Every entrepreneur I know feels the pressure of the thousands of things that need to get done, all seemingly at the same time. There is just not enough time! The real solution is better productivity and less procrastination, to put you back in control of your business. You need to spend more time every day on important things for the future, and less on the urgent issues of the moment.
I just finished the latest version of a great book on how to do this, “Work Less, Do More: The 7-Day Productivity Makeover,” by time management expert Dr. Jan Yager. After reviewing her day-by-day recommendations to improve productivity in a single week, I have extrapolated her guidance to ten productivity tips specifically for entrepreneurs to regain that competitive edge:
Focus on managing yourself rather than managing others. The key problem you need to solve is managing your distractions. These are the endless stream of email, phone calls, and daily crises which prevent really important accomplishments, like closing customers. Being a good role model is productive, but trying to control others is fruitless.
Tackle high value tasks first rather than the easiest. Pareto’s law says you get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. Figure out what deserves your 20%, and focus on that. Start each day with the highest priority task you need done that day, and leave the emails and phone calls till the end of the day, if you have time.
Take time to organize your work and integrate new tools. One of the top productivity killers is disorganization and wasting time finding key data. Take the time now to build a database of contacts, and structure your online filing system to include a total search capability. Find time to research and install the latest tools to expedite repetitive tasks.
Strive for business excellence, but reject perfectionism. In today’s market, no solution is perfect for everyone, so achieving perfection is unrealistic and unproductive. I recommend that entrepreneurs test the market with a minimum viable product (MVP), before burning resources on the ultimate solution, only to find the market has changed.
Fight procrastination and fear of failure. Fear of failure, or success, is at the root of most acts of procrastination. Psychologists assert that procrastinators actually sabotage themselves by postponing key activities. Incorporate your business today, register intellectual property, document partner equity agreements, and meet real customers.
Balance your work time by taking time off to rest. Rest makes you more productive. Get enough sleep so you can remain active throughout the day and evening. Schedule time off work with your family, sporting events, and sign up for community activities you enjoy. Non-stop presence in your business is less productive and toxic to your health.
Practice active listening to become more effective. Maximize your own productivity by listening more and talking less to your team and your customers. Let them tell you what they need and give it to them, rather than trying to tell them what they need. Do take the time to develop and communicate high-level business strategy and objectives.
Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to low-priority requests. Highly productive people make it a practice to under-commit and over-deliver. Productivity is perceived results per unit of time, and is not related to actual hours spent working, or working intensity. Startups require focus, so you need to say ‘no’ to many things, in order to do important things well.
Define clear goals and metrics for your productivity. If you don’t know where you are going, no amount of work will get you there. An entrepreneur’s ultimate task is to define success in term of results desired – number of customers, revenue, and profit. Without business goals and objectives, there is no productivity to measure, and no success.
Truly delegate responsibility and decisions. Delegation of tasks to others who can do the work better, faster, and cheaper is a huge productivity multiplier, if you truly remove yourself from the process. You must still maintain the communication relationship with all key constituents to measure results and make the decisions on strategy.
With these tips, you can indeed get more done every day, and get important things done in less time. The key is to get started today, with a goal of hitting all of these items in the first week, and in every week thereafter. You will quickly notice the change in your own productivity, and the team will follow your lead. Savor the satisfaction of success, and watch the stress melt away.
*** First published on Inc.com on 10/31/2016 ***
Martin Zwilling is the Founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that provides services to startup founders around the world. See more details at www.startupprofessionals.com