Think back to when you launched your business. You likely began with limitless energy to crush goals on your to-do list. Perhaps you feel exhausted by the time you get started on the meaningful work. It doesn't have to be that way.
Get back the drive and excitement in running your small business with increased productivity.
Demands for your time and attention can be overwhelming. We live in a culture of digital distraction. You don't have to look far to see these distractions in action.
Your family, customers, and prospects all require your attention—let alone the endless social media updates, breaking news, and annoying push notifications on your phone.
Much of life's success comes down to productivity and work performance. Productivity to entrepreneurs might have different meanings, but in general, it means to obtain the maximum output for the amount of effort or time you invest.
25 Productivity Tips that Won’t Stray You
- Structure Your Day in One-Hour Chunks
- Ruthlessly Prioritize Your Activities
- Delegate Work Before Your Start On Your Own
- Review Goals in Your Morning Routine
- Use Fear to Combat Complacency
- Choose To Be Happy
- Start Your Day With Zero Distractions
- Automate, Anticipate, Delegate
- Think about What Makes Customer Experience Faster
- Schedule Time to Go Dark
- Get Out Of Your Own Way
- Work Smarter Through Automation
- Trace Activities Back to Your Goals
- Take a Triage Approach
- Block Time for Deep Work
- Pick Your “One Thing” for the Week
- Always Know Your Most Important Task
- Allot a Specific Time Block for Each To-Do Item
- Own Your Morning, Know Yourself, Travel Efficiently
- Set Themes and Goals for the Month and Quarter
- Plan Your Day the Night Before
- Be Concise
- Stay Disciplined With Your Tasks
- Find a Rhythm
- Own Your Schedule
So how do you consistently stay grounded, motivated, and focused?
To find out, we asked 25 successful entrepreneurs to reveal their top productivity tips for our readers.
Check out their responses below.
Actionable tips from 1,000+ business leaders.
Productivity Tip #1. Structure Your Day in One-Hour Chunks
John Barrows | Principal at JBarrows Sales Training
I structure my day in one-hour chunks and stay focused for that hour on whatever the task I’m doing.
Next, I don’t send an email, make a call, do research, go to the bathroom, grab a coffee, send an email, write a proposal, etc.
Lastly, I try to focus on one thing at a time so I can gain momentum and be very efficient with that task.
Multi-tasking is a myth and makes you very inefficient with what you do. Focus (with breaks) is the key to getting s*** done.
Learn more from John Barrows: Goal Setting
Productivity Tip #2. Ruthlessly Prioritize Your Activities
Scott Britton | Founder & COO at Troops
For me, it's about ruthlessly prioritizing activities against my most important goals and then knocking them out early in the morning before distractions arise.
A think a huge part of this is related to building a habit of consistent self-inquiry to ask yourself whether the goals you set are the right ones and whether the activities you've selected are the highest leverage.
Reflecting, adjusting, and planning on a quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily basis has been profoundly impactful.
Learn more from Scott Britton: Building Habits that Strengthen Discipline and Results
Productivity Tip #3. Delegate Work Before Your Start On Your Own
Brandon Bruce | Co-Founder & COO at Cirrus Insight
Before starting on your own work, spend time assigning work to your team.
That way, they can be working in parallel with you rather than waiting for you to finish your work before starting their work.
Learn more from Brandon Bruce: Preparation and Endurance Enable Success
Productivity Tip #4. Review Goals in Your Morning Routine
James Carbary | Founder & CEO at SweetFish Media
For years, I've written down my annual goals, but only recently have I started reviewing those goals five days a week as a part of my morning routine.
Now, my goals are on my mind much more frequently, and I'm taking more consistent action towards reaching them.
I've also learned that just because I set a goal in January, doesn't mean I'm married to it. I need to be excited about the goals I'm pursuing.
Now that I feel the freedom to adjust my goals as the year progresses, I have a lot more energy to follow through and execute.
Learn more from James Carbary: Ready. Fire. Aim
Productivity Tip #5. Use Fear to Combat Complacency
Steve Cox | CEO at Steam Logistics
I would say my top productivity tip is a little unorthodox.
Always be fearful.
For example, I walk in the door every single day scared that we are going to lose every customer we have if we aren’t hustling. This mindset helps me grind every day, all day long. It produces a culture of hustling.
Even when we have grown 100% year over year, it doesn’t matter. Fear. Not a moment to sit back and take it easy.
Learn more from Steve Cox: Building Steam with International Freight Forwarding
Productivity Tip #6. Choose To Be Happy
Cam Doody | Founder, President & Chairman at Bellhops
When we were first launching Bellhops, our team practically lived together. Working long hours alongside each other made it important to prioritize having fun and taking time to share moments where fun, family, and humor were the focus, not work.
The happiness advantage is a real thing. We've never forgotten that - even as we scaled our team to hundreds of employees nationwide.
Consciously working family and camaraderie into the equation makes us that much more productive when it's time to dig in and get things done.
Learn more about Cam Doody: From Concept To Tens Of Millions
Productivity Tip #7. Start Your Day With Zero Distractions
Dmitry Dragilev | Co-Founder at JustReachOut
I believe in starting my day with as much momentum as possible. When I walk into my office every morning, I have three things already set up for me:
- My laptop up and running.
- A to-do list.
- My primary work tools—Google Calendar, Google Docs, and Photoshop—already open.
This approach lets me immediately dive into my work and relieves temptation from digital distractions like social media.
Learn more from Dmitry Dragilev: 4 Unconventional Outreach Tactics to Supercharge Your Pipeline
Productivity Tip #8. Automate, Anticipate, Delegate
Craig Eggleton | Founder at Sales Bullpen
Being productive and maximizing the hours in our workday is paramount. I personally always question "why" am I doing something and what is the value behind it.
- Automate: Ask yourself what you can automate in your daily routine. Setting up smart folders with rules in Outlook is critical for me and keeps me organized. This tactic allows me to focus and not have to search through countless emails.
- Anticipate: When I am working on projects and meeting deadlines I turn email and phone off to eliminate distractions.
- Delegate: As a business owner everything flows through me, but it does not mean I should be doing it all. I am a firm believer in outsourcing and delegating to those who can do it better and give me a good ROT (Return on Time).
Learn more from Craig Eggleton: The Three Types of Sales Motivation
Productivity Tip #9. Automate Processes that Enhance Customer Experience
Chad Eichelberger | CEO at Reliance Partners
As an insurance agency, we are constantly working to differentiate our business in every way possible.
It starts by creating a winning culture with a customer-centric focus.
From a productivity standpoint, we focus heavily on automating processes through technology that will enhance the overall customer experience.
Learn more from Chad Eichelberger: Award-Winning Reliance Sets Itself Apart
Productivity Tip #10. Schedule Time to Go Dark
Nigel Green | Founder at Evergreen
Here’s my productivity tip: Schedule time to go dark.
I do this on airplanes. I intentionally don’t get the WiFi if it’s time for me to work on big projects or to do the work that only I can do.
Going offline works for me because I fly regularly. If you don’t fly often, then go to the library (you won’t see anyone you know there), spend the night in a hotel (in the city you call home), or find a way to go dark.
If we don’t, I’ve found, we just do the trivial-urgent things. I’ll argue that does not even work, that’s just being busy.
Learn more from Nigel Green: It's Your Job to Read
Productivity Tip #11. Get Out Of Your Own Way
Genesis the Greykid | Poet & Artist at Genesis the Greykid
Productivity for me becomes less about steps and more about the space in between the steps.
Getting out of my own way first, placing the nonsense aside, only then can I find the utopias of presence I seek.
Only then, does anything I consider "productive" truly matter to me.
Learn more from Genesis the Greykid: One of the Few Emerging Fine Art Poets in the World
Productivity Tip #12. Work Smarter Through Automation
Tim Handorf | CoFounder & President at G2 Crowd
Work smarter, not harder: Positive work ethic and a heads down approach is a valuable asset to have. But to scale, teams need to learn to work smarter.
Many small work/life adjustments can be made to become a smarter employee, such as learning how to prioritize your work and blocking off time each day for specific routine projects.
However, my favorite productivity hack to work smarter is to embrace automation.
Once a strategy is proven to be effective, learn how to use software tools to automate repetitive tasks in a weekly or daily method, giving yourself more time to find new channels to be successful.
Learn more from Tim Handorf: G2Crowd President Tim Handorf Appears on 'Bootstrapping in America'
Productivity Tip #13. Trace Activities Back to Your Goals
Jared Houghton | Founder & Chief Sales Officer at Ambition
The best way I stay productive is by reflecting on the overarching goals I'm trying to reach.
- What's the revenue goal Ambition is trying to hit?
- Why are we trying to hit it?
- How do customers see value from our platform?
I constantly try to tie my actions back to the big picture, no matter how small the action is, which gives me the will and the focus to stay happy and productive as I move throughout my day.
Learn more from Jared Houghton: The Silver Bullet Most Salespeople Don't Know About
Productivity Tip #14. Take a Triage Approach
Jason Hubbard | CEO at YourGrowthExpert
The name of the game is triage.
In the startup world, your most precious resource is your time. You're never going to get it all done. So prioritize the things you can accomplish that will have the quickest and most significant impact and work your way backward from there.
The remarkable thing is that those items that don't make it to the top of your list of priorities tend to resolve themselves anyway.
Learn more from Jason Hubbard: YourGrowthExpert Helps Startups Expand Reach
Productivity Tip #15. Block Time for Deep Work
Blake Johnston | CEO at Outbound View
I've found a couple of key things I've implemented recently have made a massive difference in my productivity.
First, zero notifications. No email notifications on my computer. No text notifications on my phone.
I found that I was jumping around too much based on the hundreds of notifications I was getting each day.
Second, I've been putting large blocks on my calendar (2-3 hours) for uninterrupted deep work. Deep work a time where I can think about the most important things for the week/month/quarter and be as proactive as possible.
Learn more from Blake Johnston: Create a Culture of Experimentation in Inside Sales
Productivity Tip #16. Pick Your "One Thing" for the Week
Jake Jorgovan | CEO at LeadCookie
Pick "One Thing" for the week.
There is a phenomenal book called The One Thing by Gary Keller. In the book, he proposes the question, "What is the one thing you can do this week, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?"
Use this question as you plan every week, and pick that one thing. Then crush it.
When you do that week after week, you knock down large obstacles that move you closer to your targets instead of getting lost in the weeds.
What drains your energy? Get it off your plate. Spend two weeks documenting every single task that you do in your day to day work. Keep a log of this and build a massive list.
Once you have your list, sort this into three categories:
- I love it, and it gives me energy.
- I'm good at it, but I don't love it.
- It drains life and energy from me.
Start at the bottom and figure out how you can delegate and get those energy draining tasks off your plate. Tackling these tasks will free you up to focus on your areas of unique ability and ultimately produce far more value in the business.
Learn more from Jake Jorgovan: Building a $400K Business in 1 Year
Productivity Tip #17. Always Know Your Most Important Task
Kevin Kruse | Founder & CEO at LeadX.org
Always know your Most Important Task, which is the one thing you can do today to make progress on the game-changing task you have for your business.
At the beginning of every day, work on this task for the first 30-60 minutes of your day.
Shut the door. Turn off your phone. Eliminate time-consuming distractions. Consistent daily progress is the key.
Learn more from Kevin Kruse: 2019 New Year's Resolutions
Productivity Tip #18. Allot a Specific Time Block for Each To-Do Item
David Martin | Co-Founder at Heed Public Relations
I'd long heard about the value of time-blocking but never instituted the practice into my workday until we launched HeedPR.
Parkinson's Law, which says "work expands...to fill the time available for its completion" is so true.
I used to start every day with a lengthy to-do list, but since there was no time restraint around any project, finishing all the items on my list would often drag on deep into the evening hours.
Now that I dedicated blocks of time to each to-do item, I'm able to get more work done daily with valuable time to spare.
Learn more from David Martin: An Interview with David Martin and Natalie Martin
Productivity Tip #19. Own Your Morning, Know Yourself, Travel Efficiently
Tami McQueen | Co-Founder at 31South
Here are three of my best productivity tips:
Try not to schedule meetings before 10 AM
I’ve found the mornings are the sweet spot to maximize my productivity. Here's why it works for me; I hit the gym at 6 AM, and while warming up, I scroll through my emails.
This way, subconsciously I can prepare for the day.
Recognize strengths and weaknesses
Become self-aware of your professional strengths and weaknesses. For more challenging areas, I tap into our virtual team or extended network.
Delegating tasks that would otherwise distract me from what I'm most productive at has been incredibly impactful in the long term.
Travel light to achieve maximum efficiency
Travel productivity is mostly underrated and I'm always looking for ways to expedite the process.
A few rules I live by include traveling only with carry-on luggage, using TSA Pre-Check, and purchasing an in-flight Wi-Fi.
I'm most productive in-flight since I can eliminate distractions such as phone calls or streaming video.
Bonus! Be kind to baristas that you see frequently. It's likely they will start your beverage when they see you join the line so you can pop in and out much faster than usual.
Learn more from Tami McQueen: Stack and Flow Interview with Tami McQueen
Productivity Tip #20. Set Themes and Goals for the Month and Quarter
Heather Morgan | CEO at SalesFolk
To be truly productive, you need to do less rather than try to cross everything off of your list of tasks. I begin my day by writing down precisely what I should focus on for the day.
This single item could be a specific task or a larger objective. I also set themes and goals for the week, month, and quarter.
As a management tool, following each week and month, I reflect on my progress. I celebrate my wins and also examine where and why I fell short, and what I could have done differently.
From there, I decide how to improve my energy and efforts moving forward.
Learn more from Heather Morgan: How to Reverse Engineer Sales and Customer Success
Productivity Tip #21. Plan Your Day the Night Before
Manoj Ramnani | CEO at SalesIntel.io
As CEO, my days can get kind of hectic. I prefer to take early mornings to calmly focus my day, prepare myself, and plan my day.
This empowers me to devote the most time to the mission-critical objectives that matter the most to me and my company.
To assist, I spend the night before planning out my day for maximum effectiveness.
In doing so, I give myself a template and structure for each day that lets me dictate how the day will go.
Learn more from Manoj Ramnani: Why Good Contact Data is a Must in Marketing Departments
Productivity Tip #22. Be Concise
Andrew Scarbrough | Co-Founder & COO at PriceWaiter
I'm going to keep it to three words: write short emails.
Being brief, concise, and crystal clear in communication is one of my best productivity hacks.
Brevity prevents overthinking and messages getting lost in translation, which is a preventable productivity loss for you and your team.
Learn more from Andrew Scarbrough: PriceWaiter Wants to Change How You Shop Online
Productivity Tip #23. Stay Disciplined With Your Tasks
Thomas Truett | Founder at MakeMeModern
I would argue that discipline is a crucial aspect of productivity.
You can use the fanciest to-do list and reminder app, but if you aren't addressing tasks promptly, then your productivity is suboptimal.
Automation is another impactful driver of productivity for Make Me Modern.
I enjoy using automation to enhance my productivity in my business. Internal productivity tools like Asana is great to manage and delegate tasks.
To manage contractors and remote staff, I use an internal time-tracking tool.
Overall, these solutions eliminate a ton of additional work for me and keep me focused on working on the business versus inside of it.
Learn more from Thomas Truett: Make Me Modern
Productivity Tip #24. Find a Rhythm
Adam Vazquez | CEO at StraFire Media
Productivity comes down to prioritization and rhythm for me.
I’ve found that I am most productive in running our business and serving our clients when I isolate no more than three major tasks due on any given day.
I keep an ongoing list for opportunities that may pop up outside of the three, but those are my top priority. Aside from that, I block out 2-3 hours at a time on my calendar to accommodate larger tasks.
Managing my calendar this way allows me to increase business productivity and get into a rhythm for the deep work I’ve prioritized.
Learn more from Adam Vazquez: Mental Health and Hustle
Productivity Tip #25. Own Your Schedule
Jordan Wan | Co-Founder & CEO at CloserIQ
My three tips to increase productivity for small business owners are:
Schedule meetings in a row
Meetings are crucial, but they can also waste time. Have you ever had multiple meetings with less than an hour in between them? For most of us, that “in-between time” usually gets wasted.
One of the best things you can do to get this time back is to schedule your meetings back-to-back.
Streamline time spent on email
One of the most common problems we face is the temptation to check email all day, even while we’re in the middle of another task. An easy fix is to manage your email in chunks.
Block off time every few hours to read and respond to emails. You’ll be able to focus on more valuable tasks and spend less time in your inbox.
Schedule distraction time
Long days at the office can be tough, and if you don’t give yourself time to unwind, you can experience burnout.
Add distraction time to your schedule explicitly reserved for this purpose. It can be anything from checking your phone, social media, going for a walk, etc. Every few hours, you should have at least a few minutes to take a break.
By scheduling these distractions, you can keep them out of your work time and your stress levels in check.
Learn more from Jordan Wan: The Value of a Diverse Team
For more inspiration, listen to this podcast with Helene Godin, the founder of By The Way Bakery, on her pivot to becoming a successful bakery owner.
Jeremy Boudinet is the Marketing Manager at Nextiva, Co-President at AA-ISP Phoenix, and a published writer for Time, Entrepreneur, Inc, The Daily Muse, and PopSugar. He has been giving the people what they want since 1986. Contact him on LinkedIn or Twitter to start a conversation about business, sports, music, or anything else under the sun.