Running a small business means being a professional juggler. Only you’re not juggling balls you’re juggling bowling pins, and they’re conveniently on fire. I’m here to share 5 productivity tips for entrepreneurs because when you’re a small business owner, you’re not just creating a product. You’re also a salesperson and a finance person. You’re the admin. You’re even a web developer/IT person. Layer that on top of additional obligations that you have at home. Perhaps you’re a parent or have another full-time job to make ends meet.
Whatever it is, there are what feels like a never-ending number of hurdles and roadblocks to prevent you from getting through your day and achieving your goals. But for me, productivity is less about managing time, and more about managing energy and anxiety.
5 Productivity Tricks for Entrepreneurs
I’m Angie and I’m a member of Team Lucky Break. I also run my own product-based business called bobo design studio where I create a line of lifestyle products for travelers and wanderlust seekers. In addition to my product-based business, I also have a service-based business where I create hand lettering and illustrations for brands and for licensing. Oh, and I also live and struggle with ADHD. Needless to say, I have a lot of experience in working against the odds to get things done.
When I speak of ADHD, I’m not speaking of it as a descriptor for how I get distracted. I am an actual, clinically diagnosed, working with medical professionals ADHD sufferer. Lela and I often joke that ADHD is an epidemic among entrepreneurs, and I’m not betraying her trust by sharing that she struggles with the ADHD beast, too. Attention disorders can be challenging no matter what career path you choose.
In terms of productivity, I’m far from having it all dialed in and figured out. My biggest struggle with regards to the ADHD is sticking to any one system long-term. The way my brain builds habits is different than most. Consider my list of 5 productivity tricks, tools, and hacks a suggestion of where to start. Iterate on a system that’s going to be beneficial for you, even if that means frequently evolving to stay motivated and engaged in your productivity habits.
I have two favorite tools that keep me on task and help me stay organized: Timeular with the Zei tool. This is a time management tool that tells me how long it takes me to do a task. You can pre-assign specific functions to an eight-sided toggle tool, and when you start a new task, you rotate the die, so the corresponding task is face up, and the timer automatically keeps track.
Photo from Timeular
How does knowing how long it takes me to finish a task help me with productivity exactly? Going back to managing anxiety and energy, I often expel more energy thinking about the task at hand than the actual task itself requires. By timing myself, I can see which tasks are in reality, not that difficult to work through. This way when that project or tasks comes back up again for me, I know how to forecast the time, and I also know that it’s not going to be as daunting as I anticipate.
CHANGE OF SCENERY
Try trading your distractions at home (dog, kids, laundry, TV, etc) for new distractions like a coffee shop or a library. When you get there, give yourself a hard stop. Knowing that you can only hunker down for two or until 3pm when you must pick up the kids-this gives you a sense of urgency and a firm end time. These “hard stops” is challenging to impose on yourself at home. The boundaries are blurred, and it can make a day of work feel never-ending and unproductive.
Don’t lose momentum and creative energy transitioning from one task to another. If you’re tackling a task and someone interrupts you and requires your attention, it can be hard to efficiently transition back to the original task at hand… mentally, emotionally, and creatively. Having a few interruptions can derail an entire day. Layer on your own self-sabotage and you can have a serious problem.
To combat this, I practice project-blocking. This means that if I have to complete some lettering or illustration work, I bundle those projects together and execute them at the same time. I make it a point not to check email during that time. Once I lose my creative focus, it’s hard to get it back. Try establishing one blocked off time frame per day where you focus on tackling a single project and make it interruption-free.
BREAKING UP TASKS
I know this seems like a very obvious thing to do. You’ve probably heard this tactic a million times, but there’s no denying that it works. Break a larger task into smaller tasks so it seems more manageable.
This isn’t about making a goal more achievable, although that is a benefit. I do this mainly to combat anxiety. As I mentioned before, I find that I often spend and waste more energy mentally preparing myself to do a task then it takes for me to actually do it. By breaking my to-do list into smaller chunks, I realize that it’s going to take a lot less effort to cross off three or four items than if I were to sit there and conceptualize finishing the larger task at hand. Cue the Best Self Co line of notepads!
Best Self Co.: They create notepads that “combat the sinking feeling of finishing a day and feeling unclear about accomplishments and you’re really moving the needle forward on anything.” I love their Project Action Pad: and the Weekly Action Pad. This notepad is designed to help you project manage and break your tasks out by priority. While I like to use digital tools like Trello, physically writing down my tasks is much better for my retention, especially with my ADHD.
Photo from Best Self Co
One of the most significant difficulties with my ADHD is my inability to separate all the sounds I am hearing. That means if I’m listening to Islands in the Stream by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers (fantastic song, I know) while trying to write an email, whoever is on the receiving end of that email is getting sentences with lyrics from Islands in the Stream mixed in. It’s impossible for me to have those two trains of thought working independently. But apparently, I am not alone.
Spotify White Noise Playlists
Studies show that with immersive tasks, lyrics are especially destructive to our focus. So turn off the TV, talk radio, Dolly Parton, and opt for something that actually encourages focus. Classical music and white noise are a great option. I’ve also heard in other ADHD forums that gaming soundtracks are incredibly helpful for focus. Video game music is specifically designed to keep you motivated while finishing tasks without stealing your concentration. It can create artificial senses of urgency as well by having climactic and sped up musical compositions.
There’s no fix-all to make us magically more productive. Except for winning the lottery and hiring someone who will delegate all the things. Until then, we have to wake up every day, put on our big girl panties and shuffle through our days doing the best we can with what we have.
What are some of your favorite productivity tricks, tools, and hacks? Are there any in my list that resonates with you? Share your feedback in the comments!