Being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone, as founding a company is a lot more than just having a good idea and trying to make it successful. It takes guts, discipline, persistence and, you could say, the nerves of steel.
And it’s still not that simple.
Managing time, projects and teams are a real challenge for everyone, and at the end, you are responsible for everything that happens. So, it’s necessary that you find appropriate methods which will help you keep focus and be more productive with everything that needs to be done.
Look no further, we bring you the 3 essential personal productivity methods that as a founder, you need to know!
1. Getting Things Done (Finally)
When you are in work mode(and when you are a founder, it’s a full-time mode), no matter how focused you are, your brain throws at you random ideas for something at the time you are working on something else. And it’s easy to lose focus that way because you start thinking about that ideas, and you start writing them down, so you don’t forget them. If you manage not to lose focus and snap out of thinking about it, those ideas are not going to be written anywhere, and you are going to think of them again whenever you don’t need to. To avoid that, you need a time management method that will help you be more productive.
In 2001, productivity consultant (turned productivity guru) David Allen described a great time management method, Getting Things Done, in a book of the same title. The method lies in the idea of removing things, thoughts and ideas, from your mind to some external source, and sorting them in actionable work items. That way you can focus on doing tasks, instead of being scatterbrained.
GTD in short method consists of 5 steps:
Identify things that aren’t in the right place; think and write down everything that comes to your mind(professional, private, important, unimportant- everything).
With everything written down, think about what things on your lists are actionable and add them the next action required to complete the task.
If the action takes you less than 5 minutes to do it- do it now, if not, put it on a task list or try to delegate it if possible.
Organize your remaining action reminders into categories like “run an errand”, “send email”, “make a call”…
Review your tasks and ideas regularly to keep your mind free from unnecessary thoughts.
The only thing left to do is action. Once you sort everything, do it! For even more on the GTD methodology, read Lifehacker’s Primer to GTD!
2. Time Blocking – So You Don’t Waste Time
So, you have everything that needs to be done written down, but you still don’t manage your time very well?
Another great method that can help you focus better and be more productive is called time blocking. It’s a time management method introduced by Cal Newport which helps you make a working schedule by organizing tasks into time blocks. I know, organizing tasks into time blocks may seem counter-intuitive with your creative process, but it boosts your productivity since you have a clear focus on the current task! Cal estimates that with this method you can do 50% more work than without it, stating that “a 40-hour time-blocked produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure”.
Besides, we are all familiar with Parkinson’s law, which says that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” so it’s important to have a deadline for tasks in you work schedule.
So, how do you do it?
First, you need to identify your top priority tasks and think about how much time each task takes to be done. Be careful with assigning time with tasks- we usually think we need less time to do something than we need, and you don’t want to feel like your idea is worth nothing just because you didn’t do it in the scheduled time.
The next thing you need to do is name the time blocks and fill the work schedule with them. If you have an 8-hour workday, manage blocks like you have 7 hours- make time for lunch and other “between tasks” activity. Make sure to put in the time-block planning also(take 20 minutes a day to plan the following day), and your off time as well.
When you assign time blocks in your schedule, make notes for every block and adjust them appropriately. The most important thing in this method is that you work on tasks only in the preordained time.
The last 10 minutes of every task should be used to make notes about the next steps you need to take to complete this task. That way, the next time you start working on that task, you don’t lose time for “getting into the zone with it” and remembering what you need to do next.
And for the things you think you cannot plan, such as reactive work(answering emails and phones calls) – the solution is the same. Instead of being interrupted constantly, plan time for answering emails, helping colleagues, answering to phone calls, etc. You can put it in a block of 30 minutes in between the blocks for deep work.
3. Inbox Zero – Master Your Email
Speaking of reactive work, it’s easy to get side-tracked by our email inbox. It’s not rare that a list of emails turns into the list of tasks, for which you feel the urgency to do right away. Are you tired of it? Say hello to Inbox Zero, email management method developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann. The zero doesn’t represent some emails you have in your inbox; it’s described as “the amount of time an employee’s brain is in his inbox”.
Mann identifies five possible actions to take for each message: delete, delegate, respond, defer and do. To successfully manage your inbox, the most important this is that you never leave your inbox client open. Instead, process emails periodically, at the time you previously assigned for managing emails.
Then, delete or archive anything you can, that way you will have a better view of what needs to be done. Forward any emails that can be forwarded, and respond to everything that takes less than 2 minutes. After that, organize emails by the time needed for completion, those that take more than 2 minutes and messages that can be answered late, into “require response” folder. And then, set aside time in the day for those emails. That way you can focus on your work more easily, knowing you scheduled the time to manage email.
With these methods, you are sure to succeed in being a more productive founder. All you need is a strong will and some practice! What other methods do you use to be more productive? Pomodoro maybe?