The world of an entrepreneur is both liberating and chaotic. On the one hand, you’re free as a bird and don’t have to answer to anybody. On the other, you need to be more productive than ever and make all the business decisions your company will inevitably face every single day.
So how does an entrepreneur improve his or her productivity in the middle of chaos?
Focus. That’s the key and the reason this list only contains 3 items.
1: Prioritize. Focus on the 20% of your tasks that lead to 80% of your results. This is known as the Pareto Principle or the ‘80/20 rule’. In other words, make sure you are working on the right things: be effective, not just efficient. One of my favorite quotes, from the man who has often been described as the founder of modern management, illustrates this point perfectly:
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” ~Peter F. Drucker
2: Monotask. Don’t try to multitask. It’s a myth, and it doesn’t actually work – psychologists have looked into this many times over the years. When you believe that you are multitasking, what you are actually doing is switching between tasks, quickly. Think of it this way: everybody has a finite amount of mental capacity at their disposal; the more often you switch between tasks, the greater the switching costs. Simple tricks like getting into the habit of muting your notifications or – perhaps more controversially – disabling your wifi for a couple of hours can make it easier to concentrate and increase your effectiveness.
3: Eat your frogs in the morning.
’Eat your frogs’ is management lingo for solving your hardest problems first.
American writer, Mark Twain famously popularized this point when he said: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
The point is that it forces you to use your brain’s best problem-solving capacity first, before you get tired and begin to suffer from decision fatigue. To put it another way, you want to do your best bench-press before running a marathon, not the other way around.
As nice as it would be, I can’t promise that if you follow these three principles your business will run smoothly and generate exorbitant profits, and you can kick back on a beach in the Caribbean with your preferred adult beverage of choice.
You already know it’s not that easy – but nothing worth having is. When you run a small company, there will be times when you must put out fires, and all your principles seem to go down the drain. Truthfully, this happens to me much more often than I’d like. But I hold myself to account, and I use that accountability to stop myself diverging from my principles too often.
Holding yourself to account needn’t be difficult. Print out these three principles and keep them somewhere you will see them often – perhaps on the wall above the dishwasher, so you can remind yourself of them when you’re unloading and reloading it at 10pm because you didn’t ask a junior staff member to do it before they left for the day.