10 Ways To Be Productive When Your Time Is Limited

Time to work on your business is limited. How do you use it to best effect?

Rob Young
Rob Young
Oct 31, 2014 · 5 min read

You’ve found time in your hectic schedule to work on your new business.

Part one of this series showed you where to find that time, but how are you going to make the most of it?

The 5minutes it takes you to read this will pay back 10x in increased productivity this week even if you just use one tip – so let’s go.

1 — Plan Before You Do

Sounds obvious, but do you do it?

How often do you get a chance to do some work, but spend the first half hour working out what to do?

When you know exactly what you’re going to before you sit down, you win.


You won’t spend time faffing around at the beginning. Even a few minutes can lead you to distraction – I’ll just check in on my email – oh someone tagged me on Facebook – that’s an interesting link…

Before you know it, you’re watching a video about goats. Then your time’s up and nothings done.

You’ll also mull over the task while you’re not working. Maybe it’s on your commute, maybe in the shower, maybe just while you’re having breakfast.

If you know what’s coming next you’ll subconsciously prepare for doing it.

2 —But Don’t Plan To Do Too Much

There’s nothing like overwhelm to kill your productivity.

A long to do list is bad.

You’re less likely to start it, because you can’t see the beginning.

You’re less likely to finish because you overestimated what you could do.

There are almost certainly things on it that could be safely ignored.

Three good reasons to keep your todo list short. 3 Things is my preferred length.

3 – Get Set Up

Have everything ready to start immediately.

Want to write a blog post next work session? – leave your editor open and in focus on your computer, which you’ve left out on your desk and set on standby so there is no startup time.

Doing something more physical – make sure the tools you need are to hand so you can step in and go.

This technique is vital if you only have short bursts of time available – minimise your start up time to get into the flow quickly.

4 — Switch Off Distractions

Sound, basic advice? Yes. Commonly followed? No.

We know this works, but we just don’t do it.

It takes at least a few minutes to get back focussed on a task if interrupted. If that annoying bing from a Facebook message is going off every few minutes, you can kiss goodbye to being productive. Your work will be a shadow of what it could be.

If going totally cold turkey on your incoming stream makes you shiver, just switch it off for 30 minutes at a time. You’ll be amazed what you can achieve.

5 — Write, Then Edit

Not a writer? Doesn’t matter, still applies.

Creating something, and critically reviewing it are different skills. They need your brain to work in different ways. Switching between the two is inefficient at best, impossible at worst.

Think of it this way — you’re trying to create something beautiful, but your friend keeps interrupting you to say:

“It’s not good enough, you need to change it.”.

It’s a recipe for quitting and falling out with your friend, right?

Hemingway is supposed to have said:

“Write drunk, edit sober.”

Even if you don’t fancy a bottle of wine while working, the spirit applies – allow yourself to be free and uninhibited when creating. Know that you can review it later.

No good work happens with real time editing.

6 – Sometimes You’re The CEO, Sometimes You’re The Diligent Employee

At any one time, Think OR Do.

At times you need to be thinking strategically, and planning the future of your business.

Other times you’re going to need to get on with the nuts and bolts of making your business work.

Guess what? Don’t try to do these at the same time.

When you’re the CEO, be a good one. Be clear exactly what you expect and want from your team (even if that team is just you). You’ll thank yourself later for having clearly defined goals.

When you’re the employee, take those goals and get the hell on with the job. Don’t question every decision, nothing will get done.

7 – Get Away From The Screen

Is the technology getting in the way of your best thinking?

When you’re planning, thinking, brainstorming, drafting, sketching — do you really need to be at your computer?

Good old fashioned pen and paper works wonders for getting right to the point.

Planning out a presentation, blog post or piece of copy in front of my screen means I try to type in sentences. I’ll be slow, and focus too much on the detail of the grammar or how things look on the page.

If use a big piece of paper and a sharpie, I’m much quicker, and get to the point better.

This is a double win, because when I do start typing, I know exactly what to get into my first draft, so I’m quicker again.

8 – JFDI

Just F**king Do It.

Allow yourself no excuses and get on with it. Grind out the work you know you’re capable of.

The more you do that, the better you’ll be.

When you see the results you can achieve, you’ll refuse to settle for less than you’re capable of.

If the sweary version isn’t you, try :

Just Focus and Do It.

Not as powerful, but better than nothing.

9 – Get An Accountability Buddy

Find someone who’ll hold you to do what your say you will.

Not so great at being hard on yourself? Hire someone who’s job is.

It takes a certain type of person to be good at this, but it works. It’s especially effective for people who have a regular job as well as a business.

In a regular job you have a boss or colleagues or customers who hold you to doing what you need to do. If you don’t do it, you’re going to get fired.

Given that pressure, if something has to slip, it’s usually your own projects. Maybe you need similar accountability to truly do your best work for yourself.

If you’re having trouble finding someone, then either hire me, or join The Hundred Dollar Club’s free community. You’ll find someone there for sure.

10 – Know Why It’s Important

Things get done if they are important enough.

If you can see how a task fits into your future success, you’ll do it.

If you can’t you won’t. Or the quality you produce will be poor.

How do you know what’s important? – Part Three will give you a simple tool to make sure you’re always working on the number one priority for your business. Come have another look then.


Rob Young is founder of The Hundred Dollar Club — A community where small businesses make big progress. It’s free to become part of the community and get the free weekly newsletter. Part Three will be sent to you as soon as it’s published.

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