Founder Focus: 5 proven ways to increase productivity without drinking coffee or losing sleep
By Bernice Lee, Date published: 2020-12-14
I’m always hunting for useful strategies and technique. This month I curated five tried-and-true ideas from entrepreneurs around the world to increase your productivity.
Let’s get started!
#1: Have A Morning Routine to increase productivity
There’s a group of entrepreneurs who rise early between 5:00am and 6:30am to eat a healthy breakfast, exercise, meditate, read or journal as part of their morning routine. Personally, I wake up at 6:30am, have breakfast, drink water, and sit with my potted plants on the balcony with a cup of tea. I love beginning the day feeling calm and relaxed instead of rushing around and eating breakfast at my desk, which I used to do in my corporate jobs.
Some people lie in bed for a long time before getting up, mindlessly scrolling through social media or drowsily dozing off in between hitting the snooze button multiple times. If that’s you, yet you’re concerned about how to increase your productivity, ask yourself: Is this really how you want to spend your time?
You don’t have to be an early riser to have a morning routine. The point is to ground and center yourself before the long day begins.
#2: Observe yourself and schedule tough tasks when you have the most energy
Everyone’s unique so it’s no surprise that when you feel energetic is specific to you.
I used to work 10 hours straight. But, now I know that I produce my best work from 7am-12pm and 3-8pm. During my lunch break, I eat and take a walk. I think about my work, listen to podcasts, and do easier tasks like making phone calls, replying to emails, and having meetings. By the time I hit my afternoon work session, I’m refreshed and can tackle intensive tasks like coaching clients and writing.
Identify the blocks of time when you feel in the “flow” and schedule your most difficult tasks during those periods. Otherwise, you run the risk of filling up your most productive hours with “busy work” that doesn’t advance your strategic priorities.
#3: Start with clear goals. Work on tasks that are aligned with them. Know when to say “no”
It’s common for entrepreneurs to be overwhelmed by countless competing priorities. A student in my group coaching program said he often feels discouraged because on one day he’ll feel great because he made progress at work, and then the next day another mountain of problems sets him back. “It’s one step forward, two steps back,” he sighed.
To mitigate the effects of being pulled in different directions, it’s critical to know what your goals are. What do you want to achieve this year… this month… this week… today? The majority of your daily activities should be aligned to the overarching goals. Focus on the big stuff, not the little stuff to increase productivity.
I used to jump from one task to the other but over the years I’ve learned to say “no” to opportunities and stop doing things that don’t serve me. One of my coaching clients told me he stopped doing a lot of things and, surprisingly, it was okay. Nothing fell apart.
Put aside quiet time to set your strategic goals for the year. Then break them down into monthly and weekly goals. And then finally into daily tasks. Then stick to them.
#4: Have a system to put tasks into your day and week
How many of you have a to-do list with everything you need to do on it? The list gets longer and longer, and you never clear it, right?
To take control of your time, I recommend that you spend a few minutes at the end of your day to plan what you’ll do the next day. Many people avoid doing this because it takes extra effort for your brain to plan and prioritize. So you should do it when you’re clear-headed and free from interruptions. The benefit of doing this is that you start the day knowing exactly what you need to do and you can focus your mental resources on execution rather than wondering what you should work on. Or worse, just letting the day’s events control you.
#5: Let go of perfectionism
I recently met an entrepreneur who spent almost a month writing a single blog post. Another one has been updating her website for almost two years. But, no joke, it’s still not ready to launch. A third entrepreneur has been talking about updating her LinkedIn profile for over six months yet it hasn’t changed a whit.
Guess what’s holding them back?
Perfectionism is tough to let go of because it enables you to deliver high quality work and services to clients. But when it stops you from being productive or efficient, then it’s time to change your perfectionism habits.
Are you afraid of criticism? Lacking confidence? Risk averse? Whatever thoughts or feelings underlie your habit for perfectionism, I encourage you to decide what’s more important to you: getting a result in your business or satisfying your need for perfection (which doesn’t exist, anyway)? Chances are, it’s more important for you to take imperfect action than no action at all. It will certainly increase your productivity.
Bernice Lee is Zegal’s columnist about leadership and executive presence for entrepreneurs. She is a coach based in Hong Kong. A former human resources manager for a Fortune 100 Company, she teaches clients how to make more money by being better leaders. Sign up for her free and to receive other regular tips.
This article does not constitute legal advice.
The opinions expressed in the column above represent the author’s own.