As entrepreneurs, there’s always a seemingly infinite list of things to do. When one task is accomplished, another magically appears to fill its spot. If only there were more time in a day.
One strategy for handling this could be mastering time travel or becoming a wizard. For the rest of us, there are some tested and proven approaches that can help you become more focused, creative, and overall productive.
Take a look at some hacks from eight influencers who are famous for their ability to clear their productivity plates and ask for more.
1. Set a Routine and Stick to It
If anyone knows the importance of discipline, it’s retired navy SEAL Jocko Willink. When asked the secrets to his success, he stresses the role of his daily routine that he sticks to… Every. Single. Morning.
It starts at 4:30 a.m. He works out for an hour and half and begins work for his firm after 6 a.m. After work, he squeezes in two hours of jiujitsu practice and is back to bed around 11 p.m.
Obviously, your daily routine doesn’t need to include three hours of exercise, but Willink stresses “Discipline equals freedom” as one of his guiding principles. He adds:
“And that’s the way that you own it. Because once the day starts, well, then other people get to have a vote in what you’re doing.”
2. Be Sure Your Routine Has “White Space”
You might be familiar with the concept of white space, or negative space, in graphic and web design. It creates a sense of balance on the page, helping you to better focus your visual attention.
Jocelyn Glei asserts that you should be using this same concept in your daily routine.
Think of a website that’s packed with text and images versus one with a clean, simple, and easy-to-follow layout. Now think of this in terms of your day. If you’re cluttering and overbooking your schedule, it’s hard to focus and move smoothly from one task to the next. You may even find that your creativity is crippled by stress.
Incorporate white space with techniques like:
- Free drawing or writing with no particular objective
- A quick walk or mini-workout
- Meditating (more on this next)
As a general rule, try to stay away from technology. We all know how it can ultimately end up being a distraction.
3. Meditate and Visualize
“Meditation and the resulting benefits have probably been the biggest game-changers for me as an adult… The science finally agrees with the thousands of years of practice, that meditation increases creativity, reduces stress, adds clarity and focus, and a lot of joy to the lives of many people the world over.”
After he meditates, he has a one-to-five minute gratitude and visualization practice where he lists some things he’s grateful for. There’s plenty of research to support that gratitude makes us healthier, both physically and psychologically.
He also builds motivation and focus by visualizing what he wants for himself, and how he might feel when he accomplishes his tasks and goals.
4. Dominate Your Email – Not the Other Way Around
Your inbox can be a double-edged sword: your best friend and biggest enemy, all rolled into one.
Ryan Holiday advises to be in control of your email instead of letting it control you. Particularly, he stresses the concept of “inbox zero,” or having zero unread emails in your inbox. While this may seem unattainable, he notes that most emails can be deleted or archived – saving you mental real estate in the process.
He even makes an interesting note about prioritizing your communications:
“Napoleon used to deliberately ignore correspondence for weeks so the trivial stuff would deal with itself. I do that with things that are particularly frustrating or aggravating. What if you just thought: Oops, I accidentally deleted that offensive email or Oops, I guess I never saw it. Chances are it would save you some anger.”
5. Focus on Systems Instead of Goals
James Clear emphasizes the difference between systems and goals. When you’re focused on a specific goal, you’re exposing yourself to high stress for a single event.
You can’t rest until you reach that goal, and then when you do, you’re at risk for losing your motivation. Even worse, goals can create the illusion that you have control over certain things that you simply don’t have control over.
Instead, focus on the systems in place to attain those goals.
Consider an entrepreneur. The goal might be to hit a million dollars in revenue, but the system is the sales and marketing process. By focusing the attention on the process, she’s setting herself up for discipline, reliability, and longevity.
She can keep churning long after she’s reached the million-dollar mark.
6. Apps Are Your Friend – Let Them Help Organize
To use technology to its maximum potential, Ramit Sethi promotes certain apps and tools that help to organize and streamline your day. Some of his favorites include Pocket, bookmarks, and Gmail tags and labels.
Over the course of a single day, we’re inundated with new and useful information and resources. The beauty of using apps and tools is in their ability to prioritize your attention. If it’s useful, file it away in a labeled folder so that you can access it when you need it. When the time comes, simply search the right folder and it’s at your fingertips.
Other helpful organization tools include:
…and that doesn’t even scratch the surface.
7. Let Go of Perfectionism
If you’re a perfectionist, you know how debilitating it can be to spend excess time on one task when you’re up against a big workload. Perfectionism can lead to overthinking and overstretching – frankly, it can be a real waste of time.
He publishes a blog every single day. Naturally, some are better than others, but the important thing is that he’s sticking to his routine, fostering creativity, and making sure that all of his thoughts and ideas are getting put out there.
8. Nap Time Isn’t Just for Kindergarten
Research shows that our brains are more focused earlier in the day, especially in the two-to-four hour period after we wake up recharged from sleep. So why not recreate that during the day?
That’s James Altucher’s approach. While he never compromises a good night’s sleep, he knows the value of a good one or two-hour nap during the day whenever he has the chance. This way, he says, he can mimic that productivity level that comes from the morning’s fresh, well-rested brain.
Hack and Conquer
There are a million great tips out there for boosting your productivity, and everyone’s different. Try out the advice from these top influencers to see if they help you become a more focused and powerful version of yourself. You may be surprised at what you uncover!