As an entrepreneur, you're ultimately in control of your own destiny and, with that, comes great responsibility. If you're hoping to escape the world of full-time employment and embark on your own entrepreneurial path, self-discipline is a must. Learning how to organize yourself and maximize your productivity is the first and most important step towards becoming independent. It's time to eliminate distractions, much like the spam filter gets rid of your junk mail.
Many people equate productivity to simply working harder, but there's a lot more to it than that. Honing your organizational skills means you'll be able to get more done in less time while maintaining a high standard of work. In fact, it's usually better to focus on fewer things than risk running into burnout and the often greatly reduced quality of work that comes with it. As the adage goes, work hard and play hard.
Becoming more productive and better organized requires getting yourself into a goal-driven mindset. You also need to be prepared for the inevitable down times and be ready to brave unexpected disappointments. At the very top of the entrepreneurial mindset is courage, followed closely by wisdom. When you've got those traits down to a T, you'll be ready to start fine tuning your abilities using the following tips:
#1. Reduce Distractions
Distractions are the bane of anyone who doesn't have to answer to a boss. The temptations to procrastinate are everywhere, whether you're working at home or on the move. You might be confident meeting clients, but it's when you're working in the comfort of your own home or, perhaps, in a beach bar in the Caribbean, that the temptations to put things off until later can easily get the better of you. In fact, it's the very lack of this self-discipline that ultimately leads many entrepreneurs to fail.
While those with an entrepreneurial spirit are often drawn to a lifestyle of relative freedom and the luxury of not having to be held accountable by an employer, self-discipline is a must. In other words, you need to learn to approach your business ventures with the same degree of enthusiasm and commitment that a well-motivated employer has in a great job. At the same time, you need to create a culture of accountability for yourself by becoming your own boss.
It all starts from eliminating distractions. Unfortunately, that clichéd image of reclining in a hammock on a beach with a laptop is far from the reality. Setting up a proper, dedicated workspace that's as free of distractions as possible is essential. Ideally, a home office should have its own room where you can confidently close the door and get to work, without any distractions from children or pets.
#2. Set Activity Goals
Entrepreneurship starts with an idea that ultimately turns into a solid plan. Financial reward rarely comes quickly, and you'll need to invest both time and money to have any chance of reaching them. As such, setting activity goals, particularly during the early stages of your business venture, is far more constructive than setting lofty financial goals that you have minimal control over at this stage.
The great thing about setting activity goals is that they ultimately end up leading to financial rewards, provided you have a strong business plan in place to start with. When you're just starting out, you can't afford to get too comfortable, however. There'll be a lot of hard work during the early stages, but you'll be able to relax a lot more once your activity goals start translating into monetary reward.
The most basic example of an activity goal is setting aside a minimum number of hours per day or week that you plan to dedicate to work. Ideally, however, you should further segment this goal by allocating your time to different areas of your business. For example, you might dedicate a couple of hours per day actively looking for clients through cold mailing and social media marketing.
#3. Stick to a Schedule
A strict schedule might not sound very conducive to entrepreneurial freedom, but it's one of the most critical elements of all. Overcoming distractions and sticking rigidly to your daily routine requires a carefully thought out schedule. Of course, you can refine this later once you start seeing results but, for now, you'll want to set a strict schedule and learn to hold yourself accountable for failing to meet its demands.
Everyone has a different routine, so you'll need to come up with a schedule that works for you. You'll want to formalize it as much as possible too, and this means writing down a timetable and planning your week well in advance. As many successful entrepreneurs recommend, it's also wise to start the next day the evening before, as doing so will greatly improve your organizational abilities and ease stress.
When defining your routine, you'll want to focus on the things you're most likely to miss due to distractions. You'll also want to set enough time aside for your recreational activities to better balance work and leisure. When creating your working calendar, be sure to include important elements, such as lunch breaks, exercise routines and any household chores you need to complete.
#4. Make Technology Work for You
Technology has made life immeasurably easier for the entrepreneur, but only if they know how to use it. These days, there's a good chance that much, if not all, of your business activities are conducted online. From marketing to accounting to sending and receiving payments, modern technology provides many opportunities for entrepreneurs to streamline their activities and tap into global markets.
If your business is heavily reliant on technology, then your digital desktop is likely even more important than your physical workspace, in which case, you'll need to get it in order. A slow, unresponsive computer and/or internet connection can quickly stifle your productivity and ultimately lead to costly issues such as frustrated clients or unexpected data loss.
Using technology that you feel comfortable with is very important. However, even more important is that you learn to use modern technology to its greatest potential. If you regularly work with desktop productivity applications, then easily one of the best investments you can make will be anything that gives you more on-screen real estate. Many people who work at home swear by higher screen resolutions or multiple monitor setups.
#5. Automate Everyday Tasks
Technology has become such an important part of the modern entrepreneurial scene that it's easily worth dedicating another entry to. One of the most useful aspects of technology is that it allows you to automate some of those more mundane and repetitive tasks. Not only does automation allow you to shift your focus to core areas of your business; it also reduces the risk of potentially costly human error.
There are many everyday business tasks that can be automated. For example, you can use financial software such as Quicken or QuickBooks to take care of your accounting and invoicing needs. Other tasks that can and should be automated include cybersecurity and data backup. There are many cloud services that allow you to outsource these routines for additional peace of mind.
Other daily tasks that you can put on autopilot thanks to technology include setting reminders using a web application like Google Calendar. There are other tools that help you automate the delegation of common household chores which, while not related to your business, will help you better organize your entire life and focus on the things that matter most.
#6. Minimize Multitasking
It's a common misconception that multitasking lets you get more done in less time. While technology heavily promotes multitasking, it's important to remember that it's computers that should be taking care of multitasking rather than you yourself. With more pressure to get as much done in as little time as possible, multitasking is an easy habit to slip into but, for the entrepreneur, it can lead to disaster.
Some people claim that they're better than others at multitasking, but the fact is that constantly shifting between tasks severely interrupts your focus. When you're unable to focus 100% on a single task at a time, your work will take a substantial hit in quality, and you'll become less productive overall. By contrast, paying individual attention to one task at a time will allow you to maximize efficiency.
Numerous studies have proven why multitasking is bad, despite it building up a reputation as a source of pride. By avoiding the habit, you'll also be able to reduce distractions and temptations to procrastinate. That means closing Facebook and any other websites that aren't related to your work and incorporating a one-task-at-a-time approach into your schedule.
You can't reasonably expect to get your productivity and organizational skills to an optimal standard overnight. It requires a great deal of self-discipline and a long-term approach, as well as an ambition to keep your business moving forward. However, by getting rid of distractions and setting up a dedicated working environment in the first place, you'll have a strong foundation for getting started on the right track.