10 Productivity tips for startups to stay focused and on track

by alex 28. March 2013 18:50

As of today, I've been working for myself for 56 days. In those 56 days, I've had amazing results and learned a whole lot. But I've also had a lot of guilt and missed expectations, largely due to focus and motivation. Here are some of my personal tips to keep you on track when you have to self-manage.

1. Wake up and get started

When you work from home it's far too easy to hit snooze "just a few times." Identify when your productive hours are, and make sure you are awake and ready to go when that time comes. When you wake up, get started. Don't laze about; don't play games online, watch "just one" episode of The Daily Show on Hulu before getting started.

Instead, get dressed. Put on your shoes and step outside. You don't even have to put on clean clothes or brush your teeth. Don't feel pressured to go for a jog around the block. Take 10 deep breaths and hug the sun. Get out of bed and get moving. If you are still tired after all of that then you can take a nap.

You have to push yourself.

2. Stay off Facebook

Facebook is fun. Facebook is boring. Facebook is distracting, upsetting, angering, and endearing. Unless your business requires you to be on Facebook for the purposes of advertising or researching, avoid it. Facebook will eat your time in 15 minute chunks and you'll ask yourself where the day went. Facebook has it now, and she'll never let it go.

This goes for Twitter and your other social networking sites too.

3. Don't F5 your email

Did you just push a new software release? Post something exciting on Twitter to let your community know? Wonder if your customer survey results are in?

Stay out of your email. Waiting for information and feedback is a bit like looking forward to Santa's arrival. You know what, Santa will get there whether you are playing video games with your friends (I mean, reading a book and tutorial neighborhood kids) or bugging your mom about it.

I don't know where that metaphor was trying to go. Anyway, your information, if it will arrive, will arrive. Checking your email between every task switch doesn't buy you much and it will steal your time or distract you from what you should be doing.

Unless you're waiting for an email from the President saying "Do not press the button!", do not stalk your inbox.

4. Focus on one task at a time

Multitasking is dead.

Staying focused on completing one task is much easier and faster than trying to do two at once. I think this is double true for anything creative. This isn't to say that you shouldn't listen to music or that you can't talk to your coworkers or roommate, but you shouldn't be designing a logo while trying to do your taxes.

If a customer call comes in, stop what you are doing (if it's appropriate), deal with the customer's request and then get back to work.

If you're working on a new logo, stop fretting over the code that you don't know how to write. Don't think about website color schemes while writing your copy. Don't tweak and play with the CSS in your media player when you're cutting audio.

Staying focused on one task will make the work go faster and with better results in the end.

5. Don't stress out

It isn't good for anyone, especially you and your friends and family. Take a breath. If you're getting frustrated or depressed, step away from the issue. Switch to a new task. Or lock your computer and go outside. This doubles as exercise, which is all around good for you because you can eat more bacon later.

That was a joke. Don't stress out.

6. Don't gaze aimlessly into your monitor 

If you find that you have stopped working and are now looking at your desktop wallpaper or reading random garbage on the internet: stop. Get up, walk away, do 10 pushups, wash the dishes, fold laundry, walk the dog, clean your room, prep your dinner, dance around, call your mom.

You have things you need to do and reading another Reddit article is not it. You do not need to change you wallpaper again. Stop trying to find the perfect profile picture.

7. Avoid games during work hours

Games are good, games are great. You might be creating games, and that makes you cool. But don't play unrelated games during your work hours. It is all together too easy to play for longer than you planned.

I like games too, but schedule game time after your work is done for the day. It doesn't necessarily have to be after your tasks are completed, but make game time after work time is over. Don't play games and call it work time. Don't play games and have guilt because you should be working. If you should be working, then do it.

8. Don't over-eat

Over eating leads to over sleeping. If you get tired after eating a meal then you probably ate too much. Try reducing the size of your meals and eating smaller meals more often throughout the day. It will keep you alert, avoid the mental fuzziness of Thanksgiving and it is also healthier for you. Don't make me find a citation for that, mister, because I know they are out there and I will if anyone questions it.

Avoiding over-eating will keep your work time at its max efficiency.

9. Don't over-caffeinate

Ah, caffeine. Let's take a moment. . . .

Coffee can make the mind sharp and it can snap you into the mood to get stuff done and accomplish the world! And if you have enough coffee you might not care that "accomplish the world" doesn't really make any sense. But if you have too much caffeine you'll become jittery, anxious and easily distracted.

Find your magic sweet-spot number of coffee cups or tea mugs and stay in that neighborhood. Too much coffee hurts your productivity and your health.

10. Make a task list

Every morning, make a list of what you need to do and what you can reasonably accomplish today. It will help you focus your effort and attack your tasks in the correct priority.

This will lead to a feeling of accomplishment - you get to check things off the list and larger projects can be completed more easily with a focused, targetted effort.

When you complete a task, you don't have to mentally regroup and shift back to a high-level to survey the field - just choose the next task on the list.

No muss no fuss.



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