As an entrepreneur, one of the few things you have is a lot of time. Your To-Do list could easily be converted to a small ebook. Therefore, it’s really important to use your time effectively.
Here are six uncommon productivity tips that have really helped me over the last four years as I’ve grown my business, SendOwl, from a kitchen table startup to a leading digital delivery platform.
Exercise and eat well.
I’ve experimented a lot with different types of exercise and nutrition and found high intensity exercise (e.g., Crossfit and lifting weights) alongside a primal diet work best for me. If you’re currently doing nothing you can gain 80% of the benefit by just getting out and exercising 3 times per week while avoiding sugar in your diet (careful though, it’s in nearly everything!).
Set false time constraints.
Parkinson’s law suggests that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Bearing this in mind, it’s best to set aggressive time constraints for tasks and ship at that point regardless. This approach brings you two great benefits: a) Shorter timelines keep you focused and heighten energy levels; and b) it encourages you to get things out the door rather than wait for elusive perfection.
Have you ever had a meeting at 3pm and subsequently achieved nothing all day? Meetings involve changing locations and, critically, breaking the flow of your work. Your best option is to batch meetings into one morning or afternoon per week. That way, you zip through them all and have 4.5 days of uninterrupted productivity for the rest of the week.
If you can’t do this, then schedule meetings at the start or end of the day, leaving the majority of the day clear for work. The same principle can be applied to anything you have to do weekly that is considered a time suck, such as accounting, checking email, and so on.
Outsource non-core skills.
You might think it’s quicker to do things yourself than coordinating a bunch of freelancers, but resist this temptation. Trying to do anything you’re not very skilled at is a lot more time consuming than concentrating on your core skill set. It restricts the amount of time that you can spend on your core competencies, which is most likely the highest paid (if you are a freelancer) or likely to bring in most money (if you own your own business).
Build up a core group of skilled freelancers whose skills you need occasionally, but not frequently enough to hire full-time. Choose carefully and remember you get what you pay for. A few extra dollars per hour is worth more than spending an extra hour sorting out bad work. Make sure to give freelancers enough information about your company so they can do their job correctly.
For instance, when I brought in a social media expert, we already had a style guide, brand cues and customer personas to help her get up to speed about who we were and our brand voice.
Realize more isn’t always better.
When it comes to content marketing and social media marketing it is easy to get stuck in the trap of thinking you have to write at least five tweets a day, two company blog posts a week, as many ‘how to guides’ as possible, and goodness knows what else. But more content isn’t always better content.
Only create content that educates, informs and entertains your customers. Any other type of content will just distract from the good stuff and give a poor representation of your brand. If you don’t know what type of content works for your customers—find out. Look at your company website and social media analytics. Dive into your customer support queue and ask customers directly. Test ideas on social media to see how your community responds. Don’t be afraid to produce content targeted at certain segments of customers.
Working remotely has lots of advantages. You’re not interrupted, you can set up the physical environment how you want (quiet, low background noise and so on) and you save time and gas on a long commute.
If you’re easily distracted at home then set up home office in a spare room so there’s a physical barrier between work and home. Using a different computer is also a good idea so work isn’t there whilst messing about on the Internet. I even know freelancers that go as far as to get dressed in a suit each morning to walk into their home office—whatever works for you, do it.
Online meetings can serve well for quick catch-ups too. You can then organize in-person meetings or day-long workathons when you’ve got a decent amount of business you need to discuss together.
This article has been edited and condensed.
George Palmer is the founder of SendOwl, a bootstrapped e-commerce platform that makes it easy to sell digital products online. After getting frustrated with the bureaucracy and politics of working for multinationals, George jumped ship and became a freelancer. He spent the next four years working as a software engineer with a wide range of clients. During this time he started several side-projects of which SendOwl was the most successful and is now his full-time focus. Connect with @sendowlhq on Twitter.
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