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 How to Start a Startup Fast: 5 Essential Steps 2 10 Simple Yet Powerful Business Goals to Set This Year 3 How to Start an Online Business That Will Grow and Succeed 4 How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs 5 How to Become an Entrepreneur (Advice from a Serial Entrepreneur)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

    Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

    Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

    Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

    Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

    Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

    Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

    1. Make Time for You

    If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

    Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

    Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

    Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

    For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

    By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

    Advertising

    2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

    Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

    Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

    When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

    It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

    Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

    3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

    According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

    For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

    If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

    4. Work on Your Personal Brand

    Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

    Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

    What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

    Advertising

    Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

    Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

    5. Be Accountable

    Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

    For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

    When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

    6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

    All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

    Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

    Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

    It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

    7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

    Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

    It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

    Advertising

    This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

    If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

    To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

    For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

    You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

    8. Learn to Embrace Failure

    Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

    The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

    In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

    We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

    However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

    Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

    Advertising

    “I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

    9. Build Your Resilience

    Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

    Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

    Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

    In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

    Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

    10. Ask for Help

    It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

    No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

    My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

    1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
    2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
    3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

    Final Thoughts

    You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

    Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

    More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

    Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next