As a new entrepreneur, it is easy to go into overdrive mode. You feel guilty for taking breaks from work and you are constantly thinking of what needs to be done. Life becomes a race you can’t win, because every time you finish a pile of work, a new, bigger one appears in front of you. When you shower, you are creating a mental task list, right before you sleep, you read books about entrepreneurship and think of your business, when you wake up you instinctively reach out for your phone to check emails and the social status of your business. You feel like you are being very productive, but somehow nothing ever gets done.
This unfortunate situation makes entrepreneurs burn out really quickly and is actually very counterproductive. Just because you work 14 hours in a day doesn’t mean you are getting anything done, in fact, it probably means you are not managing your time efficiently.
I was and am still struggling with a similar situation and often I have to remind myself to relax and prioritize. These are some of the things that have really helped me boost productivity and raise the bar for my businesses.
I know what you are thinking. You are probably thinking that you don’t have any time to breathe let alone meditate. You are also thinking that meditating is for old people who have lots of time on their hands and lots of patience. You are wondering how in the world “meditating” is going to help you grow your business. After all, you shouldn’t be sitting cross-legged breathing in and breathing out when you could be meeting with a potential investor.
However, what you need to get some actual results, is the focus and what better way to focus than to meditate. Meditation helps you clear your mind and make way for fresh thoughts. It also helps with anxiety and stress (common among entrepreneurs). The best thing is, you can start with as little as 3 minutes each day! I use this super cool app called Calm which provides free guided meditations.
By increasing your focus, you can prioritize better and only keep those things on your task list that will actually impact your business. It will help you recognize what is important and what isn’t.
2. Make monthly “Targets”:
Making monthly targets seems fairly obvious. Everyone has a sales plan that needs to be achieved. However, one of my advisors, who works at a high position in a large international organization, recently told me that he makes targets for himself for everything besides sales as well.
This helps him make time for those functions that don’t seem too important in the short term but are extremely crucial for the long term. As new entrepreneurs who don’t have a big team to go to, we often get very tactical, too focused on immediate needs and not investing enough in long-term functions. Using the help of this same advisor, I have now broken up my functions into sales & marketing, HR, product design & manufacturing, research and finance& accounting.
I then create a map each month, that includes the most important tasks in each category and then give them a timeline on my map. Thus, in week 1 I may have more production tasks and fewer accounting tasks but in week 4, the position may be reversed. This allows me to maintain sight of what is important and manage my time efficiently. It also allows me to stop being distracted by things. With this, every Monday my work for the week is clearly defined and I am able to do more with less.
Using these same principles, you can even divide your week for personal activities like time spent with family/friends, personal learning or hobbies etc. This will help you maintain a better worklife balance and in turn, improve productivity.
3. Give yourself “creative breaks”:
Being an entrepreneur means that you have to have a “jugaad” mindset and be very creative not just with your products and services but in every aspect of your business. You have to be able to use limited resources to achieve a lot and that is why it is important for you to not be in a creative rut.
Taking creative breaks is nothing but taking the time to shut off from work completely and doing something unrelated from work but something that you are passionate about. It could be a sport or art form or it could even be travel. Doing this may seem unrealistic when you are that busy, but it will help you recharge those creative juices and will inspire you. The best ideas often come when you are involved in one of these activities and you never know which idea may lead to your next big break.
4. Shorten your workday:
According to Tim Ferris from the four hours workweek, shortening the deadline for tasks or your work day entirely, leads to higher focus and a better quality of work executed. This is also known as Parkinson’s Law, which states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Therefore, when you give yourself more hours to fill, you get less real work done and just fill those hours for the sake of filling them. Realistically, as an entrepreneur, how many hours during the day are you actually on social media, or are doing mundane repetitive tasks that can be delegated or outsourced. Often people fill their days with irrelevant meetings that seem important but actually are a waste of everybody’s time.
Thus, forcing yourself to work only a certain number of hours per day, makes it all the more crucial to finish your most important tasks in those hours. It allows you to prioritize the tasks on your list and eliminate the ones that are not important.