There are few more gruelling and lonesome professions than that of an entrepreneur.
When you're new to the game and going it alone, it can feel difficult at times to keep focused and motivated in achieving your goals. But it's important to remember that the very best entrepreneurs suffer from doubt and losses of confidence and that setbacks are just part of the game.
Because even the most driven and determined entrepreneurs shouldn't go it alone, we've listed seven of the most important productivity tips for you to embrace when starting up your business.
Utilise your time accordingly
Here your smartphone calendar can be your best friend. Remember to record all of your engagements so you can see how best to utilise your time.
Break your tasks and goals down into components that vary in how much time it takes to complete them, and fit them into the gaps in your calendar accordingly.
Also, remember that multitasking can be very effective if you're on a train or a plane. Find a series of small jobs that you can complete while you're out of the house and set about them.
Utilising your time also works the opposite way. It's important to know when not to prioritise certain tasks, like email for example. Some entrepreneurs can be so fixated on their inbox that their other duties are neglected. Make sure you allocate a time slot to correspondence that you don't deviate from unless the matter's urgent.
Challenge yourself with deadlines
We know. No one likes deadlines. They're daunting and sometimes come with needless amounts of pressure. But self-imposing some deadlines on your work also helps you maintain focus and commitment to the task you're working on.
The beauty of self-imposed deadlines is that you're in charge, so should have the best idea of when you expect to complete your work by. You'll be able to challenge yourself in the areas you feel you'll excel while keeping things realistic for tasks that require more concentration.
Because missing your own self-imposed deadlines doesn't carry the same fearsome consequences, it's worth setting up rewards and forfeits based on whether or not you get your task done on time. Rewards could be as simple as buying yourself a takeaway, allowing yourself some gaming time, or meeting up with friends. Having appealing rewards in place works wonders in keeping motivation as high as possible.
Don't burn yourself out
Respect your downtime. If you're an entrepreneur who works 10 hours a day, six days a week, then it shows that you have drive and determination. But what happens to the quality of your decision making and output at the end of a long day with no breaks?
According to J M Harrington's 2001 report on the health effects on extended hours of work, those who embark on long shifts generally suffer from a decline in sleep quality and quantity as well as consistent fatigue. Harrington also noted that a decrease in working hours per week for shift workers by 7 to 20 hours saw an overall improvement in output of between 5% and 12%.
The results clearly point to the fact that many people who work longer hours may be busier, but the quality of their output is in danger of dropping significantly.
To prevent the risk of burnout, you should always allocate yourself regular break times. Taking 15 minutes of downtime every four hours can help you feel refreshed while having the strength to tear yourself away from your work when you're feeling tired can lead to a much better quality of output when you pick it back up at a later time.
Procrastination affects all of us, or nearly all of us. According to a Human Resources professor at Calgary's Haskayne School of Business, 95% of us are susceptible to putting off our tasks.
Smartphones and social media are the prime culprits, and keeping those distracting unrelated tabs open on your browser is a risky game too.
Often procrastination sets in due to tiredness and a lack of motivation, which are two things that can be remedied by regular breaks and sleep, but technology is in place to go the extra mile in saving you from your 'cyberloafing'.
Applications like AppDetox can lock up your most tempting apps to play on while YellingMom sets you constant reminders to get back to work and stop dallying on your phone. While StayFocused is an excellent browser plugin that blocks out distracting websites from your browser.
Some CEOs, like Rob Hill, the founder of The Stag Company, decided that his smartphone was such a distraction that he got rid of it in favour of a Nokia 3310. This might seem a little bit drastic but shows the level of temptation modern devices hold for our thumbs.
Sometimes you can get so engrossed in your work that you can lose perspective. You must always remember your USP and constantly challenge yourself to avoid deviating from it.
Here, it's a good course of action to ask yourself before starting a task how it's going to get your Unique Selling Point and company values across to your stakeholders. If there's no easy answer, then it could be worth rethinking your approach.
Don't stop planning
Having long-term goals are great, but sometimes you need a short termist outlook as motivation to get your work done an effectively monitor your success over a smaller timeframe.
It's important to set goals for the coming weeks, months and years and constantly construct and perfect plans on how to achieve them.
Just because you have a plan or an idea in place, it doesn't mean that it can't be revised at any time. Often circumstances change and so do perspectives. A good entrepreneur will never stop challenging themselves to find more efficient solutions to their approaches before putting their plans into action.
Remember your customers and stakeholders
Your business won't last very long without customers or stakeholders. While the beauty of being your own boss is that nobody can take your ideas away from you, it's important to keep the people at the heart of your company in mind when it comes to making big decisions.
Sparing a thought for your stakeholders also helps in making cost-cutting decisions. If you ask yourself how they would feel about the end product, you can gain an important piece of perspective. Better yet, you could run surveys of interested parties to gauge opinion.