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5 Ways To Increase Your Productivity To Match Your Business Growth

5 Ways To Increase Your Productivity To Match Your Business Growth

Growth is a happy problem for any startup. You know your company is on the right track when you need more people to meet sales demands and have the budget to hire. But just growing your team or adding more hours alone isn’t enough. You and your team will need to optimize your productivity as well.

The initially harder, but smarter, way is to change your habits to regain your time[1] and grow your business.

I founded a company to keep my freedom to work on, work with, and work when I like. As I’ve grown my company from a 3-person team to over 50 people in two cities, I’ve learned the importance of work-life balance[2] to avoid burnout. Even if your workload grows, as an entrepreneur you need to protect your time. A successful business is one that improves its sales without sacrificing it’s teams’ quality of life. After experimenting with a range of productivity hacks and tools, below are the 5 most effective habits I’ve developed.

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Keep your morning routine within a reasonable timeframe

How you wake up is even more important than when. A morning routine[3] is critical for starting on the right foot each day and most successful business leaders use early mornings to send e-mails.[4]

Whether it is making your cup of coffee, hitting the gym, or sending e-mails, do it every day. Also give yourself a fixed time to complete the routine. For example, I wake up at 8am and send e-mails until 9am. The ones I haven’t finished will be addressed during my two other scheduled e-mail checking sessions later in the day.

Track your time to instantly cut distraction

Use a time tracker without being OCD so that you can learn about how you are using your time (rather than how you think you are spending it). Find a time tracking tool such as Timing App,[5] which automatically detects what software you are using and what pages you are browsing to log what you did. The app removes the need to do manual time tracking, which means you won’t have gaps in your tracker. You do not need to be “OCD” because you can leave the time tracker on while taking breaks and counting it towards the task. After a week, you will probably notice where chunks of time disappear. For example, you may find you are spending three hours responding to only a few e-mails and remember that you tend to click on links or browse news simultaneously. For more time tracking and management tools, read here.

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Simply by tracking your time, you are holding yourself accountable and it will motivate you to focus. Give yourself a target timeframe for responding to e-mails and you will naturally try to reach that goal with your time tracker turned on. With the focus, you may find yourself getting out of the office earlier than you used to!

Delegate your hours (and don’t give yourself extra time)

Plan your hours and stick to them. Bill Gates and Elon Musk divide their schedules into 5-minute slots.[6]

Planning out your days keeps you focused on priorities and protects your down time. When scheduling your waking hours, you force yourself to consider your whole day, including off hours. By giving mental space to your personal schedule, you will give yourself time to do errands, see friends and family, or just read a book, to recharge.

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Do not let your tasks spill over. If you find a task, such as a product meeting, consistently takes longer than you wanted, adjust your estimation. Another effective approach is to schedule another fixed time to finish outstanding items. Knowing you have a deadline keeps you motivated to optimize your minutes.

Breakfast & Lunch meetings

When you want to spend dinners with friends and use office hours for work, what time do you have for meetings? The answer is breakfast and lunch. Everyone has to eat, so why not make that time more productive with discussions?

Having breakfast meetings catches people at their most productive[7] before other things take up their mental energy. In addition, scheduling meal meetings reminds you to eat, which is healthier and improves productivity.[8] Meetings with meals can be limited to one or two hours. Lightening up your meetings with food gives you a change of scene and your mind a break, which is important for avoiding burn out.

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Ignore phone calls and call back while commuting

Lastly, reduce interruptions. I turn all my notifications to silent and check my phone when I am ready. This gives me control of my time and places calls into a time block, like e-mails. In addition, you will only return calls if they are a priority, which means you won’t be caught by ad hoc casual chats.

I make this doubly productive by returning calls only while commuting. Making a call while on the train or walking puts a time limit and focuses on the essential points. I am able to recapture lost productivity during commutes by discussing things when I cannot work on a keyboard.

Take a step back

While it is tempting to squeeze in those extra hours to help grow your business, it’s important for entrepreneurs to take a step back to work smarter. Managing a fuller plate for the long term requires developing habits that reduce distractions. Learn where you can make efficiency gains, stay healthy, and give yourself personal time.

Reference

More by this author

Ben Cheng

Co-Founder, Oursky

Achieve Inbox Zero To Increase 100% Team Efficiency 5 Ways To Increase Your Productivity To Match Your Business Growth

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

How to Find Your Keystone Habits to Change Your Life

How to Find Your Keystone Habits to Change Your Life

When a young CEO stepped in at the helm of a dying giant, his first task was to figure out what needed to be done to save the company. After he spent some time researching the company and the market situation, he came up with a simple plan which he introduced to the shareholders in his first speech as the CEO.

He spoke just about one single thing–safety. Everyone in the room thought he was crazy and some people jumped the soon-to-be-dead ship.

15 years later, he not salvaged the giant, but made it one of the strongest steel and metal companies in the world and made a global name of himself.

The company is Alcoa and the guy was Paul O’Neill.

But the story matters to us for one thing only and that is the relentless focus he had on safety and security in his company. Paul O’Neill said that his employees deserve to leave work the same way they arrived at it–unharmed.

And it was this radical focus on a single habit in the company that made it great. A single focus on a single habit which had a massive ripple effect.

This is known as a keystone habit.

The Importance of a Keystone Habit

A keystone habit is a habit which has the biggest ripple effect in your life which means that by implementing it, you will radically change everything in your life.

It’s quite easy to spot the keystone habits which make your life miserable.

Take overeating as an example. If you weigh 400 pounds, you’re bedridden and your physical health massively declines. You can’t function individually so you need help to even do the basic things like going to the toilet or walking up the stairs. Since you can’t move, you can’t go to your job so you probably lose it. And since you can’t move, you can’t go out and meet someone so your dating and social life decline as well. And as a formerly overweight person, I know how this sucks.

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This is just one example of how a keystone habit creates a ripple effect which creates change in every sphere of our lives. So we better open our eyes and make sure that we use the power of the keystone habits for bettering our life.

Why Less Is More

A keystone habit is about one thing and, the one thing only which you do to radically improve your life. And a lot of people would, at this point, ask what are the best keystone habits to implement in their lives.

And here is the big truth: Nobody knows and nobody can tell you exactly.

Everyone is specific and has different things going on for them in their lives, so claiming something is always superior to something else would simply be irresponsible.

So even though I can’t tell you what to see, I can tell you where to look.

Every keystone habit can be situated into one of the following four quadrants:

It’s either a physical habit, intellectual habit, emotional habit or a spiritual habit.

Any keystone habit I ever encountered which changed the life of someone falls under these 4 categories.

And the trick is recognizing what kind of habit right would benefit your life the best at this moment. Asking what the best keystone habit has the same effect as asking what the best book in the world is– it depends on who you ask and what your current life situation is.

If you’re struggling with the meaning of life and want to find hope in this crazy world we live in, I would point you to a great book which recently came out called Everything is F*cked by Mark Mason. If you were a struggling parent of a 10-year old kid who just found out the perils of the internet, I would point you to a security app.

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You get the point…

But just because everything is relative, it doesn’t mean that some things aren’t better than other things. War and Peace will always be a great book no matter if it currently befits you to read it. And the same thing can be applied to keystone habits so let’s see what kind of keystone habits fall into the great category.

Great Keystone Habits

I have already mentioned how all keystone habits fall into one of the four categories: physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. So the following keystone habits will fall into one (or more) of these buckets.

But before we proceed into the habits, know this.

What got you here, won’t get you there.

So if you already have a keystone habit which you implemented for quite a while now and you think it’s no longer working, you are probably right. We need certain things at certain times of development, but we need to let them go later on to grow to new levels. So use the habits to better your life, but don’t worship any one of them for your entire life.

Physical Domain

When it comes to great keystone habits in the physical domain, they all fall into two buckets:

  • Exercise
  • Food

These two are the pinnacle of the physical domain when it comes to keystone habits. I don’t even have to tell you all the ways exercise helps you in your life.

From better hormonal regulation, to energy levels, to looking better, to feeling more confident, to increasing your lifespan and the quality of your life, a keystone habit of exercising is one whose effects you will feel fast.

When it comes to food, it’s literally the building block of your life’s energy. If you eat garbage, you will feel like garbage–garbage in, garbage out. And your energy levels are one of the most important factors you need to regulate in your life if you want to achieve anything.

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None of your dreams will ever come true if you eat a massive bag of chips every single day, which makes you drowsy and lifeless no matter how much ambition you have.

But the physical domain is just one of the four domains so let’s jump to the next one.

Intellectual Domain

There are many great intellectual keystone habits we can pursue, but I will just name a couple of them which most of you who read the article will find relevant:

  • Reading Books
  • Writing (columns, articles, personal blog or diary)
  • Learning new languages
  • Learning a new skill set (copywriting, coaching, cooking…)
  • Teaching your skillset or your life experiences

All of these have their own benefits and can massively improve your life and the life of people around you. When you, for example, learn a new language, you don’t just learn a new language, you learn a completely new way of thinking and form unique connections in your mind.

But we don’t stop here, we have two more domains to cover.

Emotional Domain

This is a difficult one because, for one, it’s really hard to measure it in any quantitive way. You can’t just call your wife every single day and think that by doing just that, you are a good husband. It doesn’t work like that.

I wrote about the problems of measuring emotional habits before and I won’t go in-depth about it here, but I will just mention that measuring these kinds of habits requires your and yours only subjective analyses. It’s like giving yourself a daily score of 1-10 on the question of “Did I do my best to be a great husband today?”

The keystone habits of the emotional domain are one of the most complex and difficult ones to pull off because they require most people to change things they do in relation to other people.

If you want to be more sincere and honest in your emotional responses, that means that you will have to make some people angry by doing that. It can be a difficult conversation you need to have with your spouse or with your friends, maybe a disagreement with your peers and colleagues, or a deep look within yourself with an honest look about your actions and mistakes.

Emotional domain keystone habits improve your life in any stage, but since they make us do uncomfortable things, they are the last ones we pursue.

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Some of the examples would be:

  • Telling yourself that you are the only one who is responsible for your emotions and keeping that standard
  • Calling out passive-aggressive in people
  • Speaking your mind even though you know it will bring disagreement
  • Dealing with your own problems first before pointing fingers
  • Asking for feedback constantly, both positive and negative ones
  • Deciding to be vulnerable even though it means risking being hurt

The things I wrote above are probably the most difficult things you can ask someone to do, but they are also the most rewarding things you can do in your life. If you want to achieve greatness, you need to be willing to dare greatly.

And last, but not least, are the keystone habits of the spiritual domain.

Spiritual Domain

The keystone habits of the spiritual domain are our connection with things which in our lives that have a higher purpose than just ourselves. This is the place where feel the connection with our communities, with Higher Beings, with God or Emptiness or whatever you want to call it.

The spiritual domain is the strongest as a guiding force in life and some of the keystone habits of this domain include:

  • Finding your life’s purpose
  • Living your vision of life
  • Sacrificing yourself for the achievement of something bigger than you
  • Nurturing your inner voice and connection with the Spirit

To some readers, this might seem like woo-woo, but I can assure that it isn’t. This is about the spiritual dimension of every individual and if you disregard it, you will annulate a part of you which will become a problem.

The Western world currently faces a major spiritual crisis where people feel disconnected with anything in their lives which has a higher purpose than themselves. That’s why people are miserable even though they lead an “objectively” rich life where they appear to have everything but still feel like happiness is not in their lives.

If you read all the way up to here, you found at least one keystone habit which can help you right now in your life.

All that is left now is to implement it. As the famous adage goes:

“Knowing and not doing is the same as not knowing.”

Now you know, it’s time to do.

More About Habits

Featured photo credit: Bram Naus via unsplash.com

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