Advertising
Advertising

12 Super Productivity Secrets Every Entrepreneur Must Know

12 Super Productivity Secrets Every Entrepreneur Must Know

Frustrating isn’t it?

You work extremely hard everyday, but the rate of things added to your to-do list are faster than what you get done.

It feels like you’re never going to get ahead no matter what.

You thought everything was going to be done by the end of the day but you still have a few more “to-dos” to take care off. It’s 12 a.m. and you’re dead tired, so you add them to tomorrow’s to-do list and you head to bed.

Deep inside, you envy those millionaires and billionaires who get their work done and also spend plenty of time with their families—something you only dream of.

You think that they just happen to have some sort of super powers that you lack and there’s no way to solve it—so you’re doomed for life!

Actually, it has nothing to do with super powers OR natural talent. It’s the secret methods that they use that makes them different. And you can learn to become just as productive as them—and more.

1. Throw away your to-do list.

It happens to you doesn’t it?

You have more stuff on that list than the hours in the day. And to feel better about yourself, you do the easiest tasks and leave the hard long tasks for later. The only problem is, in the evening you’re tired so you procrastinate on the big tasks. All because you wanted to look at a short list. In fact that’s just one of the reasons you shouldn’t be working from your to-do list in the first place.

Productivity experts including the world’s billionaires don’t use to-do lists, they use calendars to schedule their tasks. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself.

I’m not big on to-do lists. Instead, I use e-mail and desktop folders and my online calendar.”

—Bill Gates

Even Elon Musk, Kevin O’leary and many more run their days from a calendar.

To-do lists have many problems. Some of them are:

  • It’s tempting to write a long list of tasks that you won’t be able to find time for.
  • It doesn’t account for time, so you misjudge the amount of time it takes to finish your list and therefore keep adding more throughout the day.
  • You procrastinate on what you hate and do the tasks you enjoy, burning your energy on low-priority tasks in exchange for high-priority tasks and that’s holding your business backwards.

On the other hand, calendars are:

  • Time-conscious, so you know exactly how long each task should take therefore avoid cramping in too many tasks in a day. It’ll force you to eliminate the unimportant stuff.
  • Easier to manage since your day will be written down in front of you.
  • Most importantly, motivate you to do the work in time and within the time frame; otherwise the whole day is ruined.

So that’s the number 1 secret that you need to apply if you want to see any change in your life.

Now the question is, how do you use a calendar and what calendar should you use?

There are two types of calendars out there:

  • Printed
  • Electronic

So which one’s better?

It’s an easy guess. The electronic one tends to be better because:

  • You can automatically put your daily tasks on repeat and save time having to write them every day.
  • You can carry it with you at all times (in your smart phone or any other device).
  • You save paper and the environment.

The best electronic calendar to use is Google Calendar.

Advertising

Now for the real question: how to use a calendar?

  1. Well for starters, there’s an excellent tutorial for Google Calendar on Youtube.
  2. Once you’ve watched it, you should now understand how it works. So open up Google Calendar.
  3. Now move the tasks from your to-do list and put them as events on the calendar. Make sure you assign enough time for each task. The default is 1 hour, so make sure to reduce it for tasks that require less time.
  4. You’re all set. Make sure to referesh the Google Calendar app if you made the edits from a computer.

2. Don’t work on urgent tasks first.

A lot of people think urgent means high priority. Although sometimes true, that’s not always the case.

So what is urgent? Urgent is people’s way of telling you to get their stuff done first. It can also come from people who worry and have low-tolerance levels or bad judgment with priorities.

Ok, so what exactly is a high priority task?

There’s an excellent matrix by MindTools that shows the four kinds of tasks you will encounter. Effort on the X-axis and Impact on the Y-axis.

Action-Priority-Matrix

    Listed in order from high to low:

    • Major Projects are what you should focus on first thing in the morning while you’re on maximum energy. They require the most effort and they give the highest rewards, they include whatever hard work that leads to your startup’s success or puts money in your pocket.
    • Quick Wins are tasks that have high impact but require less effort and that’s why they’re called quick wins. You can do these after you’ve completed the major projects.
    • Fill Ins are low value tasks that don’t need much effort. You do these to fill in your free time or you outsource them.
    • Thankless Tasks are those tasks that don’t matter much to the success of your company but require a lot of effort to do. They are thankless because the efforts you put in get you little to no reward, these must be outsourced when possible.

    Remember these when you’re creating your schedule on the calendar.

    3. Make time for email and social media.

    Contrary to the “don’t check email or social media except once a day” advice that’s been going around, experts such as Kevin Kruse (who interviewed 9 billionaires,13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students, and 239 Entrepreneurs) say that the most effective method to manage email is by implementing “The 321Zero System”.

    Here is how The 321Zero System works:

    Schedule 3, 21-minute sessions on your calendar to process them (morning, noon, night).

    Empty your inbox in that time frame.

    Although his advice doesn’t include social media, it can be included with today’s smartphone addict people who prefer sending WhatsApp messages rather than emails.

    So instead of assigning 21 minutes for email you can assign 30 minutes for both email and social media (15 minutes for each). That way, you get to spread your replies to messages and notifications throughout the day instead of once a day, which isn’t practical in this day and age.

    If you want to take email management to the next level you can read Kevin Kruse’s full article on how millionaires manage their email.

    4. Have super focus.

    A study conducted by Professor Gloria Mark found that after a distraction it takes an average of 23 minutes to completely regain your focus!

    So what does that mean?

    Well, let’s say your spouse comes through the door and interrupts you for just “two seconds” which usually takes a minute or two—maybe five.

    What seemed to your spouse like a two minute interruption turned out costing you 25 minutes of focus time!

    And that is why you don’t let ANYTHING disturb you at all costs.

    So how do you gain super focus until everything else fades into the background?

    Advertising

    Simply by making a few adjustments:

    • Work in a silent room.
    • Clear your desk and only leave what you need at reach.
    • Put your phone on silent (not vibrate) or flight mode then place it flat on its face so you don’t see the screen light up or even better, put it in another room.
    • Hang a “Do not disturb” sign on your door and lock it. Let everyone know that you want to be left alone.
    • Turn your desk towards a boring plain wall. The last thing you need is the mesmerizing view through the window or coloful wallpaper.
    • Work in periods of 25 to 90 minutes and have a 10–30 minute break between each session.
    • Stay well hydrated. Keep a bottle of water next to you.

    If you want to take your focus training to the next level then I recommend you read Laser-Sharp Focus. A No-Fluff Guide to Improved Concentration, Maximised Productivity and Fast-Track to Success by Joanna Jast.

    5. Let someone else do it.

    This may sound counter-intuitive; isn’t this supposed to be about you getting work done?

    Well yeah, but you can’t do everything on your own. You’ve got the same 24 hours as everyone else and you’re obviously not an expert at everything.

    Things like accounting or logo design can take up a lot of time. These kinds of tasks should just be outsourced if they take up too much of your time and you can find someone cheap to do them.

    I’ve seen so many authors waste half of their time on designing their books when they could have given the job to someone on fiverr for a measly $10.

    Places like fiverr, upwork, freelancer, etc. are good places to find book designers, web developers, accountants, editors, and just about anything you can think of.

    So instead of wasting your time on things like book designs that can take hours to do, outsource them. Focus on tasks that create the most value and the ones you’re good at, like writing.

    6. Don’t plan the night before.

    Many entrepreneurs give the advice that you should plan your day the night before. You’ve probably seen it all over the Internet.

    But after a long day of making decisions your mental ability to make more decisions decreases. According to research done in a court room, judges were more likely to give a favorable ruling in the morning compared to later on in the day.

    The reason behind this is because your willpower is like a muscle, and it gets tired after making decisions. For that reason, making planning decisions at night isn’t a good idea.

    Planning is vital for optimal performance. Without a plan, you’re likely to procrastinate rather than execute your plan.

    A solid plan is time and energy consuming. That’s why you should plan for the whole week rather than spend time each night or morning planning your day.

    A good time to create your schedule would be the day before your work week (Sunday morning if your work week starts on Monday).

    You may have to make some minor tweaks before you go to bed and that’s totally fine, as long as it isn’t a major planning decision.

    While planning your week follow this guideline: The morning is for high-priority tasks, as we mentioned previously.

    7. Do average work.

    Are you a perfectionist? If you’re not, then good for you. If you are, then you’ve got yourself a serious problem. Because to you, nothing is ever finished.

    You focus on every single detail and try to make your work “perfect.” But I can assure you that nothing ever is perfect.

    Humans cannot create perfect.

    Even the Rolce Royce phantom, a masterpiece, isn’t perfect. It is an excellent product, but not perfect. It can still break, yet it is very durable.

    But as a young startup your products don’t need to be anything near that. Your aim is to launch a minimal viable product that just does the job and then keep improving it based on feedback—you know, the lean startup way.

    Advertising

    As long as the thing you’re doing works, then it is complete! End of Story.

    8. Learn the hidden shortcuts.

    Sometimes it’s just all about moving faster and cutting corners. Lazy people like me love this one, and it’s the simplest of them all, yet many of us don’t take advantage of it.

    Have you ever thought about learning the shortest route before driving? Learning how to read faster? Or just finding a way to be able to do something in a faster way?

    For starters, not many people really learn how to read or type faster. They think it’ll take them a lot of time and end up wasting more time than it would take to read slowly. Other people are just lazy.

    Reading and writing are daily activities for entrepreneurs, and that’s why I’ll give you a few resources to improve your speed.

    For reading:

    Spreeder.com

    Speed Reading by Tim Ferriss

    For Typing:

    Keybr.com

    Ratatype.com

    Typeracer.com

    Here are some more tips:

    • Dentists recommend brushing teeth twice a day, for 5 minutes if you have a manual toothbrush and 2–3 minutes if you have an electric toothbrush. For that reason, get an electric toothbrush.
    • For driving you could drive faster, but then you may get into an accident which wastes time and your safety; in that case, just make driving time productive by listening to a podcast or lecture. Same goes with the rest of your transportation or idle time, make the most of it by listening to something beneficial.
    • If you’re still in college and you want to impress your parents or just get good grades in the fastest way possible then apply the methods we have talked about in this post and tackle questions in a strategic manner. You do not need to answer every question in an assignment or test to get an ‘A.’ Work hard on the parts that are worth the highest marks and just quickly do the low mark questions. Don’t spend the same amount of time on a 1-mark question as you would with a 10-mark question.

    There’s a shortcut to almost everything. You never know: you may end up creating a product that saves people some time. People pay for time -saving tools that make their lives easier. Always ask yourself, how can I do this faster?

    9. Schedule to do The One Push-Up Challenge.

    Because our willpower is limited, whenever we set a big goal such as workout for 30 minutes, we tend to get lazy. It just seems like too big of a task to complete. However, if you were told to do only one push-up, you wouldn’t need much willpower to get up and do it. The whole thing would feel like a joke. One push-up? I’ll do that right now, and since you’re already in the push up position why not do a few more? And since your heart is pumping why not do a few squats? Before you know it, you’ve done your 30 minute workout.

    You can apply this to everything in your life such as:

    • Reading
    • Writing
    • Cleaning
    • Research

    Just give yourself a ridiculous goal such as wash only 3 dishes, and before you know, your kitchen’s sink area is shining clean.

    This was inspired by Stephen Guise, author of Mini Habits.

    10. Sleep like a bear.

    You know what’s heartbreaking?

    The worst part about sleep deprivation isn’t the risk of getting diabetes. It’s not the risk of heart attack, stroke, or obesity. It’s not even the inability for your body to remove toxic proteins from your brain cells (although that’s bad).

    No, the worst part is that sleep deprivation costs the U.S $63 billion annually in lost productivity. I mean, that’s a load of cash.

    Advertising

    If you can’t get your 7–8 hours of sleep, then take power naps throughout the day. It’s no wonder Google has sleep pods for employees. There’s no point of you working if you’re fatigued.

    11. Use cloud storage.

    How many times have you spent hours editing a document only to find out it’s the wrong version?

    Or even worse: how many times have you sent the wrong document to your team member, boss, or professor?

    And not to forget the number of files you have for the same assignment that looks something like this; assignment-1, assignment-1-draft, assignment-1-final, which bogs up your computer’s memory and takes a few minutes to figure out the latest version.

    You probably felt like smashing the screen when that happened.

    The amount of time wasted could be saved actually working on the document.

    Good news for you, you can solve your problem by using cloud storage.

    You can work on the document online to avoid duplicates and looking for files. And you can share the link to your document with a team member or boss. If you have to manually upload a file, then just download the final version with ease.

    Some cloud storage services include Google Drive, DropBox, Box and OneDrive.

    12. Don’t waste your time networking.

    Networking is important but not if it hinders you from working on what matters in your business. When it comes to choose between working on something important or attending a networking event, then work always triumphs.

    A good rule of thumb is to attend only 1–2 hours of networking events during a week. Of course this depends on the amount of work you have and the impact networking has on your business, for most experienced entrepreneurs with a big network the amount of networking needed will be less.

    Now Imagine looking at your to-do list, except this time you’ve got each task scheduled on your calendar and you know exactly when you’ll finish each task.

    Instead of stressing on the tasks you couldn’t finish on that day, you can now sleep in peace because you know exactly when each task will be done.

    Not only that. You also won’t procrastinate on long tiring tasks anymore because you know how to make a long task seem like a joke by following the one push-up challenge.

    All because you’ve implemented the methods presented in this post.

    Guess what: you’re not the same person after reading this post. You now know the secrets to achieving insane productivity!

    No more lost focus, no more doing other people’s “urgent” tasks and you know exactly how to deal with email and social media compared to the average Tom, Dick and Harry.

    Sound crazy? It’s not.

    You’ve got your roadmap now—now you need to follow it.

    Your new productive self awaits.

    Featured photo credit: Couch Potato/Banalities via flickr.com

    More by this author

    Zak Mustapha

    Blogger & Marketer

    4 Ways To Protect The Intellectual Property Of Your Software 4 Simple Hacks for Web Design Beginners 5 Effective Ways to Communicate with Millennials 5 Disastrous Problems Android Spying You Can Solve The Top 4 Programming Languages for Beginners

    Trending in Entrepreneur

    1 15 Best Entrepreneurs Books to Start Reading Now to Be Successful 2 How to Start a Small Business with Little to No Money 3 The Lifehack Show: Staying On Top of Your Game as an Entrepreneur with Frank Fiume 4 10 Employee Engagement Ideas to Improve Teamwork 5 Effective Employee Onboarding (The Complete Guide)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

    Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

    Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

    Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

    Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance.

    Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to choose a career for a more fulfilling life.

    How to Know if You Need a Career Change?

    The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

    You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

    Physical Signs

    Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

    It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

    In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

    Mental Signs

    One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

    Advertising

    I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

    Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

    • The tension in your neck
    • Difficulties with sleeping
    • Unable to concentrate
    • High anxiety
    • Depression

    If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

    Are You Sure You’re Not Changing for the Wrong Reason?

    Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. Do you really understand your current situation at work?

    The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization.

    Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

    Desire for an Increase of Salary

    The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time.

    At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.

    Overnight Decision

    Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.

    Rejected for a Promotion

    I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.

    Advertising

    Bored at Work

    Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

    A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

    • How long have you worked in your career?
    • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
    • Do you receive recognition?
    • Can you consider working in a new department?

    If after reviewing your work situation and none of the above recommendations can help, then it’s time to make a career change.

    How a Career Change Will Change Your Life

    I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

    One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

    It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

    A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

    You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

    • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
    • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
    • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

    How to Make a Career Change Successfully

    The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

    1. Write a Career Plan

    A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

    Advertising

    You can learn how to set your career plan here.

    2. Weigh Your Options

    If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

    You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job. In the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

    3. Be Real About the Pros and Cons

    It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the job market that are impacting the current situation.

    A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:[3]

    • Economic factors
    • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
    • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
    • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
    • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

      A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

      4. Find a Mentor or Career Coach

      A mentor or a career coach that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

      • What is required to be successful in the role?
      • What certification or educational development is needed?
      • What are the challenges of the role?
      • Is there potential for career advancement?

      A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

      Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

      Advertising

      5. Research Salary

      Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

      It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

      6. Be Realistic

      If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

      For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

      Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

      7. Volunteer First

      A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

      Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

      Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

      8. Prepare Your Career Tools

      I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

      • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
      • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
      • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.
      • Cover letter: A good cover writer will always impress your potential employers. Here’s how to write a killer cover letter that stands out from others.

      Bottom Line

      It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will find a job and discover the role in a career field that is the best fit with your skillsets.

      Master these action steps and changing career paths will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

      More About Career Change

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

      Reference

      [1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
      [2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan
      [3] Creately: Personal SWOT Analysis to Assess and Improve Yourself

      Read Next