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Ask the Entrepreneurs: What Do You Cross Off Your To-Do List First?

Ask the Entrepreneurs: What Do You Cross Off Your To-Do List First?

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

Most people have a list of actions that they prioritize for at the start of the day, these lists can be created in tools such as Evernote, Wunderlist, Remember the Milk and a host of other tools (Ed: We’re building Listible to help you create lists), but there is usually one thing on your list you want to accomplish first to help kick-start your day. Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

What do you cross off your to-do list first every day, and why does it help you stay productive?

1. Make a Plan

    Before starting on the work of the day, I create an action plan. I list everything that I need to accomplish and review the list along with scheduled meetings. By going over the plans for the day, I am prepared to complete all the tasks on my to-do list.

    Alexandra Mayzler, Thinking Caps Tutoring

    2. Read for Fuel

      I read articles and blogs. I consider continual learning to be a top priority, so I always do it first. It fuels ideas and provides knowledge for the rest of my day.

      Brent Beshore, AdVentures

      3. Whatever the Biggest Priority Is

        As a work at home mama and business owner, my daily priorities are constantly changing. When my work day starts, I tackle the one thing on my list that contributes the most to the bottom line. Typically that means a call with a potential client or moving a new product forward gets crossed off my to-do list first.

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        Molly Mahar, Stratejoy

        4. Write First

          First thing first — I write. I spend the first couple hours every morning writing, whether it’s a new ad campaign, email campaign, or a guest blog post. Writing is the most valuable activity I can do in my business, and that’s why I put it first on my list every morning. Identify the most valuable thing you can do for your business — and do it first, before you check your email. Email can wait.

          Pete Kennedy, Main Street ROI

          5. Eat the Frog

            “If you have to eat a live frog, it does not pay to sit and look at it for a very long time!” Do whatever it is that you don’t want to do, but need to do most first thing in the morning … and then the rest of the day is just peachy.

            Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

            6. Prepare Daily Indicators

              Our controller prepares our business “daily indicators” every morning. It’s an overall view of the health of our business. Evaluating the daily indicators each morning is a great way to get focused and keep day-to-day decisions in perspective as they relate to overall goals.

              Abby Ross, Blueye Creative

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              7. Check Twitter Feeds

                I use Twitter to catch up with the rest of the world and find out what I missed. It’s not a healthy addiction but it’s a great way to stay up to date.

                Ben Lang, EpicLaunch

                8. Review Growth Metrics

                  As the steward of a social media startup, we’re all about community growth. So every morning I review our growth numbers from the day before — how many sign ups have our reps gotten and are we on track to meet our monthly goals. If growth is stagnating, addressing the “why” is job one for the day. If a community is not growing, it’s dying.

                  Brendan Mangus, Habidy

                  9. First Things First: Email

                    Contrary to a lot of “guru” advice, I check my email first thing in the morning. Once I know everything is in order and moving forward, I can focus on my day.

                    Charles Gaudet, Predictable Profits

                    10. Calendar Check

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                      The first thing I do is look at my calendar to see how I’ve planned my day. Seeing what meetings are scheduled allows me to properly prepare myself and my team members for what we’ll be tackling that day.

                      Zach Cutler, Cutler Group

                      11. The 3 Easiest Tasks

                        I’m not really a fan of the whole “Eat That Frog” concept. I start my day with the three of the easiest tasks on my to-do list. This makes a little dent in my list right away, which makes me feel as though I’m on a roll. I always find that when this is the case, I burn through more tasks than I would when focusing on my biggest list items first.

                        Travis Steffen, WorkoutBOX

                        12. Call Every Teammate

                          We have a distributed team (Berkeley, Atlanta, South Korea, San Francisco). The most important thing I do each morning is talk to each teammate — I want to know how they are, what projects are on their plate, and what I can do to help them succeed each day. These calls create a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose, and provide a great opportunity to set team priorities.

                          Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

                          13. Yoga

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                            20 Minute Yoga is the first thing I have scheduled into my day. Yoga and stretching has so many benefits like improved circulation, strength building, better posture, and many more. It helps me get focused and feel good for the day ahead. I recommend checking out Tara Stiles on YouTube at youtube.com/tarastilesyoga. She has yoga routines you can do in 5 minutes from home.

                            Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

                            14. Write 3 Thank You Notes

                              I start every workday by writing three thank you notes. It is extremely important to show appreciation to those who have contributed to your success in any way. Gratefulness sparks a cycle of positivity whereby which those who are appreciated are likely to provide further assistance in the future. In regards to its role in my daily routine, writing these cards puts me in a more positive mindset

                              Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media

                              15. Ask These 3 Questions

                                These three things gets automatically added on my digital To Do list every day:
                                (1) Who am I required to be today?
                                (2) What is the one thing that I want to enjoy today?
                                (3) What is the ONE thing that I am required to do today?

                                Peter Nguyen, Advertiser360

                                16. Morning Checklist

                                  Each morning, I complete the same checklist: look at calendar, review projects list, answer e-mail, answer voicemails and texts, and clear daily paper file. This has three benefits: It helps me process everything effectively; it makes starting my day effortless; and it allows me to plan effectively based on the most recent information.

                                  Elizabeth Saunders, Real Life E®

                                  Featured photo credit:  Laptop (notebook) with cup of coffee and notepad with pen via Shutterstock

                                  More by this author

                                  9 No-Brainer Ways to Track Employee Time Ask the Entrepreneurs: 12 Things Entrepreneurs Should Stop Doing Ask the Entrepreneurs: 9 Best Note Taking Tools Ask the Entrepreneurs: 12 Tips for Mastering Public Speaking Ask the Entrepreneurs: 9 Tasks You Should be Outsourcing

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                                  Last Updated on February 17, 2021

                                  50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

                                  50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

                                  If you feel like you don’t have enough time to do everything you want to do, maybe it’s time to check-in with your time management skills.

                                  No one is born to be very good at time management, so that’s okay if you think you’re bad in it. But everyone can learn to boost their productivity and achieve more!

                                  Here are 50 ways to increase productivity and add hours to your day.

                                  1. Set a Timer

                                  Estimate the time you need to tackle different tasks and set a timer for each of your tasks. How you go about this is up to you as there are many different ways. There is the Pomodoro technique where you focus on a task for 25 minutes followed by a five minute break afterwards.

                                  In the event that you have a task that will take much longer than that, you can consider one of the many timer-based apps. One that comes to mind is Clockify. It’s used for freelancers and entrepreneurs alike, however it’s a good way to be setting yourself a timer. It provides reports and you can serve as a project manager of sorts too. Best of all, it’s free.

                                  2. Eliminate All Distractions

                                  Distractions include the phone, email notifications and having multiple web browsers open on the desktop. Just as it’s important to be organized offline, it’s key to have things organized online as well. This free guide End Distractions And Find Your Focus is a good tool to help you. With this guide, you’ll learn how to get rid of distractions and boost productivity. Grab your free guide here.

                                  You can also learn more on how to get rid of all distractions in this guide: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

                                  3. Listen to Music That Boosts Productivity

                                  Distractions should be avoided, but sometimes a bit of music in the background can help you focus.

                                  Of course, it doesn’t need to be heavy rock music, but a bit of Beethoven may do you some good.

                                  Here’s a complete guide to help you pick the right music for better productivity: How To Maximize Your Productivity With Music: A Complete Guide

                                  4. Find Meaning in What You Do (And Love What You Do)

                                  Enjoying what you do is the ultimate way to increase your productivity.

                                  If you aren’t sure what you love doing yet, don’t worry. Leo Babauta has some unique ways to help you: How to Find Your Passion

                                  5. Prioritize your tasks ahead of time.

                                  By listing your tasks in order of importance, you can make sure that you finish all of your most important tasks during the day.

                                  Learn a unique technique to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster.

                                  6. Batch Similar Tasks into a Single Batch.

                                  Tasks like blog writing, phone calls, email and errands can be grouped into a single batch. You will save time by completing similar tasks in one session. One way to help you with organizing all of those things is through the app Todoist. It’s an easy and simple way for you to plan out your day, set reminders, and group all of your most important tasks in a convenient spot.

                                  7. Complete Your Most Dreaded Tasks First Thing in the Morning.

                                  Whichever activity you are dreading the most is probably the one you need to complete first thing in the morning.

                                  Many people tend to check emails in the morning because after checking a list of emails, they feel fulfilled. But that’s just an illusion of having achieved more.

                                  Doing simple tasks like checking emails first in the morning is bad for you. Instead, do the difficult tasks because you have more energy in the morning to tackle them!

                                  8. Reward Yourself for Finishing a Big Task

                                  To stay motivated for whatever you do, reward yourself every now and then.

                                  Keep track of your small wins and milestones and celebrate them. So whenever you struggle about your progress, you see how far you’ve come!

                                  Find out more about this 2-Step Approach to Self-Motivation: Track Small Wins and Reward Yourself.

                                  9. Don’t Multitask

                                  Research has shown that multitasking is not productive. If you think you can multitask, think again.

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                                  For optimum productivity, focus on one thing at a time.

                                  10. Step Away from the Computer

                                  The Internet has become one of the number one distraction. To increase your productivity, try to do as much of your work offline as possible.

                                  I do this a lot when I try to brainstom new ideas and have found it to be very beneficial to simply unplug.

                                  11. Use Focus Tools

                                  Make good use of apps and technology to help you remove distractions.

                                  Here’re 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools to help you stay focused. This way, you’re not distracted by the web, e-mail, or IM.

                                  Also, join the free Fast-Track Class – Overcoming Distraction, and you’ll learn the one simple method to work even when you’re surrounded by distractions. Join the free session now!

                                  12. Just Start

                                  Often times, starting is the hardest part. People tend to wait for the perfect time with perfect condition to start. But there’s no perfect condition.

                                  Once you get going, you will quickly get into a rhythm that could last for hours.

                                  13. Find out Your Productive Hours

                                  Everyone has a certain time of the day in which they are more productive than others. For me, it’s the morning.

                                  Find out when your prime time is for productivity and optimize your work schedule accordingly.

                                  14. Keep a Notebook and Pen on Hand at All Times

                                  This way, you can write down your thoughts, to-dos and ideas at any time. The key is to get everything out of your head and onto paper. Your subconscious mind won’t be reminding you about it every other second. Another consideration is getting the app Evernote. Not only does this save you on ink and paper, Evernote is a convenient place for you to jot down notes and thoughts and then share them with the team. In certain circumstances, this can prove useful if you’re the type of person that has a lot of ideas that you want to share.

                                  15. Write a Blog to Chronicle Your Own Personal Development and Achievements

                                  The blog keeps you accountable and always working towards self improvement and personal growth.

                                  When you write down all the small achievements you’ve been having, you’re also more motivated to move forward.

                                  And you know what, this is how I started Lifehack too! What also helped me in starting Lifehack is WordPress, which allows people to set up a website for free. WordPress has simplified a lot of the process of building a site to the point that virtually anyone can build a website now.

                                  16. Write out a To-Do-List Each Day

                                  I like to plan my day the night before. This way, I can get started on my most important tasks as soon as I wake up. The Full Life Planner is a nice tool to help you organize your days and get things that matter done. Check out the planner here and start to plan your day ahead easily!

                                  Make sure you don’t make any of these common to-do-list mistakes!

                                  17. Write Your Most Important Tasks and To-Dos on a Calendar.

                                  The key to good time management is knowing where to be and what to be doing there at any given time. Effective calendar management goes hand in hand with good task list management.

                                  Learn here How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space.

                                  18. Reflect on Your Productivity Constantly

                                  As you go throughout your day, repeatedly ask yourself:

                                  “Am I currently making the best possible use of my time?”

                                  This one simple question can be an excellent boost to your productivity.

                                  19. Get up Early Before Anyone Else

                                  I know it could be difficult for some to wake up early in the morning but nothing beats a quiet house!

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                                  Here’s How to Start Your Day at 5:00 AM and some Simple Things Early Risers Do to make waking up early easier.

                                  20. Get Plenty of Sleep

                                  When you work online, sleep can become a long lost memory. However, it’s important to get plenty of sleep so that your working hours can be as productive as possible.

                                  Try out this night routine which I highly recommend for productivity: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

                                  21. Exercise

                                  Research has shown that midday exercise boosts productivity and morale in the workplace.

                                  Take a short walk at lunch or do some simple stretches during your break to maximize your productivity.

                                  Here I have some exercises recommendations for you:

                                  22. Outsource as Much as Possible

                                  If you want to achieve more in less time, learn to delegate or outsource work. Here are just a few of the companies that will help you outsource your everyday tasks:

                                  Also, read this guide to learn how to delegate effectively: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

                                  23. Set Some Exciting Goals

                                  Without worthy goals, you will never be motivated to get things done.

                                  Set goals that are challenging and achievable. The best goal setting framework is a SMART goal. That said, there are other tools that can help you out as well. For example, The Dreamers’ Guide To Reaching Your Goal is a great guide to help you set and reach goals effectively. Grab your free guide and learn how to make your goals happen this year!

                                  24. Tell Other People About Your Goals

                                  When you tell others about your goals, you will instantly be held accountable.

                                  25. Listen to Podcasts

                                  Listen to educational podcasts or audio books while you’re driving to work, cleaning the house, exercising, or cooking dinner.

                                  Audio learning has the power to add hours to your day. Not to mention, your cranium is sure to thank you for it.

                                  Some recommendations for you: 11 Podcasts To Inspire Yourself

                                  26. Read David Allen’s best-selling book Getting Things Done

                                  This is one of the most important productivity books you will ever read. Read it, apply the tips in your daily lives and get more things done.

                                  Here’re more great books about productivity too: 35 Books on Productivity and Organizational Skills for an Effective Life

                                  27. Learn to Speed Read

                                  When you can read faster, you will read and learn more! Check out these 10 Ways to Increase Your Reading Speed.

                                  You can also make use of the app OutRead to help speed up your reading speed!

                                  28. Learn to Skip When You Read

                                  When you’re reading a book, just read the parts that you need and skip the rest. But you have to read with a purpose.

                                  Learn how to make it work here: How to Read 10X Faster and Retain More

                                  29. Focus on Result-Oriented Activities

                                  Pareto’s law (also known as the 80 20 rule) states that 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. This means that 20% of our actions result in 80% of the results.

                                  We must find the 20% that is creating the 80% of our desired outcomes and focus solely on those activities.

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                                  30. Take a Break

                                  You can’t always be working at optimum productivity. Instead, you should shoot for working in short bursts at your most productive times.

                                  31. Start a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule

                                  What is polyphasic sleep?

                                  Polyphasic sleep is a sleep pattern specification intended to compress sleep time to 2-5 hours daily.[1] This is achieved by spreading out sleep into short (around 20-45 minute) naps throughout the day. This allows for more waking hours with relatively high alertness.

                                  While you can learn more about it here, you’re recommended to take some naps during the day to recharge your energy too.

                                  32. Learn to Say “No”.

                                  We can’t do everything and therefore we must learn when to say no in order to save our sanity.

                                  Learn the Gentle Art of Saying No from Leo Babauta.

                                  33. Go on an Information Diet

                                  Most of the world lives on information overload. We must eliminate mindless Internet surfing.

                                  Stop reading three different newspapers a day and checking your RSS feeds multiple times a day. Otherwise, you’ll never get anything done.

                                  The key is to limit yourself only to information that you can immediately take action on. Here’re some simple tips you can try: 10 Simple Productivity Tricks To Manage Overloaded Information

                                  34. Organize Your Office

                                  The piles of paper around your desk can be a huge barrier on your productivity. Optimize your time by organizing your office, setting up a system and dumping the junk.

                                  Check out these 21 Tips to Organize Your Office and Get More Done and 20 Easy Home Office Organization Ideas to Boost Your Productivity.

                                  35. Find a Mentor

                                  By modeling after those who have already achieved success, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy.

                                  A good mentor is hard to find, so here’s a guide to help you: What to Look for in a Mentor

                                  36. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

                                  With technology’s help, you can double your work efficiency. Even better, you learn all the shortcuts when using technology, for example keyboard shortcuts.

                                  When you use keyboard shortcut, you gain 64 hours every year!

                                  Not sure what shortcuts to lear? Check out these 22 Tricks That Can Make Anyone A Keyboard Ninja.

                                  Besides learning the shortcuts, you can also create keyboard shortcuts with AutoHotKey.

                                  37. Improve Your Typing Speed to Save Time

                                  Do you know you can save 21 days per year just by typing fast?

                                  You don’t really need to take some serious courses to type faster, try these typing games online:

                                  38. Work from Home and Avoid the Daily Commute

                                  If your job is a flexible one, consider working from home. This saves you the commute time and you’ll find yourself more energetic throughout the day as you have saved the long ride.

                                  Take a look at these tips to help you stay productive while working from home:

                                  How to Work from Home and Stay Ultra-Productive

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                                  39. Get Rid of Time Wasters

                                  Common time wasters include Instant Messenger, video games, Flickr, checking your stats 10 times a day, television and extraneous Internet surfing.

                                  Don’t rely on your willpower, make use of some of these useful tools to help you stay focus: 10 Online Apps for Better Focus

                                  40. Plan Your Meals in Advance

                                  Plan out all of your meals a week ahead and make your grocery list accordingly. This allows you to focus on the necessary – saving you time and money. You can also save yourself even more time through a wide variety of apps. One app that I find helpful is Mealime. It’s an app that provides you with a wide selection of recipes and also a convenient spot for your grocery list as well.

                                  Considering the fact that over 4 million users have this app, it goes to show that there is a good selection of meal plans that you can follow and that the app is friendly to use.

                                  41. Cook Your Meals in Bulk

                                  When you cook your meals in bulk, you will have plenty of leftovers. This can avoid having to cook everyday.

                                  Find out more about how to make cooking in bulk works: Once a Month Cooking: Productivity Hack or Overrated Time Suck?

                                  42. Protect Yourself from Unnecessary Phone Time with Caller ID

                                  The minutes you spend on picking up unnecessary phone calls are time wasted. You can prevent that from happening.

                                  Check out this detailed guide how you can deal with those unnecessary phone calls: How To Lose the Useless Items that Weigh Down Your Day – Cellphone Calls

                                  43. Take Shorter Showers

                                  This one may sound silly but it’s actually something I struggle with. I spend up to 30 minutes in the shower. Think of the time I could save simply by speeding up a bit.

                                  44. Save the Trips to Bank by Taking Direct Deposit

                                  Many employers now offer direct deposit. If yours does, then be sure and take advantage of it and save yourself from a number of trips to the bank.

                                  45. Auto Pay Your Bills

                                  How many times have you been worried about whether you missed the bills deadline?

                                  Auto paying your bills will save you time and eliminate late fees and increased interest rates.

                                  46. Shop Online

                                  Whenever possible, avoid going to the store. When you shop online, you can be more focus about what you’re getting.

                                  47. Speed up your Internet With a Broadband Connection

                                  Many people are aware of the slow speed of internet but aren’t doing anything about it. In fact, this is the number one Internet time-saver!

                                  If you must use dial-up, then you can use accelerators like Propel and SlipStream to double or even triple your speed.

                                  48. Keep up the Speed of Your Computer

                                  If you’re a Windows user, use Windows hibernation feature to avoid the slowdown of exiting and restarting Windows.

                                  Or maybe, consider switching to Mac as there’re plenty of Advantages You Probably Don’t Know About Switching To Mac From PC.

                                  49. Turn off the TV

                                  The average American watches more than 4 hours of television every day. Over a 65-year life, that’s 9 years glued to the tube.

                                  For better health and productivity, turn off the TV. Here’re 11 more reasons to tell you to stop watching TV so often.

                                  Turn off the TV and you are sure to get more out of life.

                                  50. Use a Tivo or DVR

                                  This can help you cut an hour-long television show down to just 40 minutes. You can save time while not missing the fun.

                                  So, here’s the ultimate list of techniques you should learn to boost productivity. Pick the techniques that work for you and make them your daily habits. As time goes, you’ll find yourself being a lot more productive.

                                  More Time Management Tips

                                  Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                                  Reference

                                  [1] Medical News Today: What is biphasic and polyphasic sleep?

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