5 Productivity Truth Bombs From Millennial Powerhouses The best hacks range from virtual assistants to timeless low-tech methods like to-do lists on paper the night before.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
How many times have you said to yourself, "If only I had 36 hours in a day, I'd get everything done"? Or maybe "My to-do list never gets shorter"?
For most top-performing entrepreneurs in major leadership roles, this self-criticism can come up frequently and ironically make us even less productive. Yet very few tackle their organization skills head-on to actively develop habits that will allow them not only to complete their daily to-do list, but to get ahead in a significant way.
Most of my clients are on the brink of hitting major milestones in their business, whether it's hitting the seven-figure mark, partnering with a major brand or publishing their first book. And nine times out of 10, the plateau that they're experiencing isn't their skill set or expertise. It's their ability to get stuff done with optimal efficiency and energy.
I asked five well-known entrepreneurs what their very best advice was for maximizing their time and efforts, and here is what they said:
Learn to delegate.
"Your number one investment should be in your systems to get stuff done. We see five-person startups where everyone speaks the same 'productivity language' outperforming giants. Focus on becoming a master of delegation," say Carey and Demir Bentley, CEOs of Lifehack Bootcamp. "Flexible labor is like steroids for small companies, so it's a card you can't afford not to play. Every hour you spend getting better at delegation will pay back 100 fold after two years when your time becomes incredibly scarce and precious."
The Bentleys offer pro tips: "If you're looking for ways to improve your outsourcing and delegation game, get involved with Fiverr and Upwork right away. If you're looking for a virtual assistance, check out Freeeup.com -- they do a great job matching you up with a perfect VA or contractor for your team."
"Start designing yourself out of your business from day one. Even if you never intend to sell your business, you'll want to have a system in place that enables your team to get things done without your constant supervision. Outsource your brain."
First things first.
"Do the most difficult task first. You only have so much energy to expend in one day, and your ability to concentrate will dwindle as the day goes on. Therefore, you should complete the task that requires the most mental effort first," says Shaan Patel, a Shark Tank winner and founder of Prep Expert. "For my business, this is typically writing new content for students to prep for the SAT. For medical school, this is typically reading 20-30 pages of a pathophysiology textbook. For business school, this is typically reading the newest case study for a class. If you complete your most difficult task early in the day, you will not feel as drained later on in the day when you have less taxing tasks to complete," he says.
"Also, having lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas where I probably spend an hour everyday driving, I recently discovered the power of audiobooks. I don't have a lot of time in between my business and school to pick up and read physical books. However, because I spend so much time commuting, I'm able to 'read' a book a week simply by playing audiobooks while I'm driving. This has resulted in a tremendous amount of learning through books about business, entrepreneurship, marketing, and self-help. I recommend using the Audible.com app because it starts where you left off and it's easy to plug your phone into your car while driving. Even if you don't drive, you can still listen to audiobooks on your daily commute (i.e. train, bike, or walk)."
Focus on team morale.
"When it comes to productivity, I use the Steve Jobs approach and set big milestones for my whole team. I give speeches every week and create an opportunity for everyone to work together in their capacities so that we accomplish the outcome we are looking for as a company," says Gerard Adams, visionary at Fownders.
"When I set almost unrealistic goals, they slowly become realistic because the team knows one of our values is striving for greatness in everything we do."
"Company retreats always reboot the team morale and energy as well. I've done these with Elite Daily at camping retreats and plan on having one with Fownders for the New Year," he says.
"I also have all the leaders on the management level run projects in two week sprints using the SCRUM methodology. Usually, this is used for technology companies but is great for every vertical in a startup, especially tech-based like the Fownders social learning platform."
Hang up and plan.
"Control your phone! Don't let it control you. Our smartphones are incredibly powerful devices, yet so many let their phone 'run them' instead of running their phone. We've all gotten stuck in the Facebook/Instagram time warp where you sit scrolling non-stop for extended periods of time," says Adam Wenig, Digital Marketing Consultant.
"These platforms can be extremely productive, but as entrepreneurs, we need to spend more time creating and pushing content out instead of consuming content. My strategy is to start being proactive and creating stuff in the morning before you ever get on social media or email where you have to be reactionary instead of proactive which kills productivity," he says.
Create content, don't use it.
"One of the difficulties for me during the day is taking out time for breaks. When I am so wrapped up in everything I'm doing, I don't want to stop, so I just want to carry on. Whenever I step back and take a break, however, my productivity and creativity go up," says Virginia Salas Kastilio, Founder at Gini TV.
"Sure, you could meditate, but who could calm their mind enough for that when working in between putting out internal fires and pitching $300K deals? Here is what I do as a mini-meditation: I take a break with a little bit of food or a healthy drink, sit down on a comfy chair, and just stare out the window for a few minutes. You are giving yourself a sensory taste experience along with resting your eyes and just looking out into the world," she says."I don't consume social media content unless it's for specific client research. I go into Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat mainly to post and create content. Ultimately, I recommend becoming a creator, not a consumer."
The truth is that productivity is something that has to be practiced repeatedly on a daily basis in order for it to have an impact. And while this habit development isn't easy, it is essential to long-term growth and success. Master these skills now, and reap the rewards for the rest of your life.