Understanding the rhythms of your business and creating routines that help rather than hinder your productivity will give you a significant competitive advantage. I worked with a company founder who realized the three daily meetings he was having with key staff, a business mentor and a new vendor were negatively impacting his ability to see into the future. These meetings were always focused on current issues, and past events and he wasn't talking enough about upcoming opportunities and how to prepare for them. While he was already getting a lot done each day, as soon as he eliminated these meetings, his schedule became far more productive.
Pick what you would call a "semi-typical" day running your business and on paper, describe that day in detail, looking for a theme: When do you find yourself getting distracted?
Once you've got your routine down, consider these three tactics to help you focus, prioritize and ultimately work smarter:
1. Use 15-minute increments wisely.
The first most pervasive distraction I see entrepreneurs face is re-thinking a task they thought of earlier. It's always the small things that distract us most. Maybe you thought about making a doctor's appointment, or you need to replace the printer in your home office. Maybe there's a financial decision that you keep putting off for when you have "more time" to think about it.
Face it: You won't have more time. Instead, get these tasks out of the way. For the next week, keep a running list of the tasks you think about that can be completed in 15 minutes. In a typical week, my clients usually come up with 10 to 20 such actions. Being ready with this list of actions means you can take care of small tasks while waiting for an appointment to begin, for example, rather than wasting that time thumbing through Instagram pictures.
2. Maximize your interruptions.
The second biggest impediment to productivity is interruption. It's not glancing at a text message, reading an email or answering a quick question from a team member that is the biggest time-suck. It's the amount of time needed to get back to what you were focused on before.
That's why you should maximize your interruptions. Save up three or four things to talk to someone about the next time you see them and ask your team to do the same for anyone they talk to or email. Obviously, if something is critical, don't wait. But you'd be surprised how often these interruptions aren't actually about urgent things.
For example, this month, while I was on a 544 mile bike ride through Colorado, I got an email from a team member with five questions he needed answered by the end of the week. He interrupted me once, rather than five separate times and I was able to take care of all his questions in one work session at the end of a day.
3. See into the future.
To be productive, you have to look to the future. Open your digital calendar and look 90 days ahead. In 300 to 500 words, describe what life, work and health goals you'll have achieved. Do this again for 180 days and 365 days from now. This practice gives you a larger goal to work toward, which will keep you motivated and focused.
What tactics do you use to minimize distractions and get things done?