101 Efficiency Hacks for Busy Entrepreneurs

Yes, 101! Because the more suggestions you have, the greater the chance you’ll have to find something valuable for your own work life.

Sometimes, it just seems like we have far more tasks on our to-do lists than we can reasonably accomplish.

That’s why I’ve compiled this giant list of “efficiency hacks” busy entrepreneurs can use to improve their long-term productivity, in each of five main categories:

Routine hacks, to improve your daily processes.
Mental and emotional hacks, to improve your mental state and emotional health.
Communication hacks, to increase your communicative efficiency.
Team hacks, to ensure you have the best people working for and with you.
Analysis and improvement hacks, to help you better understand how you work.
Go ahead and dig in:

Routine hacks
1. Say no. Your bosses, clients, peers and employees are all going to be asking you for things, pretty much all the time. The more often you say yes, the more indispensable you’ll feel, but the bigger your task list will grow. Learn to feel confident in saying no every once in a while — I promise it won’t kill your reputation.

2. Take breaks more frequently. We’ve all felt “too busy to take a break” before, but the reality is breaks are good for your brain. They help you feel better rested, improve your focus and boost your mood, all at the same time. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, take a break from what you’re doing more frequently; and, weirdly enough, you’ll get more done.

3. Wake up iteratively earlier. We all wish we had more time in the morning, but setting an alarm three hours early seems like an insurmountable challenge. Instead, set it back a minute or two further each day to gradually adapt yourself to earlier mornings.

4. Set a schedule for the day, the night before. Mornings are busy, and by the time you’re in the middle of your day, you’re already in the thick of things. Take 10 minutes every night to set a loose agenda for how your day’s going to go. It may not be perfect, but it will keep you on task.

5. Establish a priority hierarchy. Learn to establish priorities for yourself (and hold yourself to them). For example, you could set “A,” “B” and “C” priorities, where A is urgent, B is important, and C is not immediately important. Focus on A tasks first, and don’t worry about C.

6. Set a timer for each task. Setting a timer for your tasks helps you in a number of ways. It gives you a sense of urgency, forcing you to work a little faster. It helps you keep track of time. And it rewards you with the promise of a mental break when the timer’s up.

7. Start with something challenging. Though this may not be the same for every person, most of us benefit from doing a challenging task first thing in the morning — something we don’t want to do. When you do do this, you feel accomplished, and everything else seems to be easier.

8. Turn off all communication for “focus time.” Communication is one of our biggest distractions as entrepreneurs, so when you really need to get something done, turn off everything—your phone, your email, and any of your chat programs — and dedicate some time to focus.

9. Play moderate-volume music. There are conflicting reports of whether music enhances or stifles productivity, but the empirical evidence suggests that moderate-volume music that you actually want to hear (genre doesn’t matter) can boost your productivity. Make it too soft and you won’t hear it — too loud, and it will be distracting.

10. Listen to audiobooks and podcasts. Let’s face it: We don’t always have time to read. But there’s almost always time to fit in a short section of an audiobook or podcast, especially during your commute. This can help you relax, clear your mind and also teach you something new you can use in your daily life.

11. Keep note-taking tools on you at all times. You never know when inspiration is going to strike, or when you’ll meet someone important, so keep note-taking tools on you at all times. Fortunately, having a smartphone makes this easier — you can just use an app like Evernote or one of the default tools on your device.

12. Set goals for yourself and publicly disclose them. Whether they’re big-picture goals, like getting a promotion in a few years, or just getting through Monday without having a panic attack, yours should be set and firm; and something you tell people about. Publicly disclosing your goals helps keep you accountable, and simply having goals in the first place can go a long way toward your accomplishing them.

13. Let someone else do the driving on your commute. Why are you driving to work when you could be taking public transportation, or an Uber or Lyft ride? Depending on your city, it might be a bit more crowded, a bit less reliable, or a bit slower, but you’ll have your hands free to do work, essentially ridding yourself of the dead space that’s usually associated with commuting.

14. Stop reading the news. Reading the news is important for entrepreneurs, but stop doing it as a way to distract yourself. It’s too easy to log into social media or visit your favorite news site for “just a few quick headlines.” We’re addicted to information as a society, and you need to start breaking the habit to free up more time for actual productivity.

15. Stop multitasking. Seriously. Multitasking “feels” like you’re getting more done in the same amount of time, but it’s wrecking your ability to complete tasks efficiently. In fact, it can be credited for an average productivity loss of 40 percent.

16. Do batches of short tasks at once. We all have those little tasks that pile up on our desks; these are usually administrative things like signing off on paperwork or catching up on an email. Try to “batch” these short tasks together so you accomplish them all at once and don’t have to worry about them nagging at you.

17. Start working from home. Some studies suggest that working from home can make you more productive. Provided you’re in an authoritative enough position to make the call, consider adopting this for your own work. You can always go back if it doesn’t work out.

18. Eliminate perfectionist tendencies. Entrepreneurs tend to be creative and driven by analytics, and in our high-paced industry, these characteristics of the job bring in a lot of perfectionists. Ordinarily, this is a good thing — it means our work is of a higher caliber, on average — but it can also interfere with your ability to complete tasks. Try not to over-stress about the little things. Perfection is often the enemy of progress.

19. Use automation software when possible. Marketing automation isn’t always a good idea, but there are plenty of opportunities to use it effectively. For example, you can schedule social media posts, schedule marketing emails, or update your calendar all automatically — if you know the right apps to do it.

20. Try the two-minute rule. The colloquially named “two-minute rule” is this; if it takes two minutes or less to accomplish a task, just do it. Otherwise, it will take you more time to write it down and recall it in the future than it takes to actually do the task. Silly, right?

21. Slowly replace your bad habits. Bad habits are nasty, and you know you have some — checking your email too often, checking Facebook, and so on — but how can you break them easily without losing your mind? One of the best ways is to gradually replace them with “good” habits as variants. Instead of this, do that.

22. Use more pen and paper. Though this may seem obsolete to you and make you feel that you came from a forgotten era, try using more pen and paper. It will help you concentrate, improve your memory of whatever you’re writing and best of all: There are no distractions on a blank piece of paper, as opposed to a screen connected to the internet.


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