If you ever worked with me you know I’m a little obsessed with time saving, productivity + ease of use.
It’s one of the traits that made me an exceptional UX designer, and really helped when I started freelancing full-time. I’ve tried every productivity or time management method – GTD, Pomodoro, the Eisenhower Principle, the Action Method, Inbox Zero…
Yeah, I’m a total nerd.
Here are my top recommendations for being productive in your business, no matter what.
#1 – Pick your priorities, or they will pick you
I’ll let you in on a little secret of productivity:
“Prioritization is the key to getting shit done and learning to prioritize is hands down the most important thing you can do for your business. No technique will help you if you keep spending your time on the wrong things. Period.”
Start by asking yourself “is this important?” before you do anything, or plan to do anything – then decide when or if it needs to be done.
Be careful though – we often mistake urgency for importance. Urgent things require immediate attention; Important things are “of great significance or value” and impact our success. Aim to spend 80% of your time working on important tasks that aren’t urgent, and as little time as possible working on unimportant stuff.
Just because something *must* be done now, doesn’t mean it actually *should* be done at all!
Eliminate it, outsource it or even ignore it if it’s unimportant. Because if it’s unimportant, it’s not going to change your outcomes and it is a waste of your time.
Side note: This goes double for your personal time-wasters like tv, internet and social engagements. If you want to build a business, you need to guard your time like a bulldog. Stop wasting time doing things you don’t want to do with people you don’t want to see, and take the time to occasionally unplug. Freedom.to is a great way to block social media if you need a break.
#2 – Plan your day, and plan to plan
Most entrepreneurs (myself included) will revert to living in reactionary mode when they are overwhelmed because they aren’t willing to take a step back & strategize effectively.
Stop doing this.
Start building in time to focus on strategy and prioritization so you’re not always freaking out about what you have to do next. You just know.
You’ve likely heard me refer to the power of a morning routine – I credit mine with much of my success over the last couple years – and can’t overestimate how important it is to plan your day if you’re starting a new business.
If you fail to plan, you’ll fail to succeed.
I also have several blocks of time per week dedicated to reviewing and planning built into my google calendar. And usually do a weekly (okay, bi-weekly) review of my running task list (in Todoist) so I can eliminate anything that’s been taken care of or is no longer relevant.
#3 – Focus on the outcome, not the task at hand
So often we add something to our to-do list because we think we should. Isn’t it time we stopped doing things just because someone else is doing it?!
Instead, start focusing on your real outcome and what’s important, then do what’s true to you and your business.
For instance, everyone and their mother has a Facebook Group these days and I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told to create one. I’m so glad I didn’t because A) I didn’t want to and B) There is now a term called “Facebook Group Fatigue,” and very popular groups are closing because they aren’t actually improving business outcomes for business owners.
Instead of jumping on the bandwagon, ask yourself how you can best achieve your outcome – i.e. get more leads, more customers, build a stronger brand presence – and then see if there is a way to get that outcome with less effort or with more enjoyment.
Not sure what your outcome is?
When in doubt, ask yourself “what’s my fastest path to cash?” You are running a business, after all – and businesses exist to make money.
#4 – Chunk your time to limit context switching
I’d heard about this time management technique for years and implemented it in small bursts until I started traveling full-time. Then this became absolutely critical for me to keep moving forward in my business.
It’s a simple idea: create “chunks” of time throughout your day or week that are focused on specific types of tasks. There are a number of ways to implement, ranging from rigid 90-minute calendar blocks for writing to daily or weekly “themes.” I recommend experimenting with what works for you.
I’ve found that daily themes work best for me. I dedicate Tuesday and Thursday to working with clients and potential clients, so I have my “coaching hat” on all day and don’t have to context switch to marketer, strategist or administrator. Anything I do besides talking to clients is considered a bonus.
Wednesday is content creation, and Monday’s and Fridays are admin and marketing days, or as I like to call them “get sh*t done” days. I try to limit my working hours on these days to smaller chunks – 4 hours max, usually 90 minutes at a time.
Our brains aren’t meant to “multi-task” and by keeping tasks aligned, you’ll waste less time mentally switching gears, which means less cognitive overhead and lower chance of decision fatigue.
#5 – Work with your natural biorhythm
You left the 9-to-5 world for a reason – why are you still working the same hours? Start monitoring when you’re most alert, effective or creative and adjust your schedule accordingly.
For instance, I’m not a morning personal and am usually slow to start my day. Mornings are good for me to do some basic housekeeping, clean out the inbox, pay bills – basic stuff that doesn’t require a ton of intelligence. 🙂
After a mid-to-late morning break for exercise or fun (in Savannah, Tuesday AM was my beach morning, every week), I come back to work in the afternoon ready for deep work. Then I’ll get sleepy and take a nap or a walk and start again in the evenings when I get inspired and creative.
Your routine might very, but keep in mind that your brain performs best in smaller bursts. Try working in 90-minute increments for less intense work and maxing out at 4-hours of deep strategy or creative work.
“Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek might be a fallacy for new entrepreneurs – but a 4-Hour workday can be very effective.”