An entrepreneur’s biggest asset is time. While you might have the motivation, the passion and the ideas, it doesn’t mean a whole lot if you’re not actually getting anything done. So much of business is about competition. The hard truth of it is that whilst you’re wasting time someone else is growing their company and reaching your audiences. Productivity isn’t about racing through tasks though, it’s about quality and efficiency. It’s took me 20 years as an entrepreneur to work out the most effective methods and I’ve boiled them down to 6 easy productivity hacks (if I’d known these earlier, I’d probably be on a yacht right now).
1. Make your first hire a PA
It seems like an extravagance, but hiring an assistant will probably make the biggest difference to your productivity. Put simply: if you don’t have an assistant, you are an assistant. This is especially true in the early days when you’re trying to set up a business. You need to find office space, print stationary and create client databases. It’s the little administrative tasks that get in the way of you networking, building partnerships and growing your business. As an entrepreneur, you’re the driving force behind your business and you should be doing what you’re best at. Anything that’s not directly working towards your vision for the company, you should delegate either to an in-house PA or, if you’re looking for a cost-effective option, a virtual assistant who you pay per hour or in hourly packages. Spend time on recruiting the right person, if the partnership’s right, they’ll stick with you as the company grows.
2. Don’t multitask
While multitasking makes you feel like you’re getting lots done, working on several tasks at the same time creates chaos with our concentration, making it more difficult to organise thoughts and filter out irrelevant information. As the brain struggles to focus it actually slows down and starts being less productive. Plus, multitasking adds the extra stress of increased decision making, which can lead to negativity or worse still, resignation. To avoid temptation, switch the notifications off all your social media apps, shut down your internet browsers, put your phone on silent and warn your office, friends or family that you cannot be disturbed.
3. Use time blocking
My days are divided into 30 minute blocks so that I never linger on one task. It helps me to more accurately gauge how much time I’m spending on a certain area and encourages me to properly focus on what I’m doing. It’s important to use the blocks to schedule in downtime too as it will give your mind space to refocus and re-energise. You’re more likely to respect your need for rest if it’s in your diary.
4. Equip yourself with a productivity toolkit
There are so many amazing apps specifically designed to make your life easier, and they really do work. One of my favourites is Trello, which allows you to create team projects, customised workflows, checklists and discussion boards. It can seem like an added hassle to set-up the account and link in team members, but that’s exactly the kind of job an assistant can take care of. If you travel a lot for work, apps are lifesavers as they facilitate easy file sharing, uploads and instant feedback. You can even use an app like Hootsuite to centralise all of your social media accounts into one place and schedule content.
5. Set goals
Whether they’re short term or long term, goals can be a really effective way of channeling your focus. When you’re bombarded with requests, queries and tasks, it’s easy to lose sight of your overall vision. Write your goals down so that you can refer back to them and check that you’re using your time well. As the boss of a company, it can be useful to share your overall goals for the company to give your team something to actively work towards and build a sense of shared achievement.
6. Prioritise your wellbeing
For your company to succeed you need to be working at your optimal best. That means early nights, eating well, exercising and taking breaks from work. If I can, I like to surf before I go into the office. The fresh air makes me feel energised and excited about my day. I also meditate daily to allow my head a few minutes peace which I find improves my mood, my ability to make decisions and my concentration. It’s much better to work at a focussed level for less hours in a day, than to work at a low level for longer. The more exhausted you are, the less you’ll get completed.
Richard Walton is the Founder of AVirtual a company that provides virtual PAs to small business, entrepreneurs and start-ups. He is regularly featured in the press talking about topics such as work life balance and productivity.