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How Knowing Yourself Leads to More Productivity and Efficiency The problem with many plans is that they depend on your changing your life to match what someone else says will work, rather than your understanding yourself well and deciding to budget your time accordingly.

By Kate Swoboda Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Everyone wants to become more productive. Particularly as the new year looms, people are thinking about what they'd like to do differently as the calendar year changes over.

The problem with many productivity plans, however, is that they depend on your changing your life to fit what someone else says will work, rather than your knowing yourself well and deciding how to schedule your time accordingly.

As long as you're seduced by everyone else's plan for your life, your wallet will be seemingly stuck open when it comes to paying for help with time management. Every new system will appeal to you and it will always seem like someone else has an answer.

No one else has the answers. You have your answers already, and here's what you need to know about yourself to discover them. When you understand yourself well enough, you'll be able to set up systems for your business and life that truly work.

Related: 7 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Master Self-Awareness

1. Determine whether you're an early bird or a night owl.

Work when it's most natural for you. Parents or anyone else whose life is dictated to some degree by someone else's schedule should find a compromise to lean into. For instance, maybe you can't realistically stay up until 2 a.m. the way you want to, but you could stay up until midnight.

And imagine if the other people in your house wind down around 10 p.m. If you're a natural night owl, you'll work better between 10 p.m. and midnight than if you worked for four hours in the morning and forced yourself to rise earlier.

2. Understand your needs.

We're all different. The very thought of getting up for an early-morning appointment gives me insomnia 99 percent of the time, even when it's pertaining to something I want to do. That's why I don't schedule early meetings.

The only way that someone else might be able to sleep would be knowing that the first thing in the morning, he or she would hit the ground running, attending a meeting that tackled something important. So what do you need, in order to not feel overwhelmed by the day-to-day operations of your business?

3. Figure out what mitigates that feeling of being overwhelmed.

The things that overwhelm people point them to where they need to pay more attention and make changes.

Take a moment to see if there's a way on the cognitive level to reduce your feelings of being overwhelmed. For instance, if overwhelming feelings arise because you become very worried, address that root issue rather than not taking a risk.

But overwhelming feelings that accompany poor strategic decisions, such as piling on the projects or working for a client whose manner is contrary to yours, can be mitigated by making different choices.

Related: 12 Ways to Overcome Self-Doubt and Build a Profitable Business

4. Consider whether working in community or solitude is better.

Some people struggle to get work done because they need a hum of noise around them and the office is too quiet. Others find that their focus takes a nose-dive when others are talking.

Instead of trying to force yourself to become a different person, find the places and spaces where you can work in the way that you like. If you work from home and get lonely, schedule "co-working days" with other home-based entrepreneurs. Or find a co-working space.

If you work in an office that's noisy and busy, use headphones or earplugs. If you're worried that people will find this rude, try this polite explaination with a friendly smile: "I'm trying something out to see if I can be more productive at work. Feel free to let me know if you need anything."

5. Set priorities.

If the truth is that you really just don't think it's important to spend your time using social media, figure out a way to engage with it that works for you, rather than trying to be "all in" and constantly tweeting. Or decide to hire someone else to handle all things related to social media.

The same applies to how you let your priorities infiltrate your work. If it's a vision for your business to have fun, ask yourself when starting to do a task that isn't your favorite, "How can I make this fun?"

6. Be cognizant of natural strengths and leverage them.

If writing is not your natural strength, then someone else needs to handle the company blog. If meeting people is a natural strength, see if you can contribute to video pieces or be the first person to pick up the phone when a client situation becomes tricky.

7. Know what takes you from bad to worse.

When you're already having a bad day, understand what makes you feel even more unfocused. For instance, if you're feeling insecure about your company's growth, you might go from feeling bad to even worse if you read about a competitor's recent profitability.

While this seems like an obvious tip, many entrepreneurs might be stuck and struggling with a rough time and then lose themselves in scanning Facebook to deal with the stress. Become clear about the patterns that don't serve you or your business.

Stop drifting through the day-to-day activities of your business, hoping that you'll hit on a solution for more work efficiency. Productivity isn't about someone else's systems and rules. Know who you really are and what you're about, and use that to create systems that nourish and support that, so that you're better equipped to cultivate your business.

Related: 5 Unhealthy Workplace Habits to Break in 2015

Kate Swoboda

Author, Creator of

Kate Swoboda is the author of the Courageous Living Program, founder of the Courageous Living Coach Certification Program and creator of, where she defines courage as feeling afraid, diving in anyway and transforming. Swoboda was deemed by Greatist as one of the top 50 bloggers making a difference in fitness, health and happiness.

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