Starting a business is hard, and it takes a ton of work. But if you manage your time well and make every hour count, it’s possible to find success. In order to do that, you need to develop good habits and strategies that can maximize your productivity.
Boosting your productivity can come in many forms. It might mean learning how to spend less time on email or it might mean making healthy choices that will give you more energy throughout the day. It might mean learning about time-management apps or stealing ideas from other entrepreneurs. It might even mean learning tech shortcuts that can help you master your laptop.
This article isn’t meant as a step-by-step guide to becoming more productive. Instead, it offers you dozens of options that can help you manage your time. Pick what works for you so you can be more productive without feeling like you have to sacrifice too much — and don’t worry, you don’t have to sleep in your office like Elon Musk.
1. Start your day the right way
Whether you’re building a house, a business or anything else, you always start with the foundation. The same is true for a productive day, and how you spend your morning can dictate what the rest of your day will be like. Set yourself up for success by making smart, healthy decisions early. Here are a few good tips.
Get the right amount of sleep. Richard Branson likes waking up early in the morning. Arianna Huffington prefers to sleep in a little later. You should do what’s best for you — for example, Entrepreneur staff writer Nina Zipkin spent a month trying to go to bed and wake up earlier (up by 6:30 a.m.), and found it wasn’t for her. Just know that there is such a thing as sleeping too much. Find the right amount and make sure you’re actually awake while you’re awake.
Meditate. Tony Robbins recommends you start each day by focusing on your breathing, and he does three sets of 30 Kapalbhati Pranayama breaths each morning. Oprah Winfrey also makes time to meditate each morning.
Exercise. It might not seem appetizing to jump out of bed and onto a treadmill, but exercising in the morning can give you more energy, boost your mood and help you stay sharp.
Eat something. It’s like they always say: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Your food choices matter — at least, unless you’re Warren Buffett. The 87-years-old still eats McDonald’s with a Coca-Cola each morning.
2. Shut out distractions and find time to focus
It starts innocently enough. You get a notification that you have a new email, text or social media mention. You only intend to check it for a second, but instead you end up going down a rabbit hole that eats up an hour or three without you even realizing. While we’ll never be able to shut out those distractions altogether, you can improve your productivity by limiting wasted time, effort and energy. Entrepreneur’s Lydia Belanger wrote about ways you can limit distractions, and here are five of my favorites:
Say no. You might be tempted to say yes to everything, especially when you’re just getting started as an entrepreneur. You might think that more equals more opportunities. However, it often just dilutes your vision and efforts when you should be focused on what makes you and your business unique.
Help others stay on track. When you’re talking to other people in a business setting, try to focus on the task at hand. Be civil, but don’t let them veer off into tangents. You’ll save everyone time.
Use an app to restrict your online activity. Apps like StayFocusd will cut you off from certain websites if you spend too much time on them in a given day. Or you can use an app such as Forest, which gamifies staying away from your phone and can actually help the environment.
Figure out what times are best suited for certain tasks. If you tend to think best in the morning after a workout or a cup of coffee, then do your brainstorming then. Or start each week by taking on your most important tasks on Monday. Learn what schedule works for you, then be mindful about following it.
Block robocalls. Even if you’ve stopped answering calls from unknown numbers, the ringing can take you out of your flow. You can pretty easily block recurring callers on an iPhone or Android, and wireless carriers offer options for blocking spam numbers, too.
3. Optimize your calendar
One great way to make sure you stay organized and productive is to rely on your calendar. However, setting up your calendar requires some legwork. Entrepreneur contributor John Rampton wrote about the 10 steps he uses to make sure his calendar keeps him as productive as possible, and it can help you do the same. You can read the full piece, or skim through his tips below.
Start by adding all of your recurring dates and activities to your calendar. Whether it’s on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, there are some activities you always have to do. Add these in first.
Establish boundaries. You know when you do your best work, so block that time out for working. That way, you won’t be distracted, which means you’ll be more productive, which means you can leave work at a reasonable hour. For example, Rampton tries to finish everything by 6 p.m.
Emphasize important dates and deadlines. Or, even better, color code each of your tasks and appointments. That way, you can see at just a glance what sort of activities you have lined up.
Include time buffers. Things often take more time than you expect, which is why scheduling back-to-back meetings isn’t a great idea. Instead, add in half an hour — or an hour, if you have to travel.
Be flexible. Especially if you’re working with a team, things will come up and you’ll have to reschedule. This is another good reason to have those time buffers built in: Sometimes, that time will just allow you to prepare or recharge, but it will also help you stay available if someone needs to change their plans last-minute.
Use a combination of tools. Rampton says there is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a master calendar. He relies on Google Calendar for his daily routine, but he uses other tools to schedule meetings or projects. Find which tools work best for you.
Capture information. When a new idea, task or event pops up, write it down and add it to your calendar. That way, you won’t forget about it, and you won’t be distracted trying to remember it.
Put one person in charge of the calendar. If you’re working alone, this is easy: You’re responsible for your schedule. If not, make one person responsible for the calendar — letting too many people edit the calendar will only muddle things up.
Share the calendar with your team. This just keeps everyone on the same page, and it can help cultivate a collaborative atmosphere. Your team members can know what to expect moving forward, and they can also provide input on the calendar. That way, you’re not inconveniencing anyone by accident.
Make the calendar easily accessible. This is much easier with the cloud, because you can just have everyone log in to Google, but you can also print out a copy and put it near the proverbial water cooler.
By following these 10 steps, you can create a calendar that keeps you organized and productive, no matter whether you’re working by yourself or with a large team.
4. Steal productivity strategies from famous entrepreneurs
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it only makes sense that you should want to emulate the entrepreneurs who are doing the sort of things you want to do. You might not be able to launch a billion-dollar, electric car company tomorrow, but you can start by doing some of the things Elon Musk does. For example, you can compare your morning routine to the Tesla founder’s or learn about what successful entrepreneurs put on their desks. EntrepreneurAssociate Editor Hayden Field even went so far as to try Musk’s routine of scheduling his day in five-minute blocks to see whether it would help her stay on-task throughout the day, and you can read about her experiences here.
Similarly, Entrepreneur contributor Carolyn Sun tried Sheryl Sandberg’s spiral notebook strategy for a month, and she wrote about how it helped her stay organized. Sandberg writes down various, daily to-do lists in a spiral-bound notebook. When she’s finished, she doesn’t just cross an item off her list, she actually rips the page out of the notebook. It’s simple, but satisfying, because it lets you physically let go of those tasks. It also works: After finishing the experiment, Sun decided that she wanted to keep using the notebook trick.
Sun also tried Winfrey’s meditation routine, which she wrote about here.
Who you decide to emulate should, of course, be up to you. While it’s definitely worth trying new things, you shouldn’t take anyone else’s routine as law, because everyone has their own approach. What works for Musk might not work for you — and that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It probably doesn’t work for Daymond John or Bill Gates or other successful entrepreneurs, either.
In fact, it’s probably smart to pick and choose productivity tips from different entrepreneurs to find your perfect fit. If you’re looking for ideas, Entrepreneur associate editor Nina Zipkin highlights 30 different tips from 30 successful founders, and you can try them for yourself to see what sticks.
5. Learn these shortcuts and master your computer
I spend nearly my entire day working on a computer, and I rarely feel as helpless and unproductive as I do when my device crashes, malfunctions, restarts unexpectedly, etc.
However, by learning the ins and outs of your computer, you can help avoid some of these problems and make sure you aren’t just staring at a loading screen all day. Even if that isn’t a problem, learning the shortcuts of your computer can help you complete tasks more quickly and stay better organized. Here are some tricks you can use on Macs, PCs and Chromebooks that will help you save time.
Macs are often more expensive than other computers, but they’re also highly valued for their design features and ability to sync with other iPhones. Entrepreneur AssociateEditor Lydia Belanger broke down 20 macOS shortcuts that use command keys, function keys and other tools. In that story, you can learn how to clean up your workspace more quickly, multitask and write special characters, among other things.
Whether you use a PC or a Mac, you can use Windows operating systems — and Windows shortcuts. Here are 21 shortcuts, which can help you do simple things like copy and paste or more complex tasks like customize your notifications.
If you use a Chromebook, you won’t be able to do everything you can on MacOS or Windows, but there are still plenty of options for you. Belanger also wrote about the shortcuts you can use on Chromebooks, which include adding apps, searching more quickly and typing in caps lock (since there’s no caps lock button).
Regardless of which computer you use, learning how to operate it efficiently can save you time and, just as importantly, a lot of frustration down the road.
6. Download these time-management apps and stop letting email control your life
How much of your workday is just spent writing or reading emails? Searching through inboxes and waiting for replies? It’s exhausting, and it takes you away from important tasks you need to get done. Entrepreneur contributor Jayson DeMers wrote about 10 email productivity tools you can use to make emailing easier and get more done. Here they are:
EmailAnalytics allows you to track your or your employees’ email usage. How long does it typically take to reply to an email? Who do you talk to most often? How long is your average email? Find out how you’re spending your time on email and figure out how to do it better.
UnrollMe tells you every email list you’re currently subscribed to. Once you know that, you can unsubscribe and save yourself time.
Boomerang can help you figure out whether you need to send up a follow-up email. If someone hasn’t replied to one of your emails after a few days, Boomerang can let you know by sending it back to your email — kind of like a digital “return to sender.”
The Gmail app offers one-touch message replies. Don’t be afraid to use them, especially when you’re on your phone and need to send a message quickly.
FollowUpThen is another follow-up tool that can remind you and your recipients to reply or follow up.
IFTTT stands for “If this, then that,” and it allows you to set up automatic protocols for your email. It can help you with reminders, create filters and sort your emails.
SaneBox is a series of smart filters that learns how you tend to work and automatically sorts emails into categories based on importance.
Text Expander can create shorthand versions of your most commonly used words and phrases. That way you can write faster, even without typing any faster.
The Email Game does exactly what it sounds like — it gamifies email management, encouraging you to organize your inbox.
Inbox Pause is another one that does what you think — when activated, it stops new emails from coming in. Don’t worry — when you unpause, you’ll receive all of your emails. This app just keeps you from getting distracted by new notifications every five seconds.
Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com by Matthew McCreary
On Sunday, at 2 am, clocks will turn back one hour, heralding the end of daylight saving time for much of the country. The change will shift daylight back into the morning hours. For 9-to-5 office workers, it means saying goodbye to leaving work while it’s still light out. And for weekend workers, it will mean an additional glorious hour of sleep this Sunday.
There’s a lot of confusion about daylight saving time.
The first thing to know: Yes, it ends in the fall, just as the decrease in daylight hours starts to become noticeable.
Let’s sort it all out.
1) Why do we need to “save” daylight hours in the summer?
Daylight saving time in the US started as an energy conservation trick during World War I, and became a national standard in the 1960s. The idea is to shift the number of daylight hours we get into the evening. So if the sun sets at 8 pm instead of 7 pm, we’d presumably spend less time with the lights on in our homes at night, saving on electricity.
It also means that you’re less likely to sleep through daylight hours in the morning (since those are shifted an hour later too). Hence “saving” daylight hours for the most productive time of the day.
Overall: We agree, the name is kind of confusing.
2) Isn’t it “daylight savings time” not “daylight saving time”?
No, it’s definitely called “daylight saving time.” Not plural.
3) Does it actually lead to energy savings?
As Joseph Stromberg outlined in an excellent 2015 Vox article, the presumed electricity conservation from the time change is unclear or nonexistent:
Despite the fact that daylight saving time was introduced to save fuel, there isn’t strong evidence that the current system actually reduces energy use — or that making it year-round would do so, either. Studies that evaluate the energy impact of DST are mixed. It seems to reduce lighting use (and thus electricity consumption) slightly but may increase heating and AC use, as well as gas consumption. It’s probably fair to say that energy-wise, it’s a wash.
4) What would happen if daylight saving time were abolished? Or if it were extended forever?
Currently, the state of Massachusetts is in the early stages of considering a proposal to stay on daylight saving time year round. It involves shifting into Atlantic time — which is an hour ahead of Eastern time — and then staying there the whole year. (Atlantic “standard” time, and Eastern “saving” time are the same.)
The plan is a long shot. The Boston Globe explains that the Massachusetts legislature and the Department of Transportation would both have to approve it. And similar bills have failed in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. But its proponents say Massachusetts would benefit by having more sunlight hours in the afternoon and evening throughout the year.
And it wouldn’t be the only state to not observe the changing of the clocks. Much of Arizona currently ignores saving time.
But why stop at Massachusetts? It’s worth thinking about what would happen if Congress abolished daylight saving time (or kept it going all year long).
Blogger and cartographer Andy Woodruff decided to visualize this with an excellent series of maps.
The goal of these maps is to show how abolishing daylight saving time, extending it all year, or going with the status quo changes the amount of days we have “reasonable” sunrise and sunset times.
Reasonable, as defined by Woodruff, is the sun rising at 7 am or earlier or setting after 5 pm (so one could, conceivably, spend some time in the sun before or after work).
This is what the map looks like under the status quo of twice-yearly clock shifts. A lot of people have unreasonable sunrise times (the dark spots) for much of the year:
Here’s how things would change if daylight saving were abolished (that is, if we just stuck to the time set in the winter all year). It’s better, particularly on the sunrise end:
And here’s what would happen if daylight saving were always in effect. The sunrise situation would actually be worse for most people. But many more people would enjoy after-work light — and there’s a strong argument to make that this after-work light is actually worth more. (More on that below.)
(Note: The length of light we experience each day wouldn’t actually change; that’s determined by the tilt of Earth’s axis. But we would experience it in times more accommodating for our modern world. Be sure to check out the interactive version of these maps on Woodruff’s website.)
In 2015, Stromberg made the compelling case that the daylight saving time shift into the evening should be extended year-round. Having more light later could benefit us in a surprising number of ways:
People engage in more leisure activities after work than beforehand, so we’d likely do more physical activity over sedentary leisure activities. Relatedly, studies show that kids get more exercise when the sun is out later in the evening.
Stromberg also cites some evidence that robberies decrease when there’s more sun in the evening hours.
There could be economic gains, since people “take short trips, and buy things after work — but not before — so a longer DST slightly increases sales,” Stromberg writes.
5) Is daylight saving time dangerous?
A little bit. In the spring time, when we shift clocks forward one hour, many of us will lose that hour of sleep. In the days after daylight saving time starts, our biological clocks are a little bit off. It’s like the whole country has been given one hour of jet lag.
One hour of lost sleep sounds like a small change, but we humans are fragile, sensitive animals. Small disruptions in our sleep have been shown to alter basic indicators of our health and dull our mental edge.
And when our biological clocks are off, everything about us is out of sync. Our bodies run this tight schedule to try to keep up with our actions. Since we usually eat a meal after waking up, we produce the most insulin in the morning. We’re primed to metabolize breakfast before even taking a bite. It’s more efficient that way.
Being an hour off schedule means our bodies are not prepared for the actions we partake in at any time of the day.
One example: driving.
In 1999, researchers at Johns Hopkins and Stanford universities wanted to find out what happens on the road when millions of drivers have their sleep disrupted.
Analyzing 21 years of fatal car crash data from the US National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, they found a very small, but significant, increase in road deaths on the Monday after the clock shift in the spring: The number of deadly accidents jumped to an average of 83.5 on the “spring forward” Monday compared with an average of 78.2 on a typical Monday.
And it seems it’s not just car accidents. Evidence has also mounted of an increase in incidences of workplace injuries and heart attacks in the days after we spring forward.
6) How can we end daylight saving time, or extend it all year round?
That’s easy! Well, not really: All it would take is an act of Congress. But given the current pace of major legislation, I wouldn’t count on this happening anytime soon.
One of the most effective skills you can have in life is powerful and effective time management. If you’re not managing your time well, there’s no way you’re going to reach your goals at work and the life outside of it. Sure, you might make some progress. But your time management will be an uphill battle if you don’t take your time seriously. For people who squander and waste the precious little time they do have, they know all too well how difficult achieving even mildly difficult goals can be.
The truth is that time is the greatest equalizer in life. No matter who you are, your age, income, gender, race or religion, you have the same amount of time as the next person
So if you’re serious about achieving your goals, not only do you need to set those goals the right way, but you also have to get serious about avoiding distractions and becoming too immersed in the bad habits that you know you need to quit. Time-wasters need to fall by the wayside, and serious grit-and-bear-it hard work needs to take its place.
The trick? Find a good time management system and work it. There are many. It’s entirely up to you on which one to choose. But if you don’t want to become part of the 92% statisticof people who fail to achieve their long-term goals, then you need pay attention to how you use the precious little time you do have in this world.
What are the best tips for managing your time?
One of the biggest problems that most entrepreneurs have isn’t just in how they can get enough done in such a demanding market, but also how they maintain some semblance of balance without feeling too overworked. This isn’t just about achieving and going after goals around the clock. This is also about quality of life.
Balance is key. If you lack balance in your life, you’re going to feel stressed out. Even if you’re able to effectively juggle your responsibilities, without proper balance you’re going to eventually reach your breaking point. So, it’s important to not only follow a system that will help you get things done, but also one where you prioritize personal and family time.
Don’t forget to do things like take a walk in the park or just sit and listen to your favorite music with headphones on, or paint a picture, go on a date night and so on. That’s more important than you can think. And when you do that, you achieve some semblance of balance. Life is short. So don’t ignore those things while you reach for your bigger goals. With that said, here are 15 crucial time management tips for getting the proverbial job done.
1. Set goals right away.
There’s a right and wrong way to set goals. If you don’t set your goals the right way, then you’ll lack the proper targets, which will force you to fall off track. But when you set them the right way, the sky is the limit. Use the SMART goal setting method to help you see things through. And when you do set those goals, make sure you have powerful deep down meanings for wanting to achieve them.
2. Find a good time management system.
One of the tips for managing your time is to find the right system to actually do it. The quadrant time-management system is probably the most effective. It splits your activities into four quadrants based on urgency and importance. Things are either urgent or important, both, or neither. Neither (quadrant 4) are the activities that you want to stay away from, but it’s the not-urgent-but-important quadrant (2) that you want to focus on.
3. Audit your time for seven days straight.
Spend seven days straight assessing how you spend the time you do have right now. What are you doing? Record it in a journal or on your phone. Split this up into blocks of 30 minutes or an hour. What did you get done? Was it time wasted? Was it well spent? If you use the quadrant system, circle or log the quadrant that the activity was associated with. At the end of the seven days, tally up all the numbers. Where did you spend the most time? Which quadrants? The results might shock you.
4. Spend your mornings on MITs.
Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” His point? Tackle your biggest tasks in the morning. These are your most important tasks (MITs) of the day. Accomplishing those will give you the biggest momentum to help you sail through the rest of the day.
5. Follow the 80-20 rule.
Another great time management tip is to use the 80-20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Principle. This rule states that 80% of the efforts comes from 20 percent of the results. In sales, it also means that 80 percent of the sales come from 20 percent of the customers. The trick? Identify the 20 percent of the efforts that are producing 80 percent of the results and scale that out. You can do this with meticulous tracking and analysis.
6. Instill keystone habits into your life.
Charles Duhig poignantly coined the keystone habit in his book entitled, The Power of Habit. In architecture, the keystone is the stone that holds all other stones in place. Similarly, keystone habits help to not only solicit other good habits, but also help to eliminate bad habits as well. Focus on keystone habits and you’ll get much better at managing your overall time by making your habit development much easier.
7. Schedule email response times.
Turn off your email throughout the day. When your email is pouring in, it’s easy to get distracted. Schedule time to read and respond to emails. If there’s something urgent, someone will call or text you. But when you have your email open, those distractions interrupt your thought flow and it’s harder to get back on track.
8. Eliminate bad habits.
One of the biggest time-wasters we have are our bad habits. Whether it’s Netflix binge-watching, excessively surfing social media, playing games, going out frequently to drink with friends, or so on, those bad habits take away the precious little time that we do have. Use your time wisely by eliminating your bad habits if you’re serious about achieving big goals in life.
9. Take frequent breaks when working.
One study suggests that you should work for 52 minutes and break for 17. You might not have the luxury to do that. But you should take frequent breaks. If you’re an entrepreneur working for yourself, this is crucial. It’s easy to run on fumes and not even know it. Keep your mental, emotional and physical states at peak levels by breaking frequently.
10. Meditate or exercise every morning.
You might not think that this will help to better manage your time, but meditating and exercising every single morning gives you balance. Cut the toxins out of your life and get serious by doing this and watch as your energy, stamina and mental focus takes a drastic shift.
11. Make to-do lists in the evening for the next day.
Every single evening before bed, make a list for the next day. Look at your goals and see what you can do to help move you closer. This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. But by making to-do lists, you’re effectively setting goals for the day. Daily goals are easier to achieve while helping to move us towards the longer and bigger goals. But that happens by creating to-do lists.
12. Find inspiration when you’re feeling lackluster.
Turn to YouTube, TED Talks and any other inspirational source you can turn to when you’re lacking inspiration. It’s hard to stay on track with your time when you lose that drive inside of you. Find ways you can turn the fire back on by focusing inspiring content and seeking out others who’ve achieved big goals.
13. Get a mentor who can guide you.
Finding a mentor is crucial. It’s easy to get distracted and dissuaded when you don’t have someone guiding you. But when you can personally rely on someone who’s been through the wringer and can help you achieve your goals, it’s easier to stay on track with your time. Find a good mentor that can help you along your path.
14. Turn off social media app alerts.
Incessant social media app alerts aren’t helping you with your time. It’s definitely hurting you. Turn them off. You don’t need alerts every moment or to know everything happening with your friends. It’s not important. What’s most important is to have some peace of mind and be better able to focus on the task at hand.
15. Declutter and organize.
Studies have determined that clutter in our environment helps us to lose focus. When we lose focus, we lose time. If you want to avoid that, declutter and organize. Don’t do it all at once. Start small. One drawer today. A shelf tomorrow. Maybe a closet the next day. Just one per day. You build momentum and eventually find yourself turning into an organizing warrior.
Originally posted on Entrepreneur by R.L. Adams
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