Starting a business is an insane amount of work. There’s that saying which is probably misattributed to Yogi Berra or Martin Luther King (as most internet platitudes are), which goes something like, “Entrepreneurs are the people willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” To a certain extent, it’s true. When you start a business, whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or a ground-floor co-founder, you’re thinking long-term, looking at the big picture, looking for the big, life-changing payoff. And yeah, that means there’s going to be a lot to do on the front end. But we’re happy to do more now so that we can do less later (or kid ourselves into thinking this).
I’m not going to tell you to do less. We both know you wouldn’t listen anyway. I’m also going to try my hardest to avoid tired clichés like “work smarter not harder.” But, beneath the severe dumbness of that (don’t tell me not to work harder, jerk), there’s something useful about efficiency. And you wouldn’t be an entrepreneur if you didn’t have the kind of ambitious optimism, and just a little bit of healthy arrogance, that makes you think there’s always, ALWAYS a better, faster, more productive, more efficient way to do things. It feels good to be dissatisfied with the status quo, right?
So, with that in mind, here are some tips or “hacks” for being more productive, specifically for you entrepreneurs. Because that to-do list is growing by the second, and eventually this article is going to end and you’re going to have to stop procrastinating.
1. Don’t Lie to Your Calendar
You’ve all heard the saying, “Under promise, over deliver.” (Man, I just keep stepping into these things.) Well, how about a taste of your own medicine? Chances are, you’ve already got a to-do list and schedule system that you like which fits into your workflow (if not, here are some recommendations, and here are some more), but the best scheduling system in the world still relies on one very fickle and frequently untrustworthy cog in the machine: you.
Lying to yourself about your schedule and what you can accomplish in a day or a given number of hours is ultimately only going to hurt yourself. The best boon to getting stuff done is feeling like you are in control, and you’re never going to achieve that feeling if you constantly feel like you are behind schedule and blowing through self-imposed deadlines.
So, plan on blocking off your time, and be honest about how much time each task is going to take you. If you’re not sure, start timing yourself doing typical tasks so you can get a better idea. Then, pad it a little bit. Admit to yourself that at some point during the day you’re going to have to use the bathroom, eat things, check Facebook five times, and go out for that third cup of coffee because you can’t go another day without seeing the sky. Give each task a little bit of extra time – better to overestimate and be ahead of schedule than underestimate and fall behind. Then if you end up with gaps in your schedule or you finish your day’s work early…
2. Get Your Priorities Straight
Everyone is going to have a different method of prioritizing tasks that works for them, but in general, those categories look something like:
· Things That Must Happen
· Things That Probably Should Have Already Happened
· Things That You’ll Get To
· Things That You Tell Yourself You’ll Get To But You Probably Won’t Actually Get To
Again, honesty is going to be your friend here. Not every task can go into the highest priority category. But don’t let yourself kick the can down the road indefinitely on things that really do need to get done.
There’s a classification which I think dates back to Eisenhower (looked it up – it does), called “Important but not Urgent.” In other words, things that you know need to get done, but you’re probably never going to feel like they are worthy of high priority status. These are the perfect tasks for filling in those gaps you find in your daily agenda when scheduled items get cancelled, moved, or finished early.
Another idea is to have a running list of low-priority tasks that also require relatively little brain-power. So, at those times at the end of the day when you want to still feel productive but aren’t functioning intelligently anymore, knock out a few of these.
3. Automate and Outsource
The endless war for increased efficiency does not need to be waged alone. As an entrepreneur, your time is going to end up being one of the most valuable assets that your company has. So, in categorizing, prioritizing and timing your to-dos, also recognize which ones are less tasks and more processes. As in, which things that you’re doing are going to be happening repeatedly or frequently. Once you’ve pinpointed those, you can start to offload them.
See, if you have a repeated process, that means there’s a good chance you can find another person somewhere to mimic that process and take it off your hands. Maybe that person is a temp, or a virtual assistant. Maybe you’re in a position to hire an employee. But anything that can be taken out of your hands is a win for your productivity quest.
If you can’t afford another person to help you, then perhaps a technological solution will do. New apps, gadgets and services are being introduced every day to help people just like you run their businesses more efficiently. Yes, these software/tech solutions can be an investment, but when you find a good one, you’ll wonder how you’ve lived without it.
Thanks for reading. Let us know if we can help.