Before I committed to my business full-time, surprisingly, I feel like I got more done. A huge part of the reason I was so productive is thanks to something called constraints.
A lot of us have more time than we need in a day. We are put at a disadvantage by having too much time. We tend to take on more of the less important things. Consequently, we lose that ability to prioritize and focus on what matters when we feel like we have an abundance of time and a lack of constraints.
A huge part of my journey in business has been learning how to become more productive.
I have to be completely honest; it was hard to get to this new frame of mind when it comes to productivity. Even though I felt like I was doing more, I was finishing less than I was before I committed to my business full-time. Because I felt stretched so thin, nothing was ever getting completely implemented.
A huge mantra of mine became “start less and finish more.”
So how do you become more productive when you feel like you have enough time to procrastinate as an entrepreneur?
Productivity Strategy #1 – Focus on your big picture
All of this action starts with knowing what it is that you need to focus on and prioritize. Once you know what you have to do, you have to decide what comes first.
The thing that I do to make sure that actions are all aligned, is to go on quarterly solo retreats. When we're stuck in the day-to-day of our business, and our life, it’s hard to see the forest from the trees. We're so focused on the trees and putting out fires that getting that high-level perspective can become impossible.
Stepping back allows you to ask yourself a few key questions to help you be more productive. Where do I want to take my business? What project should I focus on first?
When I allow myself to check out from my business, and I step into a strategy mindset, I can see the big picture and plan more to increase my productivity when I step back into the day-to-day. When we stay in that busy but not busy schedule of our day-to-day life, the strategic planning required to be more focused and productive gets pushed aside. For the strategic review, and here’s a link to my quarterly solo retreat process, which you can go and check out.
Productivity Strategy #2 – Learn to park distractions
The second thing that I have in my tool belt to make sure that I'm taking aligned action is a parking lot.
I have a bookmarks folder. In this folder, I save any interesting article, comment or thread that I come across that makes me think “Oh my gosh, I want to read this right now.” If it's not related to my current task, priorities or the aligned action then I'm not even touching it. I'm putting it in a parking lot for later.
Productivity Strategy #3 – Adopt the mono-focusing method
The next category of my Entrepreneurs Guide To Productivity is all-around scheduling.
When it comes to starting less and finishing more things are a lot easier if you're focusing on just one thing, right?
Instead of trying to finish 10 things at once and forcing yourself to jump between them and get distracted, you are scheduling one task at a time.
If you are anything like me, there is one big problem with focusing on one thing at a time: multitasking feels so good to me. I feel like I'm productive. I feel like I'm a productivity machine. Unfortunately, I get to the end of the day and nothing is fully checked off my list, right?
Mono-focusing means that instead of jumping around, I'm finishing one thing all the way through. When I am scheduling tasks one at a time and mono-focusing until each task is done before moving to the next, I end my day having accomplished at least a few things instead of starting a little bit of everything.
Productivity Strategy #4 – Making productivity themed
The next thing that I do is find a way to make productivity a little more enjoyable for me. This is why I came up with theme days.
For me, Monday is all about content and marketing. Tuesday is my client workday. Wednesday is my crazy meeting day. Thursday is a program development day. You get the picture. On Sunday I don't work but I may do some strategic planning.
Theme days are really important because when you think of something else you have to get done in a panic you have a specific day to put that task into based on theme.
Productivity Strategy #5 – Learn the right way to make a To-Do list
If I had to explain what I used to do to myself, my husband would laugh. I would make these crazy To-Do lists every single morning and I would feel like the biggest failure when I got to the end of the day and realized that I hadn't accomplished everything on that list. Sometimes the list is 27 items long!
Adding time estimates to your To-Do list will change your life.
I ask myself “what is the bigger project?” Let’s say my big project is to write May content. I will then breakdown that down into respective pieces.
- Outlining the blog post
- Drafting the blog post
- Writing it
- Doing the content upgrades
- Choosing images
- Writing promotional copy
Then, beside each one, I put a time estimate. This helps me check in on my progress and keeps me on task throughout the day because deadlines work!
When I first switched into focusing on my business full-time, I would sit down with my To-Do list and it would take me all flippin' day. Versus when I said. “Okay, two hours. I have two hours to write this blog post.” How many times do you think I got it done in two hours? Almost every time.
Once you know all the tasks you need to do and you have a rough idea of how long they will take to complete, schedule them into your calendar.
Productivity Strategy #6 – Making Productivity Measurable
The next thing I am going to mention is my Pomodoros. I'm obsessed with them. It's one of the main metrics that I track.
Remember that quote by Peter Drucker? “What gets measured, gets managed.”
One of those things that I measure is my productivity and the way that I quantify it and measure it is how many Pomodoro's I’m getting completed in a day. And a tool that I use for this is Be Focused Pro. Within this, I will have different categories and a goal of how many Pomodoro's I want to do each day. If my goal is 16 Pomodoros it means about 8 hours of work. These little chunks of time make it easier for me to focus and then take little breaks.
Here was my January Pomodoro breakdown:
Productivity Strategy #7 – Deal with Distractions
Even with all of these productivity tips, you are going to get distracted. So what can you do to get yourself back on task and utilizing your time efficiently?
Any time that I'm starting to feel a little bit chaotic I make a giant list. Once I have this list I break it up into categories. Then, I use an Eisenhower Matrix. You categorize your tasks based on urgent or important. Is it important and urgent? Is it important and not urgent? Is it not important but urgent? Or, is it not important, not urgent? Then, I have a prioritization of what I need to tackle first.
Here are a few tools and resources to try to help with your productivity
I use a variety of tools and resources as well as people, to help me stay inspired and focused.
- Be Focused Pro, which I mentioned before.
- I also use a day designer in addition to my weekly dashboard, which you can download.
- Asana. We use Asana as a team to track bigger projects.
There is no one perfect planner or app for everyone. By using a few different tools I have found a system that works for me and keeps me on task and focused.
- My quarterly solo-retreat. This helps me to look at my past progress towards goals. I'm looking at what I can check off and mark complete. I get present with how I feel right now during these planning systems. I look into the future and plan what I want to get complete in the next 90-days or even year.
- Monthly planning. Here I look at the goals and projects from big picture planning and break those into projects and action items. This gives me a clear plan. There's nothing worse than sitting down to do something when you realize you have no idea what to work on.
- Weekly Planning. When it comes to productivity, the best thing is to break everything down into manageable chunks. After monthly planning and strategy, I break it down even further. I create my weekly dashboard. Here is where I have my theme days.
- Daily Planning. Here is where we get to the mono-task level. Daily, I have my tasks for each day based on Pomodoro slots of time for each respective task.
Productivity can be a killer for any entrepreneur. We feel like we are juggling everything, all at the same time. The trick to becoming more productive in your business is to slow down and create a clear system to keep yourself focused and on track to accomplish those big goals. I have a productivity planner to help. Download it below to start accomplishing more with the limited amount of time you have daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually.