We all want to be more productive, right?
Increasing productivity is a common goal, especially around the first of the year. We all have room to improve.
Productivity improvement is a significant issue for solopreneurs. We have a limited amount of time to focus on our businesses, so we need to make the most of it.
But how do you increase productivity and focus?
In this post, I share 27 of the best productivity hacks for entrepreneurs. Pick a few to try out. As you do, you’ll start to squeeze more out of your day.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using this link. For more information, see my full disclaimer here.
1. Create a plan.
Without a plan, you don’t know what you are supposed to be doing. And if you don’t know what you are supposed to do, how can you be productive? It’s a chicken and egg situation.
I’ve been working off 6-week plans for several months, and I really like the time frame. It’s super short, which allows me to be flexible and stay focused. I can get the right things done, and pivot as circumstances change.
2. Plan your day in advance
In addition to a bigger-picture plan like a 6-week or 90-day plan, you should also plan each day in advance.
A daily plan will help you stay on track with your priorities. And it will help you to ensure that you don’t miss anything important like a doctor’s appointment or your kid’s soccer practice.
You can create your daily plan the night before or first thing in the morning.
- Start by noting things that are time-specific (like that doctor’s appointment).
- Then identify tasks or projects that have a hard, upcoming deadline.
- Then identify the other tasks you want to complete today.
Now you know exactly what to do as the day progresses.
3. Just say no to busy work.
Busy work is insidious. It creeps into your day. You feel like you’re being productive, but you’re really not.
Busy work can also be a form of procrastination. You do the busy work to keep from doing the hard, scary project that you really need to be working on.
Working on Pinterest often falls into this category for me. I really need to do be doing other things, but I spend time making pins instead. Or tweaking my strategy. Or reading more “about Pinterest.”
One way that I combat that is to push the busy work off to an otherwise unproductive time. So, for example, I’ll make new pins at night while I watch TV. I take my laptop into the den and make a few pin graphics. Making pins is something I enjoy doing, but it’s not the highest and best use of my time.
4. Know what your most valuable tasks are.
Notice I didn’t say important. I said valuable. Your most valuable tasks are going to make you money. They are income generators.
You’ve probably heard of the 80/20 rule. It states that 80 percent of your income will come from 20 percent of your actions. The trick is to know what those 20 percent actions are.
Most business owners spend way too much time on tasks that aren’t truly valuable. Things like spending two hours fussing over your Facebook page cover until it’s just right. Is that going to make you money? No.
Income-producing activities are things like client work, creating products, generating leads, making offers.
If you want to know what are the most productive things to do, then make a list of the money-making activities in your business. This is where you should spend MOST of your time.
For everything else – like that Facebook cover – set a timer and say, “I’m going to spend 30 minutes on this, and when the time is up, that is good enough. It’s done.”
5. Use to-do lists
To-do lists can be monthly, weekly, daily, by project, etc. To-do lists will help you make sure that the right things get done at the right time.
Once you know what you should be working on, map out all the steps you need to take to complete each project. Asana is my favorite task management tool; I use it for all my to-do lists.
Then when you have the whole project laid out, you can easily figure out what needs to be done each day. If it’s a big project, break it down by week or in 2-week sprints.
Then, get in the habit of making out your list for the day the night before or first thing in the morning (or whenever your workday starts – if you’re a side-hustler, that might be evening). Put your money-making tasks first and get them done before anything else.
6. Use time blocking
People often ask me, “What’s your most used productivity hack?” That’s easy. Time blocking.
With time blocking, you’ll assign your tasks to specific blocks of time during the day. Then you focus on those tasks and those tasks only during their assigned time blocks.
Time blocking helps you avoid that busy work urgency that we talked about earlier. You can block off a period of time to deal with administrative tasks. That frees you up to ignore them the rest of the day (or week).
Time blocking also encourages you to make the most of every hour. When you know you only have a certain amount of time to work on a task, you’ll find that you want to get as much done as possible.
7. Stop multitasking
It’s so tempting to try to do multiple tasks at the same time. It seems like it would be more efficient, doesn’t it?
But studies have shown that multitasking is actually a productivity killer.
You are never really doing multiple things at once. When multitasking, you are constantly switching back and forth between two tasks. Each time you switch, your brain has to catch up, and you lose time.
And the more complex the task, the more time you lose.
Lost time equals lost productivity.
8. Batch similar tasks
Batching similar tasks is a corollary to “stop multitasking.”
It’s more efficient to work on similar tasks in a group because your brain is already in that mode.
For example, when I’m working on social media, I create all my graphics in one batch. Then I write all my captions in another batch.
If I try to switch back and forth between creating graphics and writing captions, I lose the flow.
Another way to batch is to block off specific days to deal with certain types of work. For example, I have one morning a week devoted to administrative tasks, like bookkeeping and updating WordPress.
9. Take regular breaks
You may think that taking breaks would reduce productivity. But studies have shown that taking regular breaks can actually boost productivity.
Breaks reduce stress.
When you’re intensely focused on a task, a break gives your brain a chance to rest.
And breaks help you maintain your energy levels so that you aren’t so exhausted at the end of the day.
I like to work in one-hour blocks, with 45 minutes of work and a 15-minute break. I set a timer so that I don’t forget.
10. Use an app to schedule meetings
Who hasn’t been through the endless back-and-forth emails trying to schedule a meeting?
It doesn’t have to be that way.
There are many apps that will help you schedule one-on-one meetings or group meetings.
For one-on-one meetings, I’ve used YouCanBookMe and Acuity. You can link your calendar app and choose the times that you are available for meetings. Then just send a link to the other party and let them schedule a time at their convenience.
Use a scheduling app like Doodle to schedule meetings with multiple attendees. You can quickly narrow down a time that most attendees are available.
No more back-and-forth emails.
11. Use the 2-minute rule
Unexpected tasks are going to pop up throughout the day. You’ll get an email or text. You’ll think of something you want to do. You’ll read something, and it will give you a great new idea.
Don’t spend a lot of time thinking about these new tasks. Instead, use the 2-minute rule.
- If it’s something you can do in two minutes or less, just do it.
- If it’s going to take longer than two minutes, then add it to your task management system.
12. Use templates for regular tasks
If you are going to do something more than once, use a template.
A template gives you a starting point, whether that is a layout or a written passage.
With a template, you never start from a blank screen, so you’ll save time. The prep work is already done for you.
You can create (or buy) templates for so many things. Social media graphics, Pinterest graphics, emails, slide presentations, spreadsheets, projects, etc.
13. Use canned responses
Canned responses are a type of template, but I think they are worth mentioning separately.
If you find yourself answering the same email questions over and over again, set up canned responses.
Canned responses let you quickly answer those frequently asked questions with a pre-determined answer.
This article will show you how to set them up in Gmail.
14. Prioritize important work with the Eisenhower matrix
Have you heard of the Eisenhower matrix? It was invented by President Eisenhower, and then Stephen Covey brought the concept into the mainstream in his wildly popular 7 Habits of Highly Productive People.
Divide your work into four categories:
1. Important and urgent (do this first)
2. Important, but not urgent (add this to your schedule)
3. Not important, but urgent (delegate or automate)
4. Not important, not urgent (get rid of it)
You want to get to the point where you are spending most of your time in the 2nd category. You’re doing important work ahead of time so that it never becomes urgent.
No more all-nighters. No more playing catch-up. No more burnout.
15. Use a password manager
How much brain space are you wasting trying to remember passwords?
Free that up by using a password manager. I use LastPass, which works across all my computers and mobile devices.
There are a lot of other options that you can choose from. Just pick one.
16. Try productive procrastination
Let’s face it. There are times when you just can’t be uber-productive. Maybe you’re bored, or burned out, or lack energy.
Have a couple of fallback activities ready to go.
If you’re sick of your current project, move on to something else that’s just as important but is a different type of work. It will feel fresh and new.
If you don’t have the mental energy to work on something important, then try a task that doesn’t take much mental effort. Clean out a digital file. Pay a few bills. Do something physical.
17. Turn off notifications
If you have notifications turned on for your phone or computer, turn them off.
Earlier, we talked about multitasking and the productivity cost of switching tasks. Notifications encourage you to try to multitask.
Every time you hear that ding, you think, “oh, I’ll just check that really quickly. What if it’s important? Like from a client? Or a question from a prospect?”
But you know what? Even if it is, they can wait a little bit.
18. Schedule email time
Email can be such a time suck, which is why people are always looking for email productivity hacks.
My favorite is instead of relying on email notifications, schedule one or two times during the day to reply to emails.
You could choose the beginning and end of the day. Or, if you want to eliminate the possibility of getting distracted in the morning, check email at mid-day and again at the end of the day.
To make this hack easier to implement, close out your email tab so that you aren’t tempted to check it when you’re working.
19. Schedule social media time
You can (and should) also schedule social media. Set up a time in your daily schedule to check in on your preferred platforms. I strongly encourage you to set a timer for this task so that you stay focused. It’s way too easy to fall down the social media rabbit hole. Get in and get out.
20. Ignore the news
Trying to keep up with the news can be just as distracting as social media. Turn off all news sources while you are working. The news will still be there at the end of the day.
21. Block distracting websites
Turning off notifications may not be enough to keep you from getting distracted.
If you find yourself constantly checking social media or email, you may find it helpful to block those sites altogether.
There are many browser extensions you can use to keep you out of distracting websites. I’m currently using Leach Block, but I’ve used StayFocusd in the past.
You can add the websites that you find distracting to the block list.
22. Track your time
When you track your time, you’ll start to figure out how much time you really have and how long things take to complete. This will make you a much more efficient planner.
You can use an app like Toggl if you want to track your time regularly. If you don’t want to track your time long-term, another option is to keep a manual time log for a couple of weeks.
There are also apps and Chrome extensions that will automatically track the time you spend on various computer tasks. This can be a good way to see how much time you really spend on email, social media, etc. I use RescueTime for this.
23. Ditch perfectionism
Perfectionism is a productivity killer. I say this as a recovering perfectionist.
Trying to make things perfect is a waste of time. It can’t be done.
Decide what is good enough and stop there.
One of my favorite sayings is:
Done is better than perfect.
I have to tell myself this all the time. Overcoming perfectionism is something you have to practice. Keep at it.
24. Learn keyboard shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts are real time-savers.
My favorites are Ctrl+C for copy and Ctrl+V for paste. I use them a million times a day. Every day.
Look up keyboard shortcuts for your favorite software programs and learn a few. Practice using them until it becomes second-nature.
Then learn a few more.
25. Use a timer
I use timers all day, every day. I like to work in blocks of 45 minutes work followed by a 15-minute break.
When I sit down at my computer, I set my timer for 45 minutes. Anytime I’m tempted to switch tasks or check email or Facebook, I remind myself that I can do that when my 45 minutes is up.
The timer keeps me on task, and I don’t have to constantly check my clock.
26. Keep a someday/maybe list
I learned about this idea years ago when I read David Allen’s classic Getting Things Done. It’s still one of the best productivity tips I know.
A someday/maybe list can keep you from getting distracted by the latest shiny object that captures your attention.
Instead of chasing down that new app you heard about or starting work on the great idea that just popped in your head, write it down on your someday/maybe list.
You won’t forget about it because you’ve captured the thought. And you can come back to it when you have time. And either run with it or delete it (if it isn’t so shiny anymore).
27. Leverage your natural rhythm
Some people will tell you to do your hardest or most important task first thing. Others will tell you to start the day with something easy.
I say know yourself and pay attention to what works for you.
I’m not a morning person. It takes a little while (and a lot of coffee) to get going in the morning. If I tried to do my most challenging task first, it would take me so much longer.
Maybe you’re at your best early in the morning. Or maybe you’re a night owl, and you get your best work done after the kids are in bed.
Take advantage of your natural rhythm. You’ll be more productive if you plan your day accordingly.
Know yourself and pay attention to what works for you.
Your next step: add these productivity hacks to your routine
So, how can you improve productivity? The bottom line is that you have to take action. Just reading about productivity hacks won’t help.
Being productive is a skill. You can learn it.
But improving productivity is also about changing habits and mindset. And you know what? You can learn those, too.
It all comes down to baby steps. But you have to take the steps.
Don’t try to tackle everything in this post at once. Pick one productivity tip that speaks to you. Try it out for a couple of weeks. Incorporate it into your routine.
Then add another one.
And another one.
As you build up your skillset, you’ll find yourself being more and more productive.