If there is one aspect of entrepreneurship that is a certainty it is the correlation between productivity and success.
The more productive you are, the more successful your business becomes.
But there’s a lot more to productivity than simply ‘do more work’. Yet a lot of business owners fall back to this position, working themselves into the ground or to the point of exhaustion, in an attempt to create the success they desire.
I know, I’ve been there. Many times.
It’s an understandable impulse, but it actually has the opposite effect: the more you work, the less effective you become, as you begin to suffer from burnout, poor concentration, frustration, and the ramifications that come with decreased health and happiness.
The first lesson we need to learn on the path to building a successful business is not to work more, but to be more productive in the work that we do.
Efficiency is beautifully brilliant. I freakin’ love it. I apply it to everything. I mean, who doesn’t want operations to run smoother and faster… right?
Yet even when we understand this, it’s not as easy as it might appear.
Nothing ever is, is it?!
For those of you looking to run your business like a total boss, I’ve outlined a few key ways you can be consistently productive and create a hugely successful business…
Reframe The Daily Grind
A client of mine was amused this week by one of the hashtags we use when promoting her posts on Instagram: #AlwaysGrinding
I shared her amusement, because it’s a funny and weird one, but it also reflects a particular mentality among entrepreneurs that isn’t really conducive to success and productivity.
So why use it?
It’s a badge of honour for some business owners that they built their company from scratch with nothing but hard work. For others, the constant exhaustion that comes with this mindset means they need to find encouragement to keep going.
Hashtags like #Hustle and #DailyGrind go hand-in-hand with ones like #success and #millionaire.
If you want to be one, you have to do the other.
After all, ‘your dreams don’t work unless you do’.
There is clearly truth in this, and the necessity to work hard when you’re an entrepreneur.
But working hard shouldn’t necessitate a constant, endless grind.
The word itself conjures images of caffeinated hipsters twerking into eternity.
It’s such a bizarre concept, yet for a lot of entrepreneurs the hustle is empowering.
And yet, as we’ve seen, it’s not actually all that conducive to productivity.
We don’t want to lose the motivation that comes with these slogans, the power we draw from them, or the social kudos we receive as a result. But we do want to be genuinely successful, which means reframing that ‘daily grind’ slightly.
Entrepreneurship should not be something that grinds you down, wears you out, and exhausts you daily. Short bursts of hard work coupled with a few really good habits will do wonders for your productivity, and ultimately make your business a lot more successful.
Hone Your Mental And Physical Capacity For Productivity
Here’s an unpleasant truth to acknowledge: entrepreneurs are frequently bad at managing their self-care.
Can you relate?
We’re too creative, too passionate about our work, and often too oblivious to the damage we are inadvertently doing to ourselves (and our productivity!) every time we miss a meal, pull an all-nighter, skip out on time with our friends and family to get something done, and work through the weekends to catch up or to make the next dollar.
When you’re working towards a dream or that aspiration of a laptop lifestyle, and you’re supremely passionate about what you do, it’s really easy to let everything in your life that isn’t work slide (like that giant pile of washing that needs folding, which hasn’t been a priority in forever!).
It might be for a few days or weeks during a launch, or a particularly busy period, or during the intensive first year or two of your business, but at some point we all feel we have no choice but ‘power through’.
The problem with this mentality is that your capacity to work is directly proportional to your mental and physical capacity for productivity.
Your concentration, productivity, and quality of your work is going to take a hit when you’re malnourished, exhausted, stressed, and never do anything but work.
The biggest step in maximising your productivity to build a successful business is, quite simply, to take good care of yourself.
Almost half of all entrepreneurs incorporate some form of meditation into their daily routines to maintain a balanced mind and good mental health.
Get enough sleep, eat nutritious foods, get regular exercise, spend time every day relaxing, and take ample time off for friends, family, hobbies and holidays.
By now if you are saying “Yeah yeah but I’ve just gotta do…” or “So how am I ever meant to get ahead, if I’m filling my day with all that? I barely have enough time now!”, hold the phone a little longer and read on my friend. This article is for you!
Power Up And Power Down
You know those days when you oversleep, claw your eyes open, only to realise you have precisely 13 minutes to get the kids up, dressed, fed and to school. You madly rush them to the gate, only to find you’ve left something vital at home (the violin, the sports kit, the dance shoes…one of the children). Having retrieved the item and safely delivered it to school, you get home to a mountain of emails, several things to fix, deadlines and emergencies coming thick and fast, and the day just goes from bad to worse.
How you start your day is supremely important to ensuring the work you do goes well.
Start on a bad note, and you’re going to struggle to pull yourself out of that negativity.
When the day begins with chaos and rushing around, your mind remains in a state of rushed chaos all day.
This is in no way conducive to productivity!
The way to avoid this is to develop a ‘power up’ routine in the morning.
Like your computer going through a series of functions as it powers up, to ensure it’s ready to work, it’s useful to develop a morning routine that allows you to mentally prepare for starting work.
Even if the kids are a nightmare, the car won’t start, the dishwasher has leaked all over the floor, and the dog has chewed through your favourite pair of boots, take a brief few moments to psych yourself up for work-mode. That way, when you sit down at your desk (even if your desk happens to be the sofa), you’re ready to get stuff done.
Here are a few really useful ways to power up:
- Get some exercise, even if it’s just a few minutes of stretching, yoga, or a quick walk up and down the road. It will get your endorphins going and give you a bit of an energy boost.
- Drink a glass of water. Don’t worry, you don’t have to forego the coffee, but hydration is really important for concentration and caffeinated drinks are actually dehydrants.
- Eat a good breakfast so you have energy for the day – try to include some protein!
- Read or listen to something positive and upbeat for a few minutes, and avoid anything negative, stressful or overwhelming, like the news, or your Facebook feed.
- Stand in the sunshine for 5 minutes.
- Sing loud in the car on the way home from school drop off.
Now, here’s the real trick…
Once you’ve powered up for the day, got your work done, and are ready to relax, take the time to power back down.
Again, it’s just like your computer.
You don’t leave it running all night, even when you’re not working – that’s a waste of energy, and can damage the machine. Instead, you switch it off when you’re done for the day.
Your brain really is a lot like a computer. Power it up in the morning. Power it down at night!
Do something to relax and get you out of ‘work mode’ so that you are actually off during your off hours, and not continuing to think and worry about work.
Shut Out Distractions
This may seem like an obvious one but it’s actually a fine art when you run an online business.
Phones, email, social media, your iPad, they all appear to be work-related essentials that are perfectly reasonable to have around when you’re trying to get stuff done.
In reality they are major distractions and quickly become huge time-suckers.
One second you’re updating your Twitter feed, the next you’re binge-watching comedy cat videos on YouTube and an hour has passed since you last did anything resembling work.
This is the price we pay for the digital age. For all the ease that comes with digital marketing, we have to face the constant distractions emanating from all that technology.
If cat videos are your thing, make it part of your start up or shut down ritual, and put a time limit on it. There are some great ways to use technology to limit the distractions of technology, by installing a few simple apps that regulate the times you can access anything distracting.
A recommended tool for this is Cold Turkey, which lets you set specific times of day when you can and can’t look at particular things. So you can block your email and social media accounts for all but a half hour gap every morning and/or evening.
Your computer literally locks you out the rest of the time. How good is that?!
This might feel restrictive at first, but it actually makes you appreciate the time you have on your email and Facebook far more. You spend the time wisely, and get a lot faster at reading and replying to emails.
The best part is, you can still schedule your content to your social media, even at times you can’t actually access your profiles.
Enforce Time Limits
Productivity revolves around getting your work done to a high standard in the smallest amount of time possible. Time is the X factor, because it can be difficult to judge what a ‘reasonable’ amount of time to spend on something is, and it very quickly gets away from you.
One of the best things you can do to improve your productivity is enforce your time limits.
When you set up calls with potential clients and schedule 20 minutes in your calendar, ensure those calls never exceed 20 minutes. Don’t allow meetings to overrun, or exceed the time limits you have set yourself for checking your email, social media, and other distracting influences.
Beyond this, there will be certain things you do regularly in your business, which you know should take a certain amount of time, but somehow always take longer. It might be hour-long coaching sessions that always run on for 90 minutes, or it could be that your schedule requires you to complete a certain number of things in a given day, and in order to do it you are forced to work into or through the night.
In the former instance you need to end that call at the 60 minute mark and no later. In the latter case, the problem is that you are scheduling too much into too small a time and need to be more realistic about the workload you can handle.
Be Less Reactive And More Proactive
Productivity is a lot easier to achieve when you are proactive, rather than reactive.
We all have clients who email multiple times a day, every day. When you’re reactive to situations like this you end up spending an excessive amount of time replying to every email individually, as and when they land in your inbox. By enforcing the rule that you will only check your email one a day (twice at the most), you can send a single reply that covers everything as briefly as possible.
This is a seriously difficult habit to get into, especially as it can feel rude, but remember your clients are probably as overwhelmed by their overflowing Inboxes as you are.
Succinctity is actually a gift!
Your impulse will be to react to every email, every call, every enquiry you receive. Prioritise everything and deal with things in order of priority, rather than simply reacting to whatever crops up in the order it’s thrown at you.
Look at how your business is setup and the systems and workflows you are using. Are they as efficient as they could be? Can you automate more of your systems? How about automating your lead generation and nurture sequences? Can you schedule and batch your content in advance?