While it certainly isn’t exclusive to us, I’d say entrepreneurs have the hardest time with getting and staying productive throughout the day. If you have a job you’re likely leaving the house and have a full, exhaustive list of tasks you need to accomplish to be good at your job.. If you work for yourself there’s a pretty good chance that sometimes (if not often) you find yourself thinking of what you should do next and possibly nearly paralyzed at the thought of spending the whole day doing the wrong thing, “Am I forgetting something?”
This list came to me because I was working on a task that I had to put in a support ticket for, meaning I’m not getting anywhere until I get a response. I continued to try to fix it myself, wasting so much valuable time. Finally, when I realized I couldn’t fix it on my own, I looked at my screen and wasn’t sure what to do. A nap sounds good.
I realized at this point that my problem was that I didn’t know what to do next. I have so many things I could do, should do, but with all the endless possibilities and the limited time before I have to run my son to an appointment, I didn’t know where to start. I was searching my brain for tasks because I didn’t have a definitive list I could pull from with no effort.
So let’s talk about how to get and stay productive.
1. List Out Your Responsibilities. All Of Them.
I’m talking a master list of everything you’re responsible for. You can even break this list up into home/family and business. This list will probably be very large and you’ll probably need to revisit it from time to time to update it for the changes we go through in life and business. Just brain dump everything, then add to it as things pop in your head throughout the day.
Once you’re sure this list is full, break it down. If you have ‘get the kids ready for school’ on your list, that is too vague. Map out the steps required to do that.
Some of these tasks are going to be ongoing. Some of them are going to be one-off. Keep the master list and edit it regularly with new tasks and removing those you may not need to do anymore. This master list should stay within arms reach.
2. The Eisenhower Decision Matrix
Draw yourself a big square on a piece of paper. Then draw a line through the center horizontally, and one vertically. Label the top left Important & Urgent, the top right Important But Not Urgent, the bottom left Urgent But Not Important, and finally the bottom right Not Important, Not Urgent. Then take those tasks of yours and put them in the appropriate block (yay, post-it note fun!).
3. Make Your To-Do’s
Now that you know what all you have to get done and how quickly, you can begin making your to-do lists. Some of these will be daily, some will be weekly, and so on. I recommend a planning day before beginning each month and week, and then making your daily to-do list the night before (or at the end of your work hours).
When doing these lists, I suggest working in time for things that come up last minute or that you may have forgotten. It’s inevitable so you might as well plan for it. Otherwise you’re just going to stress yourself out.
You now have exactly what you need to do each day, week, and month. There will be no questions and you can start anywhere you like. I recognize that getting started can be the hardest part sometimes and that’s why you just start. Just grab something, anything! Take a small task if that gets you going, or a large one to get it off your mind.
With that said..
5. Alternate Bites
I suggest not doing all the big things or all the small things back to back. Break it up some. I find I feel more accomplished if I get some small stuff done, but don’t neglect the big ones – even if the big ones don’t get completely done that day. Breaking large tasks into smaller tasks for yourself can also be a very effective way of feeling accomplished but making it easier to get started on daunting tasks.
6. Delegate When Possible/Necessary
It’s pretty likely that you don’t have to do everything yourself. Even if you’re running a one (wo)man show, you can still probably delegate some tasks. In my case I ended up delegating a task that was finding the issue with the software I was working with. I had to surrender to support because I wasn’t finding the answer.
If you have a VA or a friend who knows about your hustle, maybe they can help. Or even a family member. If it’s a house chore, most kids will do tasks for $5.
7. Take Small Breaks (Anxiety)
I’m sure everyone has experienced a bout of anxiety at one time or another when getting work done. Sometimes you’re anxious about a deadline or frustrated that something isn’t working like it should.
Get up and walk away. Walk around the block. Grab a bottle of water. Shake out your limbs. Do some push-ups or burpees. Trust me, after 3 burpees whatever else you could be doing will be preferable to more burpees.
Get your body moving and watch your mind clear. Typically, just doing a simple something for 1-2 minutes will make it easier for me to focus again. Sometimes I need a 10-20 minute walk, or someone to vent to. Just don’t let the breaks get out of control. And don’t let yourself quit.