When you’re an entrepreneur, productivity and profits go hand in hand. The more you do, the more you earn.
Of course, no one wants to spend all their time working—I don’t care how much you love your business. That means the key to getting more done is to find ways to be ridiculously productive when you are at work. And the biggest benefit? You’ll get to enjoy your time away from the office even more, knowing that all your projects are moving forward and all your to-dos are getting done.
Here are 39 ideas to turn you into a productivity ninja.
- Set a timer. I use an app on my phone called “Be Focused” and what I like about it is the ticking sound it makes. I know that sounds crazy, but the ticking noise is my reminder that I’m working. Whenever I’m tempted to pop over to Facebook for a minute, it’s that ticking sound that keeps me focused and on task.
- Shorten your workday. Work really does expand to fill the time you allow. If you have all day to write an email, it will take you all day. Change your working hours, and all of a sudden, you’ll have a lot more to get done in a shorter amount of time, and you’ll find you’re more focused and productive because of it. And don’t just say you’re going to quit work at noon. Make an appointment outside the house or promise the kids you’ll break for an afternoon movie, and you’ll be forced to stop working.
- Decide ahead of time. Monkey brain is a terrible decision maker. If you wait until you sit down at your desk to decide what you’re going to work on, he’s going to have you binging on YouTube before you’ve even taken your first sip of coffee. Instead, decide the day before what you’re going to work on next, so when you sit down you already have a plan in place.
- Take one tiny step. Instead of thinking about the blog post you have to write or the slide deck you have to create, think in terms of the very next step. All you have to do is open a new document. Once you’ve done that, take the next tiny step and give it a title. Promise yourself that you can stop at any step (that will help you get past the hurdle) but what often happens is that first tiny step triggers a cascade of activity and before you know it, the blog post is finished!
- Go on vacation. No one wants to go on vacation with a bunch of unfinished projects lying around. That’s why the days leading up to a trip are often when you get the most done. Use that to your advantage and schedule some time off, even if it’s just a long weekend.
- Track your progress. One of my goals for 2020 is massive content creation. I already create a pretty sizable amount of content, since I release as many as 24 new training products every single year, but in 2020 I’ll be adding regular blog posts, guest posting, and podcasting to the mix. The only way to get all that done is to set a daily content creation goal so I can know if I’m on target. Daily tracking keeps your goals front of mind and gives you immediate feedback about your progress.
- Stop doing all the things. We tend to procrastinate doing the things we don’t really want to do. If you find yourself putting off the same tasks day after day or week after week, maybe it’s time to just stop doing them all together. Delegate them to someone else, or even consider if you can eliminate them completely.
- “Clear to neutral.” Yesterday’s project notes strewn about your desk or laptop screen are distracting and make it difficult to be productive. Spend 5 minutes at the end of every workday returning your space to neutral. Put away your working files, close your browser (yes, all the tabs), toss any sticky notes you no longer need, and basically leave your space clean and organized for tomorrow.
To be your most productive self, spend 5 minutes at the end of your workday to clear your desk to neutral. Click To Tweet
- Keep your files organized and easy to find. It’s hard to be productive when you spend the first 20 minutes of every work session just looking for passwords and notes and other necessary items. Create and use a digital filing system so you always know where to find your notes and documents.
- Set yourself up for success. Make it difficult to get distracted by blocking sites like Facebook or YouTube or Twitter. Use browser extensions such as Kill the Newsfeed or Stay Focused to actively prevent you from getting lost on the sites you know are a problem for you.
- Leave your phone in another room. If you’re constantly reaching for your phone to check email or Instagram, or if you can’t resist the siren song of a new text message, try leaving your phone in the kitchen while you work.
- Design a comfortable workspace. Invest in a decent office chair and configure your desk so your back doesn’t begin to ache after 10 minutes of work.
- Keep a “later” file. Instead of getting distracted by that article you want to read or that new social medial scheduling app you want to check out, stash those links in a later file for consideration and review… well, later.
- Connect with an accountability partner. If you have a colleague or friend who faces similar productivity challenges, check in with them via Skype or email at the start of every day with your to-do list, and at the end of every day with your done list. Just don’t let your accountability check ins turn into distracting gabfests!
- Create a shorter to-do list. Chances are good that your daily to-do list has far more on it than you can hope to complete. Just looking at a list like that is overwhelming and can cause you to resist doing anything, since you know you won’t get it all done anyway. Instead, create a list of no more than 10 tasks (not projects) that you’d like to get done, then put a star next to the two or three tasks (no more) you must complete. Work on the starred items first, then move to the rest as time allows.
Too many things on your to-do list can cause you to do nothing at all. Make a shorter list. Get more done. Click To Tweet
- Hire a coach. If you’re habitually procrastinating and failing to make progress on your goals, then working with a coach can help. A good coach will not only help you decide what tasks will get you closer to your goals, but she’ll keep you on track with regular check ins as well.
- Eat a frog. On every to-do list is that one thing that you really, really do not want to do. That’s your frog. Eat that one first, and the rest of your day will suddenly becomes a whole lot easier. (Recommended reading: Eat That Frog, by Brian Tracy)
- Get more sleep. Sleeping less than 7 hours a night is directly linked to weight gain, lack of focus, memory issues, and yes, decreased productivity.
- Be proactive, not reactive. Prioritize the important tasks today, or run the risk that they’ll become urgent tomorrow. In other words, if you spend all your time putting out fires instead of preventing them, you’ll be far less productive.
- Conduct a time audit. You might just be surprised how much (or how little) time a task takes to complete. Keeping a time audit for a week or more will help you better estimate the time needed to complete your to-do list, and can prevent you from overbooking your schedule.
- Say no to interruptions. Just because a client calls, does not mean you have to answer the phone. Every interruption—even for a two minute check in—can cost you as much as 25 minutes in lost focus.
- Aspire to Inbox Zero. We already spend up to 28% of our time reading and responding to email. If you keep a cluttered inbox or worse—use your email as a to-do list—you’ll spend even more time just looking for that piece of information you need. Instead, make it a habit to clear out your email at least once per week. I promise you’ll feel a lot less frazzled if you do.
RELATED: The 5 Step Inbox Detox Plan (or How I Learned to Love Email Again)
- Know the difference between a project and a task. You can’t “create a webinar” or “write a book” but you can decide on a topic, outline a chapter, or choose a slide template.
- Understand your natural rhythm. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you get a burst of energy after lunch or fall into a drowsy haze? Plan your tasks to take advantage of your brain and body’s innate energy flow.
- Review your goals. Why, exactly, do you even want to write a book or start a business or launch a membership site? Reviewing your goals helps to maintain your focus and get past the inevitable hurdles that can cause you to put off important tasks.
- Stop reinventing the wheel. Create and use templates and checklists to make recurring tasks easier and faster.
- Unplug regularly. It’s much more difficult to focus when you’re constantly in “go” mode. Take regular time away from your work to give your brain a chance to recharge. Julia Cameron calls this filling the well, but you don’t have to call yourself an artist to enjoy the benefits of a few hours off.
- Use deadlines sparingly. That sounds backwards doesn’t it? But here’s the thing. Setting artificial deadlines is telling your brain that deadlines don’t matter. Instead, reserve the use of deadlines for when they really exist, like a product launch or a client project you’ve promised by a specific date. For everything else, choose a day you’ll get it done, but don’t make it a deadline.
- Remember that done is always better than perfect. If you spend 6 weeks writing a book, you could easily spend another 12 weeks tweaking every sentence and rearranging paragraphs in an effort to make it better. Instead, let the world see your less-than-perfect work. Most of them won’t notice those little areas that could have been improved anyway.
- Turn off all notifications. Do you really need to know the instant you get an email or when someone follows you on Instagram? Notifications are an invitation to stop working. Turn them off and instead schedule time to check your email and social accounts.
- Schedule time for planning and re-organizing. Spend time at least once per week reviewing all your open loops, clearing out your inboxes, cleaning up your workspace, and generally putting things back in order so you can face the coming week without distractions and overwhelm.
- Recognize the difference between doing and planning. So many people spend their days planning all the amazing things they’re going to accomplish, but they never seem to find the time to actually do the work. Limit your planning time by setting a timer, and when your time is up, get to work.
- Batch like tasks together. Consider theming your days so you have large blocks of focus time for related tasks. For example, you might only take appointments on Monday, or always record and edit your podcast on Thursday. You can also work ahead by setting aside several days each month to write all your emails or social content for the entire month all at one time.
- Use the two-minute rule to keep your to-do list clean. You’ve remembered that you need to make an appointment for a haircut, or a team member needs a password reset, or a client has asked you to re-send that file they’ve lost. All those tiny tasks can clutter up your mind and your to-do list, so don’t put them off for later. Instead, decide ahead of time that if a task is going to take two minutes or less, you’ll do it when it crosses your desk rather than putting it off until later.
Practice the two minute rule. If you can do it in two minutes or less, do it now rather than putting it off until later. Click To Tweet
- Close your door. Then let your family know that a closed door means you’re trying to concentrate, and to please hold all questions for later.
- Practice the art of productive procrastination. Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist, recommends keeping two or three projects going all the time, so if you get bored with one, you can procrastinate by actually working on another.
- Make a promise to someone else. There’s nothing like having someone else waiting on your project to kick your productivity into gear. And it’s even more powerful if they’ve paid you for it. For example, if you’re having trouble completing that course you’ve been working on, consider pre-selling it at a discounted rate. Buyers get a good deal, and you get some serious motivation for getting it done.
- Walk away. Insomniacs are told not to stay in bed when they know there is no chance of falling asleep because trying to force yourself to fall asleep can actually have the opposite effect. The same is true when you’re trying to be productive. If it’s not working, it’s just not working. Walk away from your desk and go do something else for a while.
- Know yourself. Obviously, no one can implement all of these strategies. The key is to know yourself and what will work for you. And if you don’t know, pick a few at random and give them a try to see what sticks.
If you’re ready to dial up your own productivity and finally get your to-do list under control, check out Practical Productivity for Online Entrepreneurs. It’s packed with proven techniques you can put to work starting right now, including:
- How to calculate your effective hourly rate, and how to use that number to make good decisions about where to focus your efforts.
- Why a time audit is a must-do first step–and how to make it easy and painless.
- How to turn big projects into easy action items you can actually get done (no more overwhelm)!
- And so much more!