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Ask the Entrepreneurs: 13 Ways to Stay Productive on Your Darkest Days

Ask the Entrepreneurs: 13 Ways to Stay Productive on Your Darkest Days

Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

Failure can be pretty devastating but it’s part of business. What trick do you use to stay productive on those dark days?

1. Keep a Thank Bank

Martina Welke

    I started keeping an email folder labeled “Thank Bank” in the early days after starting our business to keep all the supportive messages, positive comments and thoughtful introductions I received. On the really hard days, I go back through the folder to be reminded of all the people who believe in what we’re building, and it never fails to motivate me to forge ahead.

    Martina Welke, Zealyst

     

    2. Play With Positive People

    Kelly Azevedo

      It’s easy to get down in the dumps and attract all those people who knew “that would never work” and like to wallow in your misery. Instead, consciously seek out the positive people you can work with who will lift you up after a failure. These people don’t necessarily have to be entrepreneurs, but it helps when others know what you’re dealing with and can provide perspective.

      Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

       

      3. Practice Meditation

      Robert-J.-Moore

        Meditation is a great way to gain perspective by putting emotional distance between you and the stressful things in your life. It’s a great complement to the lows you experience on the bad days.

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        Robert J. Moore, RJMetrics

         

         

        4. Take a Step Back

        peter minton

          Go for a walk and breathe some fresh air, grab lunch or drinks with some friends, call your family, play with your kids, whatever works for you to refocus and gain some perspective. Remember why (and for whom) you are working so hard, take that deep breath and attack that next challenge.

          Peter Minton, Minton Law Group, P.C.

           

           

          5. Try Music and Napping

          Michael Bruny

            I use a playlist I call “Get It Going.” I also leverage naps as a reset button. When I get up, it’s a brand-new start.

            Michael Bruny, The New Art of Conference Networking

             

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            6. Focus on Getting Back Up

            David Ehrenberg

              I have faith in myself and in what I’m creating. And I remember that everyone who swings big misses sometimes — failure doesn’t matter, just the ability to get back up and go for it again. In the Bay Area, there is no stigma attached to failure. Here, people are allowed to fail because there’s a belief that in an environment where failure is allowed, there is the ability to create something new.

              David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

               

              7. Use Failure as Motivation

              Bryan Silverman

                We use failures and naysayers as our motivation to continue to push. With each failure, we know that we are able to learn, and we are that much closer to the next success. Our fellow employees, due to our company culture, help foster that motivational mindset with one another as well.

                Bryan Silverman, Star Toilet Paper

                 

                 

                8. Look at the Past

                Wade Foster

                  Simply looking at a graph of our results over the past year will show the remarkable progress we’ve made. On bad days, we’re still a thousand times better than we were on day one.

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                  Wade Foster, Zapier

                   

                   

                  9. Keep Your Perspective

                  Jeremy Hitchcock

                    Perspective is the silver lining in the dark cloud of failure. Entrepreneurs are usually successful because they have both a willingness to serve and a love for solving problems. If there’s a problem in 2013, it means that the problem is hard. Realizing things don’t happen overnight and remembering why you’re working so hard to begin with are the best ways to get through even the darkest of days.

                    Jeremy Hitchcock, Dyn

                    10. Focus on Action

                    Elizabeth Saunders

                      You can’t guarantee success, but you can decide what actions you will take each day to move yourself and your business forward. When I need to increase my motivation and productivity, I come up with a series of actions to take. Then, I focus on completing those and celebrating what I can control (actions) without worrying about what I can’t control (results).

                      Elizabeth Saunders, Real Life E®

                       

                      11. Learn From Failure

                      Ziver Birg

                        Always remember that experience is the result of failing and learning from that failure. As long as you’re learning from failure, you’re growing and improving. Always remember this, and smile in the face of failure. Positive energy is contagious. If you’re positive, chances are your team will also be positive. It’s hard not to feel great in a super positive environment like that.

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                        Ziver Birg, ZIVELO

                         

                        12. Leave and Start Fresh Tomorrow

                        Andrew Angus

                          On the darkest of days, I don’t use a trick to stay productive. It just won’t work. There are times when you have to realize that no matter how bad things are, you are in no shape to fix them, and you are only going to make them worse — so I leave. I get a massage, get a good night’s sleep and start again the next day. You need to end the pain quickly and start fresh.

                          Andrew Angus, Switch Video

                           

                          13. Realize Time Brings Perspective

                          Michael Costigan

                            Being effective at doing what you do is much more important than always being productive. If you experience a failure, even if it’s a massive failure and you decide to take the rest of the day off to unwind and do something you find happiness in, it’s okay! Sometimes, we think that we always need to be reacting to problems; we spin our wheels and don’t always realize that time brings perspective.

                            Michael Costigan, Youth Leadership Specialist

                             

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                            1 We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why? 2 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away 3 How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits 4 14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress 5 11 Things You Can Do to Increase Employee Productivity

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                            Last Updated on January 6, 2021

                            14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

                            14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

                            Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

                            In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

                            For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

                            For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

                            Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

                            Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

                            Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

                            How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

                            Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

                            1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

                            Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

                            For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

                            2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

                            Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

                            Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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                            Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

                            3. Create a System

                            Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

                            This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

                            You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

                            Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

                            Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

                            4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

                            We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

                            If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

                            Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

                            Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

                            5. Use a Ratings Scale

                            Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

                            Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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                            It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

                            6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

                            This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

                            You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

                            You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

                            7. Offer Feedback Forms

                            Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

                            First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

                            Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

                            You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                            8. Track Cost Effectiveness

                            This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

                            Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

                            Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

                            9. Use Self-Evaluations

                            Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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                            Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

                            10. Monitor Time Management

                            This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

                            Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

                              The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

                              While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                              11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

                              We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

                              Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

                              For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

                              Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

                              Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

                              From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

                              12. Utilize Peer Feedback

                              This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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                              Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

                              Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

                              It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

                              13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

                              When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

                              Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

                              Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

                              14. Use an External Evaluator

                              Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

                              They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

                              While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

                              Final Thoughts

                              These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

                              The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

                              The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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                              Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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