9 Ways to Increase Productivity as an Entrepreneur

A startup business, in particular, has little room for complacency as far as productivity is concerned. In order to assist every member of the team in reaching maximum individual and collective productivity, entrepreneurs may want to give serious consideration to the following pieces of advice, commonly cited by experts and major business publications. Some may seem counterintuitive, but they are backed up by recent studies.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, labor productivity decreased by more than 2 percent during the fourth quarter of 2015.

1. Change up the way you do meetings.

One study showed that the typical American employee spends in excess of 30 hours every month in meetings that have no tangible result. Meetings via Skype, phone, or e-mail can be more productive than in-person meetings. Develop your ability to do a cost-benefit analysis of in-person meetings and schedule accordingly.

Don’t allow discussion to expand to fill the time you’ve allotted for it — keep meetings short and focused. Many experts recommend setting time limits of 15 minutes. Some well-known executives even cap meetings at 10 minutes. They cite studies demonstrating that most people’s attention spans range from 10 to 18 minutes, before their minds begin to wander. When we are required to take in large amounts of information all at once, it can be physiologically draining.

On the other hand, there can be a burst of creativity toward the end of a meeting, when participants know time is short.

2. Analyze and prioritize your time.

Track and analyze the amount of time you actually devote to specific tasks. Most people, studies show, are unable to accurately judge how much time has passed during a given interval of work.

Try to identify one major drain on productivity, and strive to eliminate it. Then identify a habit that will prove more productive, and work on adopting it into daily practice.

Prioritize tasks. Not every item needs attention the moment it crosses your desk. Practice being less reactive and more proactive about assigning a ranking to tasks and devoting the most time and attention to those that are most urgent or significant.

In today’s world, email is your to-do list. However, over-checking e-mail has been correlated with lower performance, increased stress, and decreased ability to remember. Some executives even use automatic replies noting the hours when they are scheduled to check e-mails.

A two-minute strategy: If you identify a task that you can accomplish successfully in two minutes or under, tackle it on the spot.

3. Wake up early, go to bed late.

Surveys show that many entrepreneurs work, on average, up to 63 percent longer than traditional workers every week. To be as productive as possible, it’s necessary to master the ability to stretch the 24 hours in each day as far as they can go.

Establishing a morning routine that gets you out of bed early sets a productive tone for the rest of the day. In the quiet of the morning, there are fewer distractions and you’ll be able to focus without interruption, so you can organize your thoughts and your schedule, leaving you more prepared for the day’s tasks.

Likewise, successful entrepreneurs know the value of staying up late. They may use the evening hours to reflect on the day’s accomplishments, prepare for tomorrow’s tasks, or mentally unwind. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs swear by turning off all electronics an hour before bed and indulging in a book. Reading before bed can help you get better quality sleep, which is essential for feeling rested enough to be efficient the next day.

4. Think positive.

Negative judgments and assumptions based solely on one’s own thoughts, uncorroborated by any external evidence, can be a needless waste of time, energy, and focus. Instead, as my Customer Engagement Manager on my team always encourages, concentrate on ways to be successful and productive in the real situation at hand, without dwelling on fears of failures that haven’t even happened. Some experienced executives who have worked through such negative emotions themselves caution that unfounded fears and negative assumptions can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

5. Exercise early to get going.

No one needs a reminder that exercise has an all-around positive effect on health, but everyone should note that a regular morning exercise routine can do wonders for your productivity. An early morning workout boosts energy levels, propelling you through the day’s work. It also expands your capacity for creative thinking, reduces stress, and boosts confidence levels, leading to increased efficiency and a greater sense of fulfilment at the end of the day.

Exercising early in the morning rather than in the evening can be especially beneficial for entrepreneurs, who can use that extra energy to its full advantage over the course of a full workday. And when you schedule your workout early in the day, you’re less likely to skip it — you’ll be done with the workout before you know it.

6. Make a to-do list.

The to-do list is an age-old tool for staying on track and accomplishing tasks, but certain list-making habits can make you more productive than others. Making lists the right way can mean the difference between working smart and getting in your own way.

Create a list that enhances rather than hinders productivity by recognizing that a to-do list is only valuable when it emphasizes quality over quantity. List simple, high-impact tasks that require a little time and effort, as opposed to menial tasks included just for the sake of being able to cross off a line. This improves time management and allows you to strategically utilize your energy on the things that matter most.

Prolific list makers should also be able to recognize and evaluate when it’s time to create a new list, or add to and restructure an existing one. To avoid discouragement and the feeling of being overwhelmed, don’t fill your list with a large number of vague tasks. Instead, focus more on direct actions you can take that don’t require outside input.

7. Plan each workday the night before.

It was Benjamin Franklin, one of the first successful American entrepreneurs, who advised, “Early to bed, early to rise” for anyone hoping to achieve health, prosperity, and wisdom. Make sure to get plenty of rest, but also prepare for the day ahead with wardrobe selections and daily essentials laid out, weather report checked, etc.

8. Show that you care.

When staff members know that their CEO cares about each of them as people, they tend to be more productive. Overt attempts to get employees to work harder and awarding salaries and bonuses based on productivity do not necessarily have the desired result. Focus instead on long-term goals of increasing group and individual satisfaction at work, and edit down everyone’s workload to help them accomplish goals with a better use of their time.

9. Don’t forget the value of humor.

Numerous studies suggest that workplace-appropriate humor can create an atmosphere of camaraderie, relieve stress, and promote greater productivity. Nine-tenths of executives surveyed in a recent study agreed with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who said that having a sense of humor is one essential trait of a true leader, making it easier to create bonds of trust, open communication, and accomplish goals.