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The Consensus Advice on Productivity for Entrepreneurs, According to the Experts

Posted by Duke Lee on 2014-04-30

Who doesn't want great advice? 

But with the plethora of knowledge out there, who has the time to keep track of which advice is the have-to-know's or must-do's?

We do!

By sifting through recent articles, guides, top ten lists, and infographics written by experts around the web, we've distilled the consensus advice that entrepreneurs need to know on a key topic. 

Featured across 22 sources, this week's topic is Productivity Habits (number of article appearances in parenthesis);

1. You must have a structured schedule to be ready for both the routine and unexpected. (11)

By far the most common piece of advice for productivity, a structured schedule is a must-have for entrepreneurs trying to be successful. "Efficiency fanatics create standard routines in their schedule so they can achieve a disciplined approach and be ready for the important events," Kevin Daum writes in Inc. Furthermore, research has shown that people focus better at certain times of the day, so David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work says you need to deliberately allocate your time in order to utilize that.

But having a detailed schedule is not just helpful with your expected tasks--it should also allow you to handle the unexpected. "Schedule time for interruptions," the authors of Street Smart Franchising advise. "Plan time to be pulled away from what you're doing."

As a final pro tip, the experts suggest to do all of this planning in advance of being in the actual routine. "Planning the day, week, or month ahead is an important time management tool to keep you on track when you’re in the thick of it," writes Jenna Goudreau on Business Insider.

2. You must prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. (9)

Scheduling out your tasks is pointless without knowing which ones are important, so another key habit most experts agreed on is prioritizing. It may seem like common sense, but as Daum again writes, "Many people fool themselves into thinking they are good at multitasking. But actually very few can solidly focus on more than 1 or two tasks, particularly if they require focus and depth." 

The experts suggest limiting what you consider a priority. "In order to have a productive day, I start out every morning writing down my top three MITs, or most important tasks, that I need to focus on for that day," says Jay Feitlinger, CEO of StringCan Interactive. "This process only takes a few seconds and ensures that every day is productive."

A similiar strategy employed by Twitter and Square co-founder Jack Dorsey is establishing a "theme" for each full weekday to accomplish one goal. "There is interruption all the time but I can quickly deal with an interruption and then know that it’s Tuesday, I have product meetings and I need to focus on product stuff."

3. You must be capable of eliminating ALL distractions. (9)

A structured schedule with established priorities is good in theory, but would be wasted if not executed in actual practice. Therefore, it is commonly acknowledged that productive entrepreneurs must be able to block out and avoid all distractions when needed. According to Alexa Von Tobel, CEO of financial management website LearnVest.com, the Internet is the key culprit in distraction. "When you're at work, work. The Internet is just a distraction," she writes. "When I'm in the office, I don't shop online, check Facebook, or even open anything related to my personal life unless it's critical."

Taking it a step further, business coach Brad Sugars advises to say "no" to distraction every single time, not just occasionally. "Successful people have that same list of tasks to accomplish as anyone else, but the difference is they make time to get them all done with no excuses," he says. "They may not enjoy it, but that is irrelevant. What matters is that it gets done."

And a helpful way to prevent others from distracting you? "Put up a "Do not disturb" sign when you absolutely have to get work done," says the Street Smart Franchising writers.

4. You must treat your body right. (8)

Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of productivity by entrepreneurs is their health. Yet efficiency experts across the board all recommend taking time to care for your body and mind. Jenna Goudreau probably puts it best when she says the most successful people "exercise before it falls off the to-do list". Committing to exercise in the morning specifically will have a tangible effect on the rest of your day writes Jacquelyn Smith. "This gets your circulation going and helps you stay alert, putting you at an advantage for a productive week ahead."

Moreover, it does not stop with physical exercise, as two other habits have been correlated to effectiveness: eating a healthy breakfast and meditation. While many issues may come up during a workday that affect your other meals, Smith writes, "You want to handle everything you have control over. Eating breakfast is one of those things."

And for many productive entrepreneurs, time for meditation or self-reflection is essential to maintaining a mental balance throughout all the high-pressure and fast-moving enviroments founders face. Among those who were cited to subscribe to this are Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, Joel Gascoigne of Buffer, and Nick Friedman of College Hunks Hauling Junk.

5. You must stop worrying about finishing everything. (6)

This might be the most counterintuitive concept on the list, but realizing that not all tasks can be finished in one day is something all entrepreneurs need to constantly remind themselves of. "In all the chaos, it's easy to believe that the world will cave if you don't solve all Monday's problems on Monday," says workplace expert Lynn Taylor. "But when the dust settles at the end of the day, you may realize that certain tasks could have waited." In fact, the notions of absolute completion and perfection might be at the root of your inefficiency. "Perfectionism and fear of failure are at the root of some procrastination," writes Jessica Stillman

According to experts around the web, you will find these five habits at the core of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world. But this is only a start, as those entrepreneurs also have their own personalized habits to maximize their productivity.

What are some of your favorite things to do to increase productivity?

(Business man holding alarm clock image via Shutterstock)

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