As an entrepreneur, time management has been one of the hardest challenges for me. When I first transitioned from working as a corporate employee to owning my own business, I thought, “Wow! I’ll be so productive now because I have a full eight hours every day to dedicate to my own company instead of someone else’s.”
It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was wrong. It’s not how many hours you have in the day but how you use them that makes the difference!
I started noticing the things I took for granted when I worked in a corporate office. Meetings were already set up for me by the project manager, employees had specific tasks we were all responsible for, and engineers didn’t have to worry about why the ads weren’t working – that was the marketing department’s job! We had regular meetings to review our progress and an “accountability partner” known as upper management.
When you start your own business, however, you become all of those roles and departments you used to work alongside. You’re the CEO, the project manager, customer support, developer, and marketing department all at the same time. Every day you have to bounce back and forth between different tasks to get everything done for your company.
After months of working hard but not seeing the results I wanted in my business, I realized that I needed to control my day better. So I read books and blogs and I listened to podcasts about productivity. Then I tried out several different approaches to figure out what worked for me.
Here are some of the best tips I’ve found for helping you get things done – supercharge your productivity:
Create a plan
Brian Tracy, the author of Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, says, “Every minute spent on planning saves as many as ten minutes in execution. It takes only about 10 to 12 minutes for you to plan your day, but this small investment of time will save you up to two hours in wasted time. Plan the night before.”
Have your whole day’s schedule set before you wake up in the morning! Create a list of things you need to do and figure out the order in which you’ll tackle them ahead of time. He also suggests using the “ABCDE Method” for organizing your tasks. It requires you to write down all of your items and assign one of the following letters to each:
- “A” is a task that is very important that must be done, e.g. calling a customer or finishing a report.
- “B” is a task you should do, but one that has only mild consequences if you don’t. Someone may not be happy if you don’t do it, but it isn’t critical, e.g. returning an unimportant telephone message or email. The rule states that you should never start a B task if you still have an A task to do.
- “C” is a nice-to-have task, e.g. phoning a friend, having coffee or lunch with someone, or completing some personal business during work hours. These activities have no effect on your work life.
- “D” tasks are things you can delegate.
- “E” tasks are those you can eliminate, like something you continue to do out of habit or because you enjoy it, e.g. long lunches or social media distractions.
Have a morning routine
How you start your morning sets the stage for the rest of your day. This is why having a morning routine is essential. Here are a couple of the best practices to start off with:
- Rise early. A lot of successful people wake up early every morning. It simply gives you the time to do more with your day. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, states, “No matter where I am in the world, I try to routinely wake up at around 5 a.m. By rising early, I’m able to do some exercise and spend time with my family, which puts me in a great mind frame before getting down to business.”
- Work on the most important tasks earlier. For the majority of people, we are most productive and alert shortly after waking up in the morning. That’s why it’s best to allocate those precious few hours early on in the day to accomplishing your most important tasks.
Get rid of distractions
Eliminate stuff that takes you off task. We often use distractions as an excuse to avoid getting work done, especially those tasks we don’t like. To help boost productivity we need to avoid everyday distractions. If it’s people who are distracting you, stay productive by waking up earlier than anyone else around you or allocating quiet time on your calendar.
We also have to realize that we can control most other distractions. Turn off phone notifications and only check emails at certain times. Clear up the dishes before bed, set the coffee to brew automatically, and make sure your workspace is organized at the end of the day. That way, you don’t have to do it in the morning.
One thing I’ve found that helps me block out distractions and concentrate is listening to focus music. A great app for this is Brain.fm. It plays music that helps you focus using a timer so that you can allocate a set amount of time to zero distraction work. When the music stops you’ll know you’re done.
Sometimes we gravitate towards distractions because our task at hand is too big and we’re not sure how to start. Breaking your task into smaller tasks and setting goals will help with this. When we start feeling that we’re closer to achieving something, we’ll feel more motivated to finish it. By accomplishing those small goals throughout our day, we will become more productive.
Each of us need to figure out our unique path to being productive, but the ground rules aren’t all that different.
Paul Meyer suggests the mantra worth adopting.
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”
Raya Khashab is the CEO and co-founder of ezClocker, a time tracking and scheduling software for small business. She is passionate about customers and building products that change the way people run their business. She is also a big supporter of the startup community and helping people achieve their dreams.
Like this article?
Get ideas & how to’s on business development, skills, entrepreneurship, social media, work life balance and more!