Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
As a new founder, what are some strategies for building a structure around my work day that helps me maximize productivity?
1. Seize the First Two Hours of Your Day
The first two hours of your day are the most critical for productivity according to scientists. It’s the ideal time to set and review your goals for the day, tackle the most challenging thing on your to-do, and take a personal moment to do what matters to you most, like meditating, working out, writing or reading. By seizing and maximizing those first few hours, you can transform your entire day.
2. Schedule Time for Boring Activities
Take breaks to do boring activities, activities that will allow you to spend some time in thought. To reboot your brain, you have to break old patterns of checking emails, Facebook or ESPN. Instead take time to go for a walk, enjoy a coffee, or other simple activities that give you an opportunity to keep your mind fresh and get clarity on what you are trying to achieve.
3. Use ‘Rapid Planning Method’
To maximize productivity, I spend an hour every Sunday working on my schedule for the upcoming week. The process — known as the Rapid Planning Method — is threefold: (1) List all the things I’d like to accomplish, (2) rate each task by level of importance, and (3) schedule the most important tasks. By planning your week ahead of time you will increase your overall productivity and happiness.
4. Eliminate Distractions
I sleep with my iPhone in another room so that it can’t disturb me while sleeping. This also keeps me from automatically checking it first thing in the morning. When I’m at work, I set my iPhone to “do not disturb” so that I can focus without interruption in the morning. Mornings are the time when I’m most focused, so I don’t want to be distracted by messages or other alerts.
5. Try the Kanban Method
There’s no point in pretending that distractions don’t exist, and it’s even less productive to take away the tools that make things easier, e.g., mobile phone. So I have an app on my phone which uses the Kanban method and helps me remember tasks that need completing, as well as see all the other tasks I’ve completed. I also like to read journals and blogs every morning to gauge my peers’ opinions.
6. Put Your Health First
We all know how much of a negative impact getting sick can have on our productivity. Putting your health first, by sleeping eight or more hours, working out daily, and not eating like a jerk is the most effective way to ensure a successful day. Take care of yourself before you take care of others.
7. Realize Some Hard Truths, Then Plan and Execute
You cannot do everything. You don’t have time to do everything. You don’t need to do everything. You need to be able to step away. If you can accept those truths, then you can plan and stick to your plan. Schedule time to respond to emails. Set a time for accounting. Set a time for critical tasks. Set a time for exercise/family/faith. Write it all down, budget your time; then execute and learn.
8. Use Time Tracking Tools
I swear by time tracking tools that record my time on everything I do. I can’t deny what they reveal, and it holds me more accountable to how I structure my day and where I need to make improvements. Time tracking has been the game changer in where I put every minute of my workday, helping me to do more in less time.
9. Schedule in Little Breaks
Our minds aren’t built to be on hyperdrive 24/7. When you’re a new founder with a million things to do, this is easy to forget, but eventually a lack of breaks will lead to mistakes and brain burnout. That’s why I make sure to schedule in tiny breaks during my day, whether it’s walking my dog or doing a quick digital detox. The few minutes invested in refreshing are well worth the productivity.
10. Guard Your Time
It’s easy to let the daily problem take up all of your time each day, but it means you won’t get the things done that will help you grow and build your business. Use a calendar to schedule your day and try to stick to it. This might mean building in some spare time to help others address the issues and challenges that arise each day, but don’t let your calendar be hijacked by it.
11. Depend on the Power of the List
It’s all about completing tasks. The task list is the greatest asset for every business. Each week, we determine the tasks that are most crucial for growth. We assign off those tasks to individuals capable of completing them that week. This builds a structure and requires planning workdays. By having a plan and specific tasks to complete, it maximizes productivity and propels the company forward.
12. Block Off Time and Identify Where You Add the Greatest Value
Set time aside for emails, prospecting, and the stuff that needs to get done to grow your business. As a founder, you need to have an open door and be there for the team, but not at the expense of getting the important tasks accomplished. As you scale the company, identify where you add the most value and focus on that, hiring well so you can remain productive as the company grows.
13. Always Be Looking Ahead
Plan your days ahead and even weeks if you can, filling in time for specific events. Don’t work on the fly because you will never get everything done. While things come up, this planning of certain things can help you visually move things around and see new ways to work, but you must have some general idea and structure in place of what’s to come first.