Recently, I did an informal survey of 250 women entrepreneurs asking them this question: “What’s the number one thing you do to boost your productivity?”
Listed in David Letterman’s reverse “Top Ten” order, here are the top ten ways women entrepreneurs boost productivity:
10. Write out your to do list the night before.
Don’t wait until morning to make your list. Write your list the night before. Allow the process to percolate while you sleep. Then, when you wake up, it’s as if you’ve had an eight-hour head start on your day.
9. Prioritize your daily list using the “ABCD and E” method.
A = must do?B = should do?C = would be nice to do?D = delegate?E = eliminate
8. Wake up early and get off to a good start.
Wake up early to set the tone for your day. This allows you to get into the swing of things at an unhurried pace. Establish a morning routine that is of greatest benefit to you, not just to your family.
7. Delegate everything possible.
If it isn’t directly making you money, delegate it to someone else. Turn over data entry tasks, packing and shipping, and answering non-essential emails and calls to a competent administrative professional. Not sure if you should turn something over? Ask yourself, “Can this task be done by someone else, or does it need my direct attention?” As an entrepreneur, your job is to concentrate on what is of most value to you and your business success, not on errands.
6. Know your energy peaks and valleys.
You are in control of your business. You get to say when, you get to say how, and you get to say how long. As an entrepreneur, you aren’t locked into a 9 to 5 workday. You can start work at the crack of dawn, go to the gym in the afternoon, and outline a new product idea in the evening. Schedule work activities, family time, and personal quiet time around the natural ebb and flow of your energy peaks and valleys.
5. Find a way to love what you do.
If you love what you do then you are more apt to be productive because you are fully engaged. No matter what you’re doing at any given time, find a way to love doing it.
4. If in doubt, throw it out.
Make liberal use of your waste can and recycle bin. Regularly go through files and throw out or shred material that is outdated or no longer relevant. There is no need to save everything “just in case” you’ll need it later. Trust that if you throw something out today and you need it in the future, you’ll be able to get your hands on it again.
3. Break up projects into tasks.
If you have something on your to do list that’s been there for a long time, realize that it’s probably not a task. It’s a project. To do lists are for discreet tasks. When you put a project on your list, you’ll feel bogged down and productivity will slow. Many of the women entrepreneurs surveyed use business strategist Brian Tracy’s method for breaking up projects into easy-to-do tasks:
- First, list the finished result you want.
- Next, map out every single step of the project.
- Then, put the steps into order, moving the important steps to the front.
- Now, delegate tasks and assign responsibilities.
- Finally, track the progress of the project.
2. Give 80% of your attention to what is important and 20% to what is urgent.
As an entrepreneur, your job is to discern the difference between what’s important and what’s urgent. To figure out the difference between the two, ask yourself, “Will focusing on this move my business forward and make me money or will I just be putting out fires?”
Dealing with the urgent all day is draining. Dealing with the important is energizing. Make sure you’re giving 80% of your time and attention to what’s important each day.
1. Focus on one thing at a time.
The number one thing women entrepreneurs do to boost productivity is… focus on one thing at a time. Although women are known to be exceptional multi-taskers, those surveyed said they were able to get more done when they focused on one thing at a time. Starting and stopping in the middle of things was frustrating for them and meant that not much was completed at day’s end.
Tip: If focusing on one thing at a time is challenging for you, have a pen and paper nearby. That way, if something pops into your head, just write it down and get right back to the task at hand.
What is the number one thing you should do to boost your productivity? As you’ve just seen, among the 250 women entrepreneurs I surveyed their answers ranged from prioritizing their daily to do list to learning to break projects up into smaller tasks to delegating everything possible. Decide which of their favorite techniques will help you the most, and start implementing them right now. You’re sure to boost productivity for yourself and your business.
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About the Author: Dr. Susan L. Reid is a small business expert and business catalyst for spiritually conscious women starting up businesses. She is the author of “Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Journey to Business Success.” To download a free copy of the Turn Your Business Dreams Into Reality Toolkit, which includes a PDF chapter of her book, go to Your Samurai Business.