As entrepreneurs, we strive to do our best every day. Our goal is simple: Show up, be authentic, and get the most out of the time we have. We call this being productive.
Living this way isn’t about just doing more and going faster. Instead, what is important, is the mindset and habits it takes to achieve the success we desire.
In this post, I detail three tactics to improve your productivity. As you read each one, consider how it will also benefit the people around you – your employees, co-workers, friends and family — people who may mimic your behaviors.
Here’s the secret to pacing yourself: Think, reflect, manage, then do.
As you think, ask yourself what you want to be known for. Keeping this question at the forefront of your mind at all times will give you the momentum you need to dig deep, and ultimately reach your goals while staying in tune with the kind of person you desire to be.
The next step is to reflect. This is a time of waiting and discerning the specifics. Make sure you know where you are headed. Have you put your plan on paper? Are your goals manageable and realistic?
As you begin to process all the steps ahead, don’t be afraid to break them up into smaller more manageable projects. By creating sub-projects with your end goal in mind, you are setting yourself up to enjoy the small victories along the way. These moments sustain your momentum as you continue moving forward.
Don’t burn yourself out by overwhelming yourself from the start. Give yourself the gift of taking your time to patiently walk, step-by-step, toward you goals.
Mentorship is one of the most important aspects of professional and personal development. Another way to think about a mentor is to think of them as your own personal productivity partner.
Make a list of three to five people in your life who have positively influenced you. What was it about them that you admired? Would you be willing to reach out to one of these people, and invite them into your life as a mentor or as your own productivity partner?
Productivity partners can help us build resilience, offer us time management and productivity tips, encourage us as we build our networks, and lead us into a new chapter of our lives. Identifying these people and nurturing these relationships will not only increase your productivity but it will also set you up for success in a way you never thought possible.
It is important to not only know what you are doing but also where you are headed. While you work toward your goals, never stop learning and growing. Research local conferences. Reach out to speakers coming to your area. Or sign up for a webinar. Not only will this expand your knowledge but it will also widen your network, and keep you at your best.
There are 1,440 minutes in a day. No more. No less. How we choose to use those 1,440 minutes directly affects our productivity. Keep your projected future in mind, and use those minutes to create the best version of yourself possible.
By incorporating these productivity practices into your everyday life, you will be amazed by the difference they will make. Take each day for the gift that it is. Remember to pace yourself, build your network, and always keep your future in mind. And that’s how you’ll get the most out of those 1,440 minutes.
Highly productive entrepreneurs aren’t necessarily special, but they are usually very driven and have unlocked the secrets to achieving their goals. When you know how to attack any objective with the right approach, you too can become unstoppable.
I’ve learned over my successful entrepreneurial experiences that good goal setting is easy to hypothesize about, but challenging to execute. As I figured out over the years how to go from making lists of goals to actually getting them accomplished, I learned a few steps that made the process of goal setting transformative.
Here are five simple steps for every entrepreneur to achieve any goal.
The vision of the goal has to start out big, and even a little vague, but then you have to turn that into several of what I call “something smaller” goals. This transforms a big lofty ambition into tent-pole moments along the path that you can achieve in smaller steps.
For example, wanting to improve your diet and increase physical activity are among the most common goals out there. I wouldn’t recommend suddenly going cold turkey on all your usual foods and going to the gym every day, but rather setting milestones along the road. Break the goals down into smaller lifestyle benchmarks, such as eliminating certain foods over the course of a month, then adding in more movement over the course of the following weeks.
By making small goal benchmarks to work toward, the goal becomes achievable overall because you made it actionable in smaller steps.
I always say a good goal is one that stretches you to the edge of your comfort zone, but not one that crosses over into fantasy. Everyone would love to make a million dollars this year, but if that’s not a number you can truly wrap your brain around, start with a number that stretches you but is believable.
If you are making $2,500 consistently a month, then could bumping the year-end goal to $10,000 a month actually be something you could believe? It doesn’t get you to a million this year, but it bumps your goal to something that’s believable for you and thus, feels more achievable. Once you get to year’s end and $10,000 a month feels comfortable and realistic, you can bump it again.
These smaller, realistic goals feed into the first step of breaking big ideas into smaller actions, too.
A great way to achieve any goal is to get the right support for your journey. You want to tell people who will be supportive and involved in your success. That has the benefit of bolstering you during times of challenge, but also when you verbalize your goals you tend to follow through better. You hold yourself more accountable to goals you’ve shared with others and that can help you reach them.
Breaking goals into smaller benchmarks helps to create action plans to smaller events that will eventually have a cumulative effect toward the big picture. This is a great tactic in terms of actions, but also a good tactic to help you put some metrics and measurement into the task.
If the goal is weight loss, then how much will you lose by each benchmark goal deadline you set? If it’s increasing your earnings, how can you track what you spend, what money is coming in and how you will generate more income through reducing your customer acquisition costs? Furthermore, how can you track your progress along the way to see how your overall goal is progressing against your small milestones?
As you meet your benchmarks, set up ways to celebrate or enjoy your victories. Make tracking the progress fun and meaningful. The more fun you can have along the way with your goals, the more successful you’ll be at achieving them.
The purpose of any goal isn’t just to achieve it, but often it’s to integrate it into your daily lifestyle, so learn to enjoy not just the destination but also the process of getting there.
It’s funny, really. Most of us who get into entrepreneurship start with the intention of working LESS than we did at our regular jobs. The startling reality is that we often end up doing way more because we love the projects we’re involved with. And because oftentimes, that’s what it takes to make things happen.
Still, the long hours can take their toll — and even the Elon Musks of the world are no exception.
To keep yourself productive, it’s essential that you build habits to help you organize your day and get the most out of your time.
Here are three of the most powerful.
There was probably a period of time in your life where it was easy stay up late into the night (or early into the next morning) trying to get things done.
For me, however, that period was over a long time ago. Recently, I’ve come to realize that all eight-hour periods just aren’t created equally.
Going to bed at 10 pm and waking up around 6 am is EXPONENTIALLY better than going to bed at 3 am and waking up around 11 am, even though number of hours you sleep is the same. I’ve tested this over and over again, and the evidence is pretty clear: I don’t perform well if I stay up past 11 pm-ish.
Early risers really do have a distinct advantage when it comes to mental clarity, acuity and energy.
Simply put: waking up early works better than any other strategy for becoming more productive. But you have to make sure you get enough sleep to back it up. So get to bed!
I’ve had to give myself a bedtime and be my own parent by ruthlessly enforcing it. It was harder than it sounds, because I’ve been programmed to stay up late for so many years.
Starting your day with a clear idea of what you want to do changes EVERYTHING.
Have you ever had a day where as soon as you woke up, there were already missed calls, text messages and emails screaming for your attention? You felt like you were struggling to stay afloat before breakfast. Oh, that sounds like every day, you say? That needs so stop.
If you like, you can meditate. You know, cross-legged, a candle, with some nice music playing in your ridiculously expensive Beats headphones. But if that’s too much, you can just “take 10.”
Take 10 slow breaths, think about your main objectives for the day, then get moving. This seems too simple to have an effect, but it’s not. If you’re used to getting up already in battle mode, then you’ve probably forgotten how it feels to have a moment to yourself.
Take a few of those minutes back to refocus yourself. It really helps. You can also use that time to create a better to-do list.
Working out is probably the highest-leverage tool in your arsenal. It predictably and reliable makes you feel better and keeps you both physically and emotionally healthy, year round.
To have the mental energy to take on the full calendar of to-do’s that people want from you, you have to be in the gym.
Training yourself physically not only gives you benchmarks to hit on a regular basis, but it also creates a predictable backbone in your daily life that you can count on, even if everything goes wrong. Mentally, that’s very comforting.
Trust me, I know that integrating these habits into your life won’t be easy at first. But if you’re not healthy, your business can’t thrive anyway. Consider them a long-term investment in your business.
Imagine this: you are a small business owner, and you notice a specific product you offer is moving off your shelves at an unprecedented pace. You want to get this inventory back in stock ASAP to meet the rising demand. You check in on your bank account to make sure you’ve got enough cash to cover this unexpected purchase. Shockingly, you only have a few hundred dollars in there. You think, “Wait — when did this happen? I don’t remember draining out my bank account.”
Not only do you now have the stress of finding out where you money went and when you can bring that balance back up, but you’re missing the opportunity to take advantage of selling a hot product.
How could this have been prevented?
Mostly, it comes down to spotting the signs of trouble long before they can impact the long term health of your business. To do this, you need an objective viewpoint, a loyal team that isn’t afraid to tell you the truth, and knowledge of which warning signs are the first and best indicators of challenges around the corner.
Here’s how business owners can best recognize early indicators to avoid financial headaches down the line.
There’s a reason entrepreneurs are so often called irrational optimists. After all the blood, sweat and tears you’ve put into building your business, it can be almost impossible to remain objective about what is and isn’t working.
You believe in your product. You believe in your business model. You’re convinced that your business will succeed. Otherwise, why would you keep trying so hard?
However, that unending optimism also makes you susceptible to enormous blind spots in your business. That’s why it’s hugely important to regularly step back and take an objective look at how your business is doing financially. What are your weaknesses and trouble areas? Where are you most likely to hit financial challenges? Answering these questions requires viewing your business as it is, not just as you want it to be.
Often your employees, especially top level operations personnel, can see the financial red flags long before you realize you’re in dangerous waters. That’s why it is so important to cultivate open lines of communication with your highest level managers. Invite feedback often. Ask employees to speak up about issues and warning signs that you may be missing.
Sometimes owners of very small businesses try to cut corners financially by handling their own accounting. While this may save you money in the short term, it is a recipe for disaster in the long term. Hiring an expert to keep watch for financial issues is a necessary expense for the health of your business.
Don’t make this mistake. Invest in a knowledgeable financial advisor who you can trust to notice and communicate any red flags that may be lurking in your business finances.
Once you’ve gathered your team of advisors and financial truth-tellers, you need to plan regular, objective reviews of your financial standing. A good rule of thumb is to review financial documents once per quarter. Look at your financial standing compared to previous quarters and for the same time frame year-to-year. Paying attention to how your sales, profit margins, and growth change in those time frames will tell you a lot about where your business is headed financially.
This can be one of your best and earliest indicators, visible well in advance of hitting true financial challenges, if you know to look for it. Without paying close attention, most business owners would assume that any growth in sales is still a positive sign. However, knowing how that growth compares to past seasons really shows you whether you’re sustaining the same level of progress for your business.
Every quarter, compare your rate of sales growth to the previous quarter as well as year to year. If you notice your growth numbers slipping, look for ways to bring in new revenue long before that slow growth turns into stagnant sales.
No matter how much they love what they do, every entrepreneur is in business to make a profit. But if your overhead is growing and sales aren’t rising to meet those costs, your profit margins could quickly be shrinking.
Divide your net profit by your sales to determine your net profit margin. Compare that number to previous quarters and the same quarter in previous years. How does your net profit margin compare to what you’ve done in the past? If your margins are shrinking, it’s time to reduce overhead or find some new customers to make up the cost.
Are customers taking too long to pay you, or not paying up at all? Low accounts receivables turnover can kill businesses by tying up cash in unpaid invoices.
To calculate your accounts receivable turnover, divide your annual sales revenue by your average accounts receivable. How does that number compare to last quarter or to the same time last year? If turnover is lower than in previous quarters, that may be an early sign of trouble ahead.
Many financial experts will tell you that the number one reason businesses ultimately fail is not because of a business model flaw, but due to issues with cash flow. Even if your business is long-term profitable, if you don’t sustain enough cash on hand to cover your overhead, you can’t survive. If you find that you just barely have enough cash on hand at any one time to handle expenses next month, or even next week, that’s a big indicator of trouble on the horizon.
If reading through any of these early warning signs of financial trouble has given you that sinking feeling in your stomach, don’t panic. There’s a reason we call them “early” warning signs—and every business owner is likely to come across one or a few of these issues at some point. By staying objective about your business, communicating with your advisors, and spotting potential sore spots before they become huge issues, you still have the opportunity to right the financial ship well before you reach dangerous waters.
You have the power to change the profits of your business today by taking a good look at these 8 variables and key business metrics.
As an entrepreneur or business person, it is your job to stay focused and always continue to improve your strategic business plan.
Are you not sure where to start?
Keep reading because I’ve outlined all of it for you . . .
The basic strategic variables for consideration as you make a plan for the future are products, services, customers, markets, finances, people, technology, and production capability.
These are areas of your business that you may continue as before or change, depending on your strategic goals.
Here are the 8 variables to keep an eye on in your strategic planning process.
What exactly are the products and services that you are planning to offer? What do they do to change or improve the lives or work of your customers? What is it about them that makes them clearly superior and the best choice for the customers that you are going after?
How much money do you have, and how much money will you need to achieve and sustain financial profitability?
Over 30% of new businesses fail because they do not watch their finances and their key business metrics.
Business success is the result of changing one of these metrics.
Do you want to learn how to change them for yourself?
Fortunately, I have outlined the 7 most important business metrics for you and you can learn to use them to improve your business: Click here to learn what they are.
Who is your ideal customer, your perfect customer? What are the demographics of your ideal customer? What is this customer’s age, education, income, occupation, and level of family formation? What are your customers’ psychographics? What are their goals, ambitions, desires, and aspirations? What are their fears, misgivings, or suspicions that might cause them to hesitate from buying your product or service?
What do they use your product or service for? How do they use it? How does it change or improve their lives in some way?
Here are 8 steps to identifying your ideal customer:
In the past you chose your product, then sought out customers. In many cases today however, companies are identifying the customer and the customer’s exact needs and then retrofitting or reverse engineering product and service development based on what the customer says he or she wants. Companies are moving from “product development” and not even creating the product until the customer has agreed to buy it at a particular price.
Your customers who buy your products will affect everything about your business, including your product sales. This is the most important metric to keep in mind.
What markets are you going to enter? How are you going to penetrate these markets? Are you going after geographic markets, horizontal markets, or vertical markets? Who are your competitors in these markets? How do you need to advertise, promote, sell and otherwise penetrate these markets?
Who are the key people you will need in terms of skills, abilities, and proven competence? Where and how will you get and keep these people?
Here’s a video on motivating and inspiring your employees.
What sort of technology will you require to build and operate your business? Is your current technology sufficient and satisfactory in light of the rapid changes in technology that you competitors are adapting?
Finally, what is your production capability? How much can you produce, deliver, sell, and service in a competent fashion? What do your products or services costs to produce, sell, deliver, install, and service? Keep an eye on your cost of goods sold.
Are you unsure about what cost of goods sold is?
A few years ago Fortune magazine reported on a study that was done to determine why so many CEOs were being let go from Fortune 500 companies. The most important reason cited was “failure to execute.” The CEOs had been placed in their positions with clear, specific performance expectations for their companies.
Successfully leading your company’s strategy depends on your having laser-like focus on your goals and key business metrics.
What is your main objective for your business or for your position? What are you trying to do? How are you trying to do it? Could there be a better way? Are your goals and objectives realistic based on the current situation? What are your assumptions? What if your assumptions are wrong? What would you do then?
If you want to improve your business immediately the first thing you should look at are your key business metrics. After you analyze them you can find out exactly how to proceed next.