Spoiler: getting up at 5 isn’t one of them.
Life is busy. Shiny objects are all around and distractions wait at every corner.
Fellow entrepreneurs know that working for yourself can make it even harder. Lack of structure, deadlines, and routines put you into the only position of authority. If you don’t force yourself to change from your pajamas into proper clothes nobody will.
The result: we over-schedule, over-stimulate — underperform. We get to the end of a day realizing we have spent most of our time on low-impact activities.
Don’t Give Yourself an Option
This article is written for you to challenge some of the common productivity hacks. I have found that many of them are nothing but hot air. They may work in theory but fail in practice. Here are the only five productivity techniques that have helped me improve the quality of work I do.
Here we go:
Don’t Set Artificial Deadlines — Make Them REAL
I’ve tried to get up at 5.30 am for a year — failing 90% of times. I felt discouraged.
Then I moved to San Francisco. All my meetings with European clients got shifted to early morning hours. Nothing is more effective in getting me out of bed than a real meeting at 7 in the morning.
If you struggle with “artificial deadlines” as much as I do — try to make them real.
I keep reading blogs that tell you to mark your work-outs in your calendar and then sticking to them. DON’T. Schedule a work-out with your personal trainer three times a week or commit to a session with a friend. The same principle works in business. Book that investor meeting for next week — I guarantee, you’ll have your business plan updated by then.
Prioritize Your To-Do List (the RIGHT WAY)
“Don’t prioritize your schedule. Schedule your priorities.” — Stephen Covey
Though Steven Covey is right, I have found myself struggling with know what my priorities are and should be.
Between putting out fires and getting new leads, which one do you choose? I never knew how to prioritize until my business partner showed me Dan Martell’s Focus Filters. Here is his technique:
Use a scoring system for prioritizing your to-do list
1. Activity makes money (3 Points)
2. Makes customers happy (2 Points)
3. Helps you scale/ is a repeatable system (1 Point)
Assign points to every activity on your list and for each use the weighted score. Those that get most points should be top of your todo list.
Simple, right? Simple and effective.
Get out There from Time to Time
I know the struggle: your calendar is full to the brim. You sit down at your desk and swear yourself to “knock everything out”. Next thing you know, four hours have gone by and you find yourself lost in the Internet. Don’t waste your own time: you can’t sit down and get “everything done” without ever taking a break.
Carve out time to go on walks, meet friends, meditate, call a loved one, or go out there and see something new every once in a while. I have found that traveling helps me increase my productivity and creativity in the long run.
Manager and Maker Days
Meetings are the worst. You sat down to write an article or work on a website overhaul. You’re in the zone and deep in thoughts when your co-worker taps on your shoulder from behind asking for a meeting. You cringe… follow suit…. have the meeting…. go back to your desk… and can’t get back into the flow…. you end up browsing through your emails…. killing time… until the day is over.
The problem: you tried to divide your time between two vastly different tasks. Making and managing.
Venture capitalist Paul Graham talked about this a few years ago: