7. They work mindfully.
“I try to be totally focused on whatever I’m doing, whether it’s listening to a client or returning an email,” Taliaferro said. To facilitate this, she tries to eliminate potential distractions. For instance, when she’s writing, she turns off the phone ringer. “When you’re very present, it’s actually pretty relaxing. When you’re relaxed, you can get more accomplished,” she said.
8. They take full days off.
Entrepreneurs can easily get burned out. According to Carol Tice, a fulltime freelance writer who writes the award-winning blog Make A Living Writing, taking at least one day off a week “is probably my biggest productivity tip.” She always takes Saturdays off and stays completely offline. On Sundays, she works for several hours so Mondays aren’t so hectic.
9. They’re well organized.
Tice, who used to be an executive secretary, believes that her ability to track “information, deadlines and projects” also is important for her productivity. For instance, she’s recently started using a program called Freshbooks to keep records and bill clients, which has saved a lot of time.
10. They tackle tasks they’re passionate about.
Naturally, it’s easier to be productive when you’re passionate about your projects. So, Tice, for instance, works on what she’s “hot to do [that] morning. “I’ll often do that, even if it doesn’t appear the most pressing priority. What you’re in the zone to do goes fast, as opposed to forcing yourself to do something you’re not in the mood for,” she said.
Taliaferro also finds that when she’s working on enjoyable tasks, “time flies by so I’m more productive and happier.” She’s able to do this because she tries “to outsource tasks as much as possible” and has a virtual assistant.
11. They don’t waste time.
“I don’t have a lot of time-wasting stuff in my life like watching TV or playing on Facebook,” Tice said, who spends just several hours a week on these kinds of activities.
Tice added: “Remember, like the Kabbalists say — we are never ‘just killing time.’ Time kills us. Spend your precious moments doing stuff you love, and stuff that makes the world a better place.”
12. They take it easy.
Entrepreneurs tend to set high standards for themselves, which is one of the reasons they’re so successful. But there’s a flip side: If you don’t accomplish your goals, you feel like a failure.
“Productivity comes from positive self-esteem,” Tice said. She emphasized the importance of forgiving “yourself for what you didn’t get done.” It’s common not to accomplish goals “in the timeframe [you] originally envisioned,” she said. “Look at all the movie release dates that get pushed back.”
(And as a bonus tip, Tice said: “Do what my dad taught me: Look in the mirror every morning and say, ‘Damn, I’m good!’”)
Productivity Pitfalls that Limit Success
These entrepreneurs also deal with a variety of obstacles. Here are several pitfalls along with their pointers for overcoming them.
Having a lot of work.
For Bregman, like so many others, the sheer amount of work is a big challenge. “My best tactic for overcoming it is cordoning off time for each task. I designate two hours to do nothing but write—and I know that I don’t need to do anything else in that time.” He does the same for email and phone calls. “As long as I’ve designated time to do each piece of work, then I don’t worry about getting it done—I know I’ll get it done in the designated time—and that frees me to focus on the one thing that’s most important in the present.”
Tice’s biggest obstacle, she said, is her “tendency… to skate at the dangerous edge of being overbooked.” Because she enjoys cultivating her skills, Tice often picks projects “a little outside my comfort zone.” This creates a time crunch and can lead to missing deadlines.
To prevent this, Tice tries to get a good sense of which deadlines are flexible and usually avoids “scary drop-dead deadlines.” If she does accept bigger projects, she breaks down her “goals into one-month chunks to make them less overwhelming and more doable.” She also mentors writers and helps them consider: “What little piece of it could you do today? This week? Focus just on that. Keep repeating this, and soon you’re at the top of the mountain.”
Procrastinating on dull tasks.
Everyone can relate to procrastinating on certain tasks, but the more we push back something, the more worried (and paralyzed) we get. Many times, a task doesn’t take long at all, but our worry only magnifies it. As Taliaferro said, “It really only took 30 minutes to do [a task she dreaded] but it felt much longer since I spent time worrying about it!”
So she takes a different approach: “Now, I accept the fact that I don’t love this particular task, and set a timer for 30 minutes whenever I have to do it. It’s a reminder to power through and get it done.”
Reducing how much you worry about and procrastinate over a task also “free[s] up a lot of time and energy,” she added.
Dealing with distractions.
Many entrepreneurs work from home, which creates a host of distractions: dirty dishes, dust-filled surfaces, laundry. What helps Melhoff is to “shut the door to my office to signify my work zone and avoid working in the common areas like the living room, dining room, or kitchen.”
If Melhoff still feels distracted, she takes a break: “[I] step outside to get some fresh air, take my dog out, anything that gets me away from the computer and out of the house. When I come back to my desk, I feel more alert and ready to tackle the world.”