This post is pretty darn basic, it’s about productivity, but if you really pay attention and use the techniques explained below it can literally rock your world as it has done mine. Years ago I had a”brilliant” idea for a start up, called statuscheck.com, status check would be a social platform where people send out ‘updates’ on what they were doing throughout the day in little blips… I mapped the idea out in my mind several times and even put it to paper – but I never went further than that. About 6 months later something called Twitter hit the market, it was so similar to my idea I couldn’t believe it. The premise was simple, the platform was concise, but there was a huge difference between my idea for statuscheck.com and theirs. They actually ACTED upon their ‘great idea’ while I did nothing. Why? Because I wasn’t being productive enough, I had ideas and things I wanted to do but nothing to filter them through…
Problem > Us entrepreneurial types have loads of thoughts, ideas and plans swirling around in our heads that we just want to get out, but if we follow every thought as it happens we’ll never get anything done.
Solution > If your creative, entrepreneurial and idea centric you must develop a system to catch all your thoughts and organize them along with your daily tasks, this way both can be accounted for and nothing falls through the cracks.
First off you have to arm yourself with the correct weapons to be ninja like in the entrepreneurial space. My top must haves go as follows:
- A notebook: I like moleskins but you can get a cheaper alternative at any drug store.
- A pen & highlighter: one is for writing down all your ideas the other is for highlighting the important stuff in your own notes and other’s books.
- A smart phone: whether it is the iPhone, a blackberry or something else if you are serious about becoming a kick butt go getter its time to get serious. I check my email from my smart phone, I record voice notes, schedule meetings and even send off proposals on the lamb.
- A mobile office: this is probably applicable to more people than realize it, but if you can’t do it I understand – all I’m saying is my mobile office is bad (in a good way) and shoots my productivity through the roof. A mobile office consists of a book/laptop bag, a great book (for inspiration) all the above mentioned and a wi-fi card. Presto you’ve got a set up that allows you to do business from anywhere in the world and as an entrepreneur you never know when your next million dollar idea will hit you so be prepared take your office with you.
- Munchies: no Ninja can fight crime, battle the forces of big business and smoosh his competition without a little nourishment. Don’t be a fool, grab some gruel.
Top non-sucky time optimization techniques
Notice I didn’t say time management, firstly because the idea that you can manage time is silly to me, regardless of what you do or how you do it you will ALWAYS have exactly 24 hours a day – until you die. So it doesn’t come down to ‘managing’ those static number of hours, it comes down to getting the most bang for your tick.
- Use e.ggtimer and always give yourself a little less time than you need. Right now I have 30 minutes and 7 seconds to finish this post, ack! Normally I’d diddle around and get distracted but since I’m battling the clock I gotta get this puppy done… son. Try it yourself, any task you have guestimate the amount of time it will take then battle the clock to get it done. For the first few tries on repetitive tasks I suggest you keep a record, then you will know in the future how long X takes and can plan your day accordingly. This single technique has DOUBLED my productivity in one day and cut the amount of time I spend “working”.
- Go through your email twice. I know Tim Ferriss says he checks his email once a week, well you know what he’s also a wunderkind who competitive dances with his spare time (ew?)… If you are not super human I suggest checking your email 2-3 times a day, especially at the beginning of your entrepreneurial ventures. In the morning check it and don’t leave your inbox until it is EMPTY… do this again at night. How do you empty your inbox? I’ll explain in the next bullet point.
- File everything! A good book that is pretty hard to get through is Getting Things Done by David Allen. Most of you won’t read it so I’ll give you the basic gist: Create folders that apply to all sorts of situations i.e. Research, Read, Waiting on, Maybe/Someday, Projects, Email, etc. and then with every email/memo you get file the juicy bits into one of those folders. The best folder I use is called Next Actions it is chock full of the exact next step I have to do on tons of things. So when I am sitting here, twiddling my thumbs I remember ‘oh yeah’ and head over to Next Actions to find out exactly what I should be doing next.
- Never stop learning. Often I get far older, far more successful business people tell me that they are ‘impressed’ by me or that I’m making leaps and bounds that they never did at 24. I smile and thank them but never let on to my real secret behind my perceived good business mind – I read non stop. I read so much it would make your head spin. If I’m not reading blogs, books and articles relevant to all the things I love I am listening to a book on tape (right now it is Seth Godin’s Small is the New Big and it rocks socks). I get inspired to write posts, encouraged to keep on my entrepreneurial path and ignited to go towards new business goals by constantly consuming content from people smarter than I. I honestly think this is the key to success that everyone has kept a secret. When I meet people who are far more advanced in the same field as I’m in I don’t stress because they usually also say I’m too busy to read so I know that someday soon I’ll overtake them because they are focusing only on growing their business, not their knowledge. Businesses come and go, your knowledge is what will lead you to an extraordinary life.
- Mind Sweeps. Another of my secret weapons, about twice a day I open up my moleskin, pull out my pen (Aaah.. its all coming together!!) and write down what I call a mind sweep. This consists of me writing down everything on my mind at that moment. From personal stuff to business stuff to ideas and inventions, I literally turn my brain on it’s side and shake until there is nothing left in there. It’s amazing, I feel pounds lighter and my mind is free of clutter. The fact of writing down all those things literally takes them off my mind and frees up the thought waves to come up with more good ideas. Later in the day, or right then, I go through my mind sweep and figure out what the next step is for each item, then I add it to my Next Actions folder to be dealt with accordingly. If you try ONE THING from this post, try this one you’ll feel like a new person.
So when you are driving around or sitting in your office listen to a great podcast or book on tape, when you are working time yourself so you’re competing against the clock and when you check your mail make sure you have a place to put all of that info… do these things and you will notice your productivity double if not triple!
Want to learn more my suggestions would be check out: Getting Things Done & The E Myth (google them yourselves I’m too lazy to put a link and my timer is running low!)
Have a comment? Think your more of a Ninja than me (do you carry a night stick??!)? Holler below and we’ll figure out whose the top entrepreneur ninja around here!