Last month, we spoke with five incredibly successful bloggers and entrepreneurs who shared their secrets to getting great things done. This month we’re featuring insight from three more thriving entrepreneurs. Here’s a summary of their secrets.
1. They single-task.
Multitasking can crush concentration and even creativity. That’s why blogger and author Caitlin Boyle prefers to single-task. “Now I realize that it’s a much better use of my time to focus on one thing at a time and finish it,” said Boyle, who blogs at HealthyTippingPoint.com and OperationBeautiful.com and wrote the book Operation Beautiful: Transforming the Way You See Yourself One Post-It Note at a Time. “For example, I don’t try to keep up with emails while writing — I just write, and then I go through emails.”
2. They focus on what they’re great at.
Many of us think that in order to be successful we have to do everything. We must be able to work through a project from start to finish on our own, along with tackling all the other responsibilities that pop up. But a smarter strategy is to identify your strengths, and delegate everything else.
“[I figure out] what I can give to someone else, so I can concentrate on the stuff that only I can do,” said Michael Bungay Stanier, author, coach and founder and senior partner of Box of Crayons, which helps organizations do Great Work.
3. They manage their energy levels.
You can have all the time in the world, but if your energy levels are low, you probably won’t get much accomplished. Stanier said that boosting his energy levels also boosts his productivity. He referred to Tony Schwartz’s work on performance and energy.
According to Schwartz on his website, “Time is finite, but energy — the capacity to do work — can be expanded and regularly renewed. The better we meet our energy needs, the more value we’re capable of creating.” In his most recent book, Schwartz lists various ways readers can lift their energy levels.
4. They accomplish one important task each day.
No matter how erratic his days, Stanier spends several minutes “at the start of each day figuring out what the most critical thing is I want to accomplish.” He makes sure to follow through on this one goal. Similarly, he encouraged readers to think about their one thing. He said:
I like the idea of picking a ‘Great Work Project’ — the one thing you’re really going to focus your time and energy on to make a difference and get excited by. What’s the thing you want to boast about when someone asks, “What are you up to?”
5. They know their time-wasters and avoid them.
“The web is a huge time suck for me,” said Linda Formichelli, a wellness coach, personal trainer and freelance health writer. She recognized the websites that regularly pilfered her productivity, and blocked them.
She also uses a program called Freedom, which turns off your Internet connection for as long as you need. This prevents you from mindlessly cruising online at the expense of your work.
6. They start early.
Formichelli prefers to get up at 6 a.m. because she’s super productive during the quiet hours of the morning. By 10:30, she’s already answered email, developed workouts for clients, written interview questions, enjoyed a run, showered, studied for her wellness coaching certification course and had breakfast with her family! Waking up early also means that she’s able to stop working at 5:30 and spend the rest of the evening with her husband and son.
7. They take care of themselves.
Being a harried entrepreneur isn’t just harmful to your health, it’s also unproductive. No one can work round the clock, especially when they’re continually stressed. Self-care is productive.
Formichelli makes time to exercise regularly, take baths and meditate — all vital activities that keep her “at an even keel.” This is especially “important since, as someone with an anxiety disorder, I’m easily stressed and overwhelmed,” she said. Boyle, who works from 9 a.m. to 7 or 8 p.m. usually “take[s] an hour and a half or so for lunch and a workout.”
Overcoming Productivity Pitfalls
Entrepreneurs have to contend with many challenges. Below are just a few of these obstacles along with insight on overcoming them.
Unruly e-mail. “My habit is to check all day long and to answer e-mails as they come in (and I get a LOT), which really scatters my attention and makes it hard to get anything done,” Formichelli said. Recently, she’s started answering email twice a day, which has actually cut down on her correspondence. “I answer e-mails when I get up until 8, and then later in the afternoon. I find that when I do that, I actually get less e-mail because I’m not creating a back-and-forth with people all day long,” she said.
She also noticed that many of her emails were just social media alerts. (You know the kind: This person is now following you or that person just retweeted your tweet.) As Formichelli said, “That’s where the boundaries come in. I don’t want to be rude to people, but I need to make my own agenda and my own family the priority.”
Shiny Object Syndrome. Whenever anyone starts a project, they get wholeheartedly excited. But completing it can become another story. “I like starting things, and I’m less good at finishing them,” Stanier said, who calls this the “Shiny Object Syndrome.” “So I do what I can to self-manage around that, including checking in with my business partner about what I’ve got on my plate.”
Overscheduling. Overscheduling is “a huge challenge and a big stress” for Formichelli. For instance, her goal is to complete 50 practice wellness coaching sessions by the end of October. Formichelli’s fix? To do the best she can with her sessions, and use this as a lesson in creating a better schedule in the future.
Time management. Boyle finds it especially tough to manage her time effectively. “Either I spend too much time on a task or get easily distracted by Facebook and Twitter.” So she uses Online Stopwatch “to set time goals for myself. When the buzzer goes off, I move to something else.”
Knowing how others are able to stay so productive can be eye-opening and instructive. And experimenting with a variety of strategies helps. Just remember that the real key to productivity and success is what works for you.