8. They tackle their most inspiring tasks first.
“I give myself permission to tackle my to-do list in the order that most inspires me,” Bowman said. Because she doesn’t accomplish her entire list anyway, she said, working on the projects that inspire her minimizes procrastination.
9. They build in boundaries.
Unless it’s work-related, Bowman, who has caller ID, doesn’t answer calls during her work hours. “Seriously — I let my mother’s calls go to voicemail.”
She does the same thing with email. She answers pressing emails but usually leaves about 30 emails unread each day. This means that Bowman wastes very little time during her workday.
Constable stopped checking email altogether on nights and weekends, because it proved so draining. “Now that I’ve set my email boundaries, I look forward to going to work in the morning and I can’t wait to see what’s new.”
10. They limit social media.
Social media can become a black hole for productivity. If you let it, a few minutes can turn into hours on sites like Twitter and Facebook. But when it’s your job to field questions and your passion to connect with readers, it’s tough to stop.
The key seems to be using social media mindfully and logging off when you’re working on something else. Bowman, for instance, doesn’t stay on social media sites for hours. She checks in and then shuts them down.
Thwing forces herself to “complete a task (or three) before checking those websites because switching back and forth can be a huge time-waster.”
11. They plan around busy times.
Inevitably, there are times when you’re scrambling to finish work — or have little on your plate. When Bowman needs to work evenings and weekends, she makes sure that her “husband knows that these periods are coming up so he can step up with parenting.” To make the most of her time during more relaxed days, she does fun things with her family.
12. They know their limits.
According to Gentile, “I’m very aware of where I’m at in my productivity cycle and I let it guide planning decisions, trying not to agree to responsibilities that fall into a rest period.”
As she put it, she works in “6-week bursts of craziness.” After a burst, she takes a break, whether that’s a few days off or a few weeks. (She does take off weekends and stops working Friday afternoons.)
Overcoming Common Obstacles
Like everyone else, these entrepreneurs also face challenges. Below, they spill their snags and stumbling blocks and how they overcome them.
Wanting to say yes to everything.
Gentile calls this the “shiny object syndrome.” She can get easily distracted with all the amazing opportunities coming her way. Her solution? She checks her calendar and “Instead of just saying ‘no,’ I can often say, ‘How about 6 weeks from now?’” Still, she does decline some projects in order to stay on track.
Bowman also wants “to accomplish more than what is humanly possible.” As a bestselling ghostwriter and co-author, she’s constantly getting offers. However, she’s learned to accept projects that are only a good fit both for her and the author. Plus, the perk of being inspired is being especially productive. For instance, she just wrote a 75,000-word book (Be Fearless, due in the spring) in about two and a half months. “I was able to do it because I loved the author and the subject matter, so it just flowed out of me.”
Working from home.
While working from home can be a luxury, the distractions also are dizzying. For instance, when Bowman’s family is around, she finds it especially hard to write. If she’s on deadline, “it can truly be a recipe for family discord.” Snapping at her daughter only makes Bowman feel guilty, which takes more time away from work.
Of course, there are tons of other distractions like a dirty house or piles of laundry. When Constable feels unfocused at home, she heads to a coffee shop or bistro.
Waiting on others.
Even though entrepreneurs work solo, there are many times you’ll have to depend on others to accomplish projects. And this can try your patience and become a time-waster.
Constable is currently working with local manufacturers to launch her products this fall, a process that involves many variables. She’s learned to become more patient and use delays to her advantage: “I can take that time to connect more with customers and bloggers via Twitter, blogging or focusing my energy on MML.”
To make the most of her time, Gentile keeps a list of tasks that need to be done but “that take very little time or energy. Those tasks get completed in those moments between bursts of productivity when I’m about to say, ‘Now what?’”
Running out of time.
How often have you said that there just isn’t enough time in the day? “I often wish that there were more hours in the day, that I could read and process blogs quicker, that my posts would mate and procreate on their own,” McGraw said. She overcomes this obstacle by “working ahead as much as possible.”
Ultimately, productivity is a personal thing. Take the tips that work best for you, and leave the rest.