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The saying, “Time is money” can apply to almost anyone. For entrepreneurs, it hits a bit closer to home.
When you’re responsible for making your business profitable, your time is directly tied to how much money is rolling in.
That means you need to be as productive and efficient with your time as possible.
I’ve known from a young age that time is my most valuable resource, so I try to never waste it. What I’ve learned over the years as CEO of Hubstaff is this:
You need to be selective with your time and focus on the highest priorities.
These productivity habits will help any entrepreneur set up their days for success and analyze where their time is really going, so they can get more meaningful work done.
Make the most of your morning
Dig into the power of deep work
Schedule shallow work for when your focus will be split
Crush your productivity
Know where your time is going
End the day on the high note
Not only are you more likely to maintain habits if you stack them on top of one another, but for most of us, the morning is the only time when we’re fully in control.
By establishing mood-boosting, stress-reducing morning routines you’re helping automatically set yourself up for more productive workdays.
Do something other than work before you start working
One of the easiest ways to aggravate stress is by rolling over and looking at your email first thing in the morning. Entrepreneurs have to keep a lot of balls in the air at one time, and it’s tempting to want to turn on the second you wake up.
Do everything in your power not to.
Especially if you work from home, creating a distinction between your waking mind and your working mind is crucial. You’re more susceptible to negative snowballing first thing in the morning.
But, more importantly than that, your “morning mind” is wonderfully open to creative thinking and brainstorming. If you bombard yourself with minute details or go down any rabbit holes right away, you’re sacrificing whatever new ways of thinking or ideas you might have come up with if you’d just left it alone for 30 minutes.
Of course, it’s hard not to check-in first thing in the morning. If you need to, allow yourself a few minutes just to make sure there aren’t any fires to put out, and then dedicate your early morning to a workout or time with family.
Get the task you’re dreading most out of the way first
Once you’re ready to start working, there’s going to be one task — perhaps that’s been haunting you for weeks — that you won’t want to do. You know what it is. That’s the one you do first.
At the beginning of the workday, your resolve is highest, your mind is clearest, and you’re more likely to break through your procrastination barrier.
Even better, once it’s done and off your plate, the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel will carry you through into the rest of your day.
Your focus is a finite resource. Like any important asset, the more you spread it around, the faster it runs out and the less effective it is.
We now know that multitasking is one of the ultimate productivity killers. You might get a lot of smaller, less meaningful tasks done, but you won’t be tackling the complex, strategic ideas that really drive business growth.
Knowing how to focus on the right work is a core tip to be more productive.
The Pareto Principle shows us that 80% of your results come from 20% of your work. That really wants to make sure you’re proactively devoting your time meaningfully to that 20%.
I like to start every day with a scan of my schedule to find where I can fit in deep work. If I have three or four meetings scheduled then I don’t plan for any deep work.
The reality is that I won’t end up getting to it.
Being realistic about this helps me stay structured, and it helps me to realize what the meetings are costing me in terms of my focus.
Setting yourself up for productive deep work removes distractions, reduces work creep, and keeps you focused on urgent work that matters.
In an ideal world, we’d be completely distraction-free and deep working all the time.
We don’t live in that world.
Knowing when to get your more mundane, low-focus tasks done is just as important as knowing when to focus on deep work. Answering emails, filling out spreadsheets, ordering supplies — these are all necessary odd jobs that need to get done.
The key, especially if you’re an entrepreneur, is to schedule them for a time when you need less cognitive focus and will be dealing with more distractions. For most people, this means the late afternoon (especially if that’s when your kids come home).
Checking email constantly
The average office worker gets 121 emails each day. For entrepreneurs, that number can be much higher.
Even if you only spend one minute reading each email, that adds up to two lost hours. Or, on the positive side, that means you could have two extra hours waiting for you with some effective email management.
This is where time blocking comes in. Schedule a time each day when you’ll respond to emails. Let your teams and key contacts know how to get a hold of you in case of an emergency. Turn on auto-replies if you’re worried about people expecting you to answer right away.
For me, that time is around 8:30 am and noon. I encourage close customer contact, so responding to customer emails is a priority for me. I try to get the large part of these done the first thing in the morning because many of our customers are in Europe, Asia, and Australia, and their emails have been sitting in my inbox for hours already.
Falling into social media holes
If you have easy access to social media and other time-sucking sites, you’ll use it. The more available a temptation feels the easier it is to cave, potentially without even realizing it.
If possible, put your phone in another room or turn it off. If you need your phone with you, remove social apps or, at the very least, turn off notifications.
Schedule breaks for later in the day so you’re not interrupting deep work with unnecessary notifications. If you follow your schedule for deep and shallow work and get a majority of tasks done, then feel free to scroll as a digital pat on the back for sticking to your plan.
I hate to say it, but you’re probably not as productive as you think you are.
Entrepreneurs need to be naturally confident, but the overconfidence effect can lead justifiably self-assured founders to believe they’re getting more done than they actually are.
To really improve your productivity you need data.
Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or looking to manage your employees’ productivity, you need to know what you’re truly spending your time on now before you can make yourself more productive in the future.
Automation makes this easier. Manual time tracking might work at first, but for the long-run you want to make tracking as immediate and easy on yourself as possible.
If you’ve planned your day and committed to a certain number of tasks, you can end your day feeling accomplished.
I spend the last part of the day answering questions, working on small tasks, doing admin work, checking metrics, accounting, and reviewing applications.
Save some of the less intense work for the end of the day, when you’re more likely to have distractions.
Getting some quick wins right before switching out of work mode wraps the day up well, and sets you up for whatever (hopefully non-work related) plans you’re heading to next.
These habits of highly productive people will help you get more out of each day, from beginning to end. As you add each of them to your routine, you’ll feel a greater sense of efficiency as you’re working. Best of all, you’ll know you’re setting yourself and your teams up for more productive days and even bigger success.