Use These Strategies to Maximize Productivity -- Without Inventing an Extra Weekday
Let's be honest -- there aren't enough hours in the week for most entrepreneurs. Days run together and soon you are begging for an eighth day of the week to catch up. We call this imaginary day "Smursday."
When you're working this hard, it's difficult to distinguish when your week starts and ends. It can be even harder to keep track of your startup's accomplishments and accurately measure your progress. Velocity needs structure.
Now, I'm not telling you to slow down. Even if I did, you probably wouldn't listen. But, unless you can actually create a new day of the week, getting more done means getting more from the hours you have. I've picked up a few strategies over the years, which were recently put to the test when our team was weeks away from launch with months of work remaining. With these tips, we clearly defined our work days, maximized productivity and launched on target.
Tip 1: Establish a regular cadence of commitment and celebration.
Frequently measuring progress toward your goals is just as important as setting the goals themselves. With everyone working at top speed, even one week of execution without direction can be treacherous. Check-ins force conversations that answer questions like: Is everyone focused on the highest-priority projects? Does everyone agree this week's focus will produce the most valuable results for the company? What interdependencies will exist three months from now based on today's work?
At Clearcover, we use an Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework for goal setting at every level -- from company strategy all the way down to weekly priorities. The "objective" part of OKRs is a rally cry -- it is meant to be something bold, broad and a little bit scary. Imagine it as the type of accomplishment that inspires team members to get out of bed each morning. The "key results" are the quantifiable measures of success in reaching that objective.
While the OKR process helps us establish direction, it doesn't necessarily ensure we're making progress toward those goals. So, we take time every Monday to develop our individual work priorities (called "Monday Commitments") and share them with each other. These check-ins communicate everyone's focus areas for the week, establish why we're doing them and identify how we can help each other along the way.
Then on Friday, we get together to celebrate "wins" -- the things we're most proud of accomplishing that week. This includes employees sharing their big milestones, small victories and even what was learned from mistakes or failures. On Fridays at Clearcover, one person is awarded a stuffed banana for taking a bold risk that didn't pay off. Beyond the obviously awesome payoff of a bright yellow plush fruit to display on one's desk, this "distinction" represents our commitment to recognizing risk even when it doesn't reap reward.
Our "Monday Commitments" and "Friday Wins" practice not only supports our regular cadence of goal setting and measuring progress, but also allows the team to take a moment and pause, understand what everyone does all day and appreciate what each discipline means to our overall success.
Tip 2: Develop frameworks for decision-making and time management.
In a fast-paced, dynamic environment, entrepreneurs need to be able to make quick decisions and focus their energies on the areas that will impact their business the most. Lots of time can be wasted on low-value tasks or trying to make perfect choices.
To encourage focus on high-value tasks, we use the "Eisenhower box." The Eisenhower box classifies actions based on urgency and importance. Dealing with customer issues, for example, is an urgent and important task, while grabbing coffee with that person who messaged you on LinkedIn may fall under low urgency, low importance. By classifying your to-do list using these criteria, you can better manage your time and eliminate low-value action items -- you'll get more productivity out of fewer hours.
To complement the Eisenhower box, we use a "cost and reversibility matrix" to encourage high-velocity decision-making. Just like the Eisenhower box, the Clearcover matrix sorts actions based on two important questions:
- Is the decision easily reversible?
- Is being wrong costly?
If the decision is easily reversible and not costly, don't waste time on the decision -- go ahead with experimentation. Similarly, if the risk is costly and change is permanent, employees should engage in a thorough and deliberate decision-making process.
The cost reversibility matrix enables team members to move quickly and empowers them to be independent leaders of their own projects. This way, quality of work doesn't have to be sacrificed for organizational speed.
Tip 3: Commit to distraction-free productivity.
Stop me if you've heard this before: You set a goal at the beginning of the week, block off time in your calendar and then, halfway through your work, you get a message on your phone. Before you know it, you've wasted an hour texting and catching up on miscellaneous emails.
Thanks to the internet and technology, our attention span is shorter than ever. This makes it doubly important to commit to productivity. Turn off your phone, disable calendar notifications, physically isolate yourself for blocks of time or try Chrome extensions like HabitLab. Seemingly small attention-grabbers pull you out of your work rhythm, which is damaging to maintaining deep work -- the type of work required for maximum productivity.
Now, no matter how hard you try to disconnect, emails and calls will inevitably find you. It's important to resist the quick, short bursts of dopamine you get from answering them. Your monkey brain will encourage you to procrastinate, making it harder to complete simple tasks accurately and on time. To hone your focus, I recommend auditing your day to see how much time you spend on both menial and important tasks. This will help illuminate where you're wasting time and where you need to trim activities that keep you from achieving your goals.
As an entrepreneur, there will never be enough time in the week to accomplish all of your goals. But, by clearly defining your weekly priorities, celebrating the wins and the mistakes, empowering your teammates and being disciplined with your time and attention, even the busiest of entrepreneurs can get more out of every week -- even ones with only seven days.
Related Video: Powerful Productivity Tips to Get More Done in Less Time