How to stop being busy and become a productive entrepreneur
In my last post, you learned five productivity hacks that busy entrepreneurs use to eliminate distractions . In this post, you’ll learn about the techniques and routines that successful entrepreneurs and leaders use to stay focussed on their goals.
Employing these alongside the distraction hacks will help you become less busy and much more productive.
What do successful entrepreneurs and leaders do to stay focussed?
While the occasional successful entrepreneur is working 24/7, the majority aren’t. For example:
- Evan Williams, founder of Twitter, Blogger, and Medium, spends the middle of his day at the gym.
- Leo Babauta, of Zen Habits, wakes early and spends the first two hours of each day fixing lunches for his kids, exercising, and setting his three most important tasks (MITs) for the day. Then he wakes his wife and kids and spends time with them.
Also, some of the greatest leaders have or had a similar work/life balance:
- Winston Churchill rarely missed lunch or dinner with his family. He also took a long nap at 5pm every day.
- Barack Obama spends the first few hours of each morning with his family and exercising, and eats breakfast and dinner with his family.
To achieve such a great work/life balance, the most successful entrepreneurs spend their working hours only on productive tasks. Those are tasks that really make a difference for the business, and contribute directly to the success of it. For example, serial entrepreneur Richard Branson, an example for many. He has created several incredible businesses. He hasn’t done this by micromanaging every single task. He delegates the day-to-day management of his businesses and concentrates on those things that are important to him – the business ‘big picture’ issues, his family, friends, and hobbies.
According to a 2014 study conducted for entrepreneur.com, the average leader of a Fortune 500 company works no more than eight hours, taking regular breaks throughout the day. Each day, they spend around:
- 25 minutes developing strategy and planning
- 105 minutes interacting with their teams and people
- 105 minutes on personal tasks and projects
- 30 minutes on personal development
Notice how much of their working day is spent on themselves. And it doesn’t stop there. During their free time, they switch off from business. They get to exercise regularly, and socialise with friends and family.
Can you say the same of your time?
8 Tips to take you from busy business owner to focussed entrepreneur
Kevin O’Connor, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of DoubleClick, says, “Most people tend to focus on the 100 things they should do, which can be overwhelming and result in the failure to actually accomplishing anything of importance. I try to focus on the three to five things I absolutely have to do. I don’t get distracted by those ninety-seven other unimportant things that don’t ultimately contribute to my success or the success of my company.”
1. Map out your goals
Consider what you want to achieve, and create your personal and professional goals:
- Have long-term goals, both professionally and personally. Know what you want to accomplish in the year to come, in the coming 5 or 10 years, and maybe even during your life.
- Have mid-term goals (i.e. monthly goals) that are linked to your long-term goals. Every one of them should contribute significantly to your long-term goals.
- Derive your weekly goals –or big rocks– from your mid-term goals.
As Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People said:
2. Have a clear task list and prioritise
A good to-do list can give you full control over your life. It helps to keep you focussed on your goals, organises your thoughts and ideas, manages your time effectively, and it gives you a clear and empty mind.
Despite these obvious benefits, many people fail to create a to-do list that is anything more than a demotivating bunch of unachievable tasks. Read my post ‘How to set up a to-do list that actually works for you’, and you’ll learn the steps to creating a clear and effective task list that will help you achieve your goals.
Of course, a to-do list is only effective if the tasks on it move you towards your goals. Turning to Stephen Covey again, he said, “The Key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” The question is, how do you choose your priorities easily?
Former US President Eisenhower asked two questions for each task he thought he wanted to do:
- Is it urgent?
- Is it important (to me)?
Based on these answers, he would decide if he should work on a specific task, or not. Read my blog ‘How did this U.S. president become so productive?’ for the detailed steps to put this into practice in your daily life.
3. Don’t multitask
In a productivity study titled the The Myth of Multitasking, Zheng Wang, researcher and Assistant Professor of Communication at Ohio State University, concluded that “There’s this myth among some people that multitasking makes them more productive… They are not being more productive: they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work.”
Multitasking diverts your focus. Tasks take longer than they should. The quality of your output is often lower. And multitasking prevents you from coming into flow, a state of mind where your productivity spikes. So, don’t multitask. Concentrate on one thing at a time, before moving onto your next prioritised task.
4. Take lots of breaks and work in sprints
It’s true! Take more breaks, and you’ll be more productive. Your cognitive capacity is limited. Breaks refuel your brain, increase focus, and give you the ‘daydreaming time’, which is often when you get those best ‘eureka!’ moments.
Between breaks you’ll be better able to work in full-speed sprints of between 25 and 90 minutes, and be fully focussed. During these work periods, make sure you don’t get interrupted (see hack 5).
When you take a break, make sure that you do something that detaches you completely from the task at hand. It must put your brain in idle mode. For suggestions of how to maximise the effectiveness of a break, read my post ‘Want to achieve more? Take more breaks’.
5. Renew your energy like the most successful people do
As I discussed above, all the most successful people take time to recharge their batteries. They schedule regular slots in their calendars to do so. Activities that help you re-energise your brain and body include:
- Spending time with family and friends
- Watching a TED talk
- Preparing (and eating) a good meal
- Spending time in nature or pursuing your favourite hobbies
Make sure you schedule these inspirational and enjoyable activities for at least two or three times per week or, better still, every day.
6. Work smarter by hiring others to help you
Most entrepreneurs find it difficult to delegate tasks to others. Yet to become really successful, it is essential that you delegate. Micromanaging your business can slow your business down drastically. It could even destroy it! Compare Richard Branson’s success through delegation with the failure of Amazon’s Fire Phone, which most of its engineers blamed on CEO Jeff Bezos’ desire to micromanage the project.
My tip is to hire people who can help you. And it’s easier to find these than ever before:
- From the very start of your business, use online resources such as Upwork and PeoplePerHour to find inexpensive, quality freelancers. Whatever task you need to delegate, you’ll find experts available around the world who can help you. Writers, accountants, virtual assistants, web designers, content marketers, video production…. all can be found online. They’ll do a better job than you, faster than you, and cheaper.
- Delegate your repetitive tasks – they clog your diary and reduce your time for the most important tasks.
- Delegate all tasks that are not within your core expertise, and are best done by others.
Working smarter by delegating allows you to focus on those tasks that will really move you and your company forward.
7. Empty your mind
David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, says that “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them”. He equates the ideal state of your mind to being like water: perfectly ready to adapt to any situation at any time. To do this, you must have a clear mind:
Write down all your thoughts and ideas. Only then will they stop bugging you. This allows you to focus on the present. Make sure that all your loose ends are covered in your productivity system. This will help you concentrate on your big rocks. Use my 5 steps to tie up your loose ends and accomplish more.
8. Create your morning and evening routines
Successful entrepreneurs know the power of routine:
- A routine puts you in control and stops you from being reactive.
- It eliminates decision-making (many entrepreneurs including Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs even wore the same clothes every work day for this reason).
- It reduces anxiety, and increases productivity.
- A morning routine sets the tone for the whole day.
- An evening routine helps you close today, prepare for tomorrow, and get a good night’s sleep.
How can you make these hacks work for you?
These hacks should help you focus more like successful entrepreneurs. Employed methodically, they’ll help to improve your productivity and rebalance your life at the same time. But don’t try to put it all into practice in one go. Pick two or three to start with, and combine with the hacks I discussed in the post five productivity hacks that busy entrepreneurs use to eliminate distractions. As these become habitual, add in more until every minute of your day is a productive one.
To boost your productivity, contact me today. Together, we’ll develop a plan to help you achieve more and be better than ever.