
By waking up earlier you have more time for you and more time to do the things that you really want to do.
Waking up earlier also frees up more time at the end of the day, which you can use to spend with your family, friends and other loved ones.
We already mentioned the benefits of doing your most important tasks first thing in the morning and by waking up earlier, you can have your most important tasks finished before most people are even starting their working day.
Many successful entrepreneurs and business owners swear by waking up early to start their day. In fact, time management expert Laura Vanderkam wrote a book titled- “What Successful People Do Before Breakfast”.
In her book she shares that people who wake up earlier are more productive and therefore more successful.
According to Vanderkam, simply waking up 15 minutes earlier can be enough to get you started on the right foot for the day ahead.
If you are going to try getting up earlier, use that time to do things that you feel most passionate and excited about. This will help you to stay on track for the rest of the day and will put you in a good mood.
You can also use this extra time in your day to tackle some of your bigger tasks, as this can help you to feel less stressed and less overwhelmed when you reach the office.
For those who love to press the snooze button in the morning, research is not on your side when it comes to productivity.
Snoozing in the morning is the fastest way to zap your energy and can make you feel lethargic for the day ahead.
Get in the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday, as a good night’s sleep is imperative if you want to be productive.
10.) Use Technology to Help You
There are so many productivity tools out there that can help you to manage your day and your time more effectively.
Some of these tools may be more hassle than they are worth, but consider experimenting with a few to see if they work for you.
One tool that we highly recommend to entrepreneur’s however is a social media management tool. There are several out there, so shop around and pick the one that is the best fit for your brand.
All successful businesses need to be present on social media and by having your social posting automated, it can free up a lot of your time and allow you to produce even more effective campaigns.
Another great tool that is highly recommended for a productive office, is a software that allows you to manage projects, share tasks and keep your team organised and on track. There are many tools that offer this service, so again shop around and find one that works for your team.
Facebook also has a special feature which allows you to save interesting articles, videos and status updates for later. Instead of getting engrossed in your news feed, consider saving the post for a later time when you can come back to it.
You can also screenshot or cut and paste a web links that takes your fancy and come back to them at another time.
These productivity hacks are simple, yet so effective. When you start to implement them into your routine you are going to notice a huge increase in performance and a huge increase in the amount of time you have to spend on doing things that really matter.