Five productivity hacks that busy entrepreneurs use to eliminate distractions

Eliminate distractions and become a productive entrepreneur

How to stop being busy and become a productive entrepreneur

Everyone is busy today. We never seem to pause for a breath or to gather our thoughts. Entrepreneurs are no exception. They might be the worst of all.

I want you to take a breath right now. Take ten minutes to write down all the tasks you undertake for your business. Don’t leave anything out, and don’t forget to include all those very little things you do – from arranging meetings, to invoicing, to ordering business cards and ink for your printer, and everything in between. Don’t read any further until you have done this.

Ready? Let’s continue…

A paradigm shift: From being busy to becoming productive

Take a look at your list. You’ll find that you do a lot that pushes your business forward. Yet there are many things on there that don’t contribute to the real success of your business. You’re so desperate for your business to be successful that you wear multiple hats and work 24/7. Your dedication can’t be blamed. But being engaged on the “everyday-busy-stuff” is preventing you from focussing your time on engineering the exceptional – the business growth your dedication deserves.

If you’re the entrepreneur who measures success by how busy you are, it’s time to take a reality check. Busy doesn’t mean productive. Productivity is about achieving results and goals that matter to you as an entrepreneur, your team, and your clients. You need to replace being busy with being productive.

The first big step to achieve this is to eliminate your distractions.

5 Strategies to take you from busy business owner to productive entrepreneur

Everyone gets distracted from their work. Knowing why and when is the key to eliminating distractions. The following five strategies will help you become more productive, by eliminating some of the most important distractions we all face every day.

2. Get to Inbox Zero every day, but don’t let it consume your day

Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America, says of email, “My principal productivity tip is that if you are caught up on your email, your priorities are in the wrong place. More generally, email puts you in response mode, where you are doing what other people want you to do, rather than send mode, where you are deciding what you want to do and taking action.”

Your goal should be to reach Inbox Zero at least once a day, without letting it consume your day. In my post ‘Empty your inbox in no time: How to handle your incoming emails’, I detail the email handling routine that will help you empty your inbox:

  • Read the email once
  • Decide your next action (no action; task for now; task for later; appointment to schedule)
  • Organise your next action
  • Archive or delete

Follow this routine two or three times a day at the most (a suggestion: 11:00, 14:00 and 16:30). In between those batches of email handling don’t look at your Inbox at all (close your email program, put away your phone, and turn off all push notifications). You’ll be consuming your email instead of your email consuming you, and you’ve eliminated an huge distraction we all face all day long.

2. Eliminate interruptions

Source: Careerbuilder. 

Source: Careerbuilder. 

Interruptions are a productivity killer. A survey conducted by Careerbuilder in 2016 found the top distractions included:

  • Cell phones and texting
  • Internet and social media
  • Email
  • Gossiping
  • Co-workers stopping by

Three quarters of employers estimated that workers wasted at least two hours every day because of interruptions.

All the studies conducted about interruptions and distractions led to the same conclusion: to retain focus and increase productivity, remove your distractions. Here are some suggestions on how to do so:

  • Log off from your social media accounts and email (see also hack 1 above). Check them only a few times (2-4) per day.
  • Turn off your phone, and put it out of sight (out of sight is out of mind).
  • Say no to others. Tell them you would love to help them out, but cannot do so until after you have finished your HITs. It’s ok to help, but do so on your terms.
  • Clean up your workspace, removing everything that distracts your attention.
  • Close your door (if you have your own office) so that other people cannot disturb you.
  • Have an “open-door” moment during the day or during the week, during which co-workers are allowed to walk in to discuss anything they like with you.
  • Have scheduled bi-lateral meetings with your close co-workers, employees, partners etc.

3. Don’t procrastinate, plan!

Procrastination (putting things off) destroys productivity. You must stop it! Know when you’re procrastinating (usually by doing things you’d rather do than must do), and cut it out. Favourites include Facebook, web surfing, gaming, and television. Learn to limit your time on these.

There are many reasons why we procrastinate. One of them is because we don’t know (we still have to decide) what “the next action” is. That’s why planning your time is so important. This way you eliminate those moments, which you probably experience every single day, when you think: “Ok, what shall I do next?”

Set aside a weekly planning session of about 60 minutes, during which you should:

  • Review you long-term and mid-term goals
  • Determine you goals for the week to come
  • Review all your tasks
  • Determine your HIT's (see below)
  • Block time in your calendar for your big rocks (HITs)
  • Review your calendar, delete unnecessary meetings, block personal time, block time for big rocks, block time to recharge yourself (exercise, reading, yoga, whatever energises and inspires you), etc.

Doing these planning sessions every week will eliminate many instances in which you’re now triggered to procrastinate. Do this, and you’ll save a ton of time.

You may also like to read my post ‘Why you should use a task manager’, and ‘12 to-do list hacks that will skyrocket your productivity’.

4. Have a daily HIT and tackle those first

High Impact Tasks (HITs) are those that will have the largest positive effect on your goals. They will get you to where you want to be, faster. To decide what they are, review each task you have on your to-do list and ask if completing it will help you make real progress towards your goals.

Either during your weekly planning session or as part of your evening routine, determine your daily High Impact Tasks (HITs). Start each working day with your HIT. If you tackle one HIT every day, the rest hardly matters anymore. You’re working strategically and continuously towards your goals and dreams.

5. Reduce the number of meetings you go to

We attend too many meetings, with too many people. Many meetings are a waste of time – they don’t help move you towards your goals. In your weekly planning sessions, ask these questions for every meeting you’ve planned (or are invited to):

  • Does the meeting have a clear goal?
  • Will it support your goals?
  • Can you contribute to a successful outcome in the meeting?

If the answer to all these questions is yes, then you should attend the meeting. If not, you need to consider whether you should participate.

How can you make these hacks work for you?

Eliminating distractions should help you work more like a successful entrepreneur. Set boundaries to stop interruptions, and take appropriate breaks to purge procrastination and remain focused. And talking of focus, in my next post I’ll give you eight productivity hacks that busy entrepreneurs use to stay focused.

In the meantime, to boost your productivity, contact me today. Together, we’ll develop a plan to help you achieve more and be better than ever.

Rutger