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Double Your Productivity (And Have Fun Doing It)

Time. It goes by quickly. In the end, what we do with our time matters most.

The same is true, of course, for entrepreneurs.

One positive thing, if you’re a solo entrepreneur, is that you can follow your own time schedule. If you’re not careful, however, this can quickly become your downfall. With the lack of time-related structure, your productivity can suffer. Big time.

And when you’re an entrepreneur, every minute counts.

If you’re new to entrepreneurship, the sooner you learn this, the better. The main reason is because it can take a long time to get enough customers to be profitable – longer than most new entrepreneurs expect. If you’re an experienced entrepreneur, you know what I mean.

Given my experience in several startups — and to compress the time needed to achieve key milestones — I’ve developed a way to double my productivity in any given month. And, importantly, I’ve found a way to sustain this approach for 12 months.

Basically, my system consists of a fun, simple system of six checklists. Any one of them isn’t extraordinary (as you’ll see) but, when combined, they’re powerful.

Checklist #1: Primary Daily Activity Categories: This top-sheet lists all of my most critical work categories that I need to do each day. The most important categories are at the top, along with the minimum amount of time that I need to commit to them each day.

This is not a standard “to-do” list that itemizes specific tasks. Instead, they are functional groupings of things like (1) taking care of existing customers, (2) marketing to potential new customers, (3) listening to and posting on social media, (3) analyzing website data, (4) creating new content (i.e. blogs, webinars, e-books, etc.), (5) researching and pursuing new business partners, etc.

Every day, I start with this checklist, by reviewing and acting on my primary daily activities.

Checklist #2: Weekly Prioritized “To-Do” List: This is my standard “To-Do” list, showing each item prioritized as an “A,” “B,” or “C.” Every morning, I plug these items into Checklist #1: Primary Daily Activities, and go from there.

Checklist #3: 7am Start-time: This page shows each day of the week. Each day has a box next to it, and I have to mark the box when I start working by 7am. Starting at 7:01am doesn’t count. If I start working at 7:01, I cannot check the box for that day.

I’ve found that this checklist is most important because – when I start my day early – I feel a sense of control over my life. It makes me feel more secure; and this security helps improve my relationships, health, leadership capabilities and overall wellbeing.

And, work-wise, by 9:30am I’ve already accomplished many of my “A-list” activities!

Checklist #4: Daily “2-hours of Selling”: To make sure that I continue to grow my business in 2016, this checklist ensures that I get out and sell at least two hours per day. Some startup experts claim that selling is an outdated term that sounds too pushy. For me, however, I chose it because it keeps me proactive and outside of my comfort zone.

Checklist #5: Five 60-minute Daily Concentrated Work Sessions: This checklist shows each day’s date along with eight boxes. Each box represents one full 60-minute time block. And every day, I need to check off a full 60 minutes of work time, at least five times. To do this, I set my timer at 60 minutes for every hour of the day. When the timer goes off, I mark the box on this checklist.

Some days, I check off only 4 hours of actual concentrated work (because I might have several appointments in a day, traveling about), even though I’ve been “working” for 9 total hours that day. Other days, I check off 12 individual hours if I have no other appointments and if I’m on a “roll.”

Checklist #6: Daily Activity Tracking: On this sixth sheet, it lists all of the one-hour blocks that I have in a day, from 7am to 6pm. When each 60 minutes is completed, I write down – in that block – what I’ve accomplished in the previous 60 minutes. In fact, I often track what I do every 30 minutes within each box.

My checklists are in paper form, stapled together, with hand-written checkmarks on them. I prefer paper, because I like the textile feel compared to a less-personal digital system. I like the worn edges, free-hand notes, etc. My accomplishments seem more real that way.

To see images of these checklists (they’re simpler-looking than what appears in writing above), email me HERE.

I cannot overstate how this proven tracking system has improved my productivity. By visually seeing what I’ve been doing, it has become clear where my time was best used. And most wasted.

In fact, by glancing at the checklists, it has become fun to see what I’ve accomplished within any given time period! The insights gained from where and how I’ve spent my time has translated into better use of it. And reviewing the checklists improved my productivity habits faster.

One important note: if you choose to follow this type of system, make sure that it is designed within your reach. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do for the entire year. Avoid establishing a system that is too rigid, or one that you can only sustain for a month or two.

For example, if it’s not realistic to start working every day at 7am, then commit to 4 days a week. Or if you know it’ll be too difficult to work five uninterrupted 60-minutes each day – then reduce it. It’s better to start with something that’s do-able, and adjust upward.

Finally, envision all of the things you’ll accomplish this year – and how great you’ll feel at the end of the year – using a system that works!

Remember, it’s your life! It’s up to you to make the most of it! The best way to gain more control of your life is to control your time.

What do you think? What productivity habits have worked for you? Please provide your comments below!

About the author, John

John Benzick is an entrepreneurship coach and the founder of Venture Superfly. He is a Tech Partner at the venture-capital fund of Matchstick Ventures, a Mentor with Techstars Retail accelerator, an Entrepreneur-In-Residence and (former CEO-in-Residence) at the University of Minnesota, and founder and owner in two consumer product businesses. Click the button below to learn more.

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