I know most startup gurus, entrepreneurs, and CEOs are crazy busy. Heck, I’m one of them. Each of us has only a limited amount of time at our disposal, no matter how large our team is. But there are ways to maximize productivity and still stay on top of your game, while having a little fun — who doesn’t like to have some fun with what we’ve made our professional passion, right?
Consider these eight productivity tips:
1. Keep It Simple
There’s enough chaos in CEOs’ lives, so when it comes to our productivity, adopt the motto: keep it simple.
First, is aiming to get those seven or more hours of sleep. This will ensure that you start your day feeling like a superhero (cape optional). Entrepreneur Benjamin P. Hardy swears by this method of performance, and the National Sleep Foundation backs him up on this. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adequate sleep is linked to increased memory, creativity, innovation, attention, and focus — all critical elements of running a successful company. If necessary, take a 30-minute “power nap” or meditate during the day to make up for what you missed last night. I’m not a huge fan of naps. I prefer to get my energy from a brisk walk around the office; it gets my ideas flowing better after sitting for long periods of time.
2. Make It A Block Party
Block out your weekly calendar in advance. Taking the time on a Sunday night or Monday morning to list essential goals for specific time slots can set you up for a successful week that has goals and an overall direction, advises Jeff Haden, a frequent contributor to Inc. magazine.
Rather than jot down high-level goals, assign specific tasks for each period. Plot realistic 30-minute meeting times that avoid splitting your focus on excessive multitasking. And for gosh sake use an app that visually suits your meeting and planning style. I’m a fan of the handy Google Calendar as it also links to my phone and sends me reminders. As a team, we’re advocates for Basecamp to collaborate and manage our client projects. No matter the tools you utilize to set up a plan it’s important to have a system for your schedule because your time is valuable!
3. Chart Topper To-do List
Identify the non-negotiables. Begin each day with a list of your Top 3 “To Do” items. Every night, before you hit the sack, make a list of those top 3 things that you must get done the next day. Sometimes I add personal life to-dos on the daily agenda because it allows me to see priorities within my work and life simultaneously and from there adjust.
4. There's Nothing Like Last Minute
Reverse-engineer your ideal calendar. Alex Cavoulacos, the co-author of “The New Rules of Work,” recommends analyzing the times of the day — and days of the week — when you are most productive. Then, use an empty calendar to mark out blocks of time that are best for your most-focused work, best for meetings, and best for answering email. This is all about self-awareness. If you know, you’re more alert in the morning for discussions with clients, schedule morning meetings so your fresh and raring to go. If you’re a night owl, save those floods of emails to the evening to respond. Again, know yourself and know your team to be the most productive.
5. Some Daze I Amaze Myself
Prioritize! Use the “urgent versus important” matrix to identify your top priority tasks. This one ties it a bit with number four above. As you get down to business, distractions will inevitably pop up. Prevent these interruptions from derailing your pre-defined work priorities by determining exactly where they fall in that “urgent versus important” matrix.
6. Follow Your Heart But Take Your Brain With You
Use a weekly “brain dump” to create mind-maps. Take an hour to write down everything that’s on your mind – from business concerns to household management issues. That way, you’re ready to use a mind-mapping tool such as MindMeister, Bubbl.us or Comapping, to organize your daily thoughts and ideas into actionable lists of tasks.
7. Have A Mobile-First Mentality
Start using that mobile device to do everything, cut out the paper. Apps are your friend, use them to track your time, so you know precisely how many precious minutes you’re spending on unproductive, wasteful activities. Like those 'Gotta Minute Meetings' in the hallway your staff loves to arrange while you walk by. There are a bazillion examples, but we like Time Doctor, which allows you to track your schedule with a single click, teams, and projects, so you see exactly how many hours you’re spending on various projects and tasks.
8. How Many Times Did Your Mother Tell You to Pick Up Your Room?
Clean up your physical workspace. A cluttered work area leads to a cluttered mind, so taking a few minutes every day to tidy up your space can be a quick way to get more done.
Speaking of cleaning... clean out your email inbox every day too. We know Operation: Inbox Zero is quite the task, but weeding out or organizing them into labeled folders will help breathe new life into your inbox. If you’re overwhelmed with thousands of inbox messages, spam, updates, and promotions using tools like SaneBox and the Email Game (Google it) can achieve the mental clarity you need to realize maximum productivity.
How to get started? Begin by pursuing the low-hanging fruit — two or three of the ideas that seem easiest and most natural for your lifestyle, business, and unique mindset.
CEO's unless you feel comfortable implementing today's latest technologies, consider applying only one of the tips per week or month — such as a weekly brain dump (number 6), time tracking (number 7), or playing the email game (number 8). It takes time to learn how to get the most of out of any new system, online platform or powerful app, no matter how incredible its potential to simplify your life.
Create benchmarks for your progress, and track your results, to see what's working and what's not.
Stay focused on what's working for you. Trying to do too much, too soon — even with the help of cutting-edge technology — leaders can wind up being counter-productive, too far down in the weeds, and strapped for time.