12 Productivity Life Hacks from Successful Entrepreneurs.
Time is precious. Here’s how to make it worthwhile – from those who can’t afford to lose it.
Written By DAPHNE LEPRINCE-RINGUET
“Be more productive” often stands at the top of the list for New Year resolutions – but actually finding the tools to implement it in everyday life is a different kettle of fish. Especially when tips from technology moguls like Tim Cook include setting an alarm clock to start their day at 3.45 am every morning.
We’ve asked 12 successful entrepreneurs and chief executives from various industries, ranging from gaming to transportation, about their own secret productivity hacks – and the good news is, none of them mentioned sleep deprivation as a personal favourite. Here is a round-up of the real tricks you can apply to your life to boost your productivity in your free time, at work and for your future targets.
To better manage your free time
Take Trello home
Trello, the popular web-based project management tool, is now established in many workplaces, and with good reason: it is a useful way of planning ahead. And the basic version is free – so why not use it at home? Yunha Kim, the founder of Simple Habit, certainly sees the appeal: “I have Trello boards for projects such as product releases, but also for random to-dos such as calling a friend or my dentist,” she says. “It helps me stay organised and proactive.”
When facing a day that is sure to be full of face-to-face interactions, Jen Rubio, the co-founder of Away, has taken the habit of spending the first hour of her day completely alone. She calls it “owning the first hour”. She may meditate or workout, or she gets straight to work and start answering emails, but she always takes that time to be on her own. “I’m at my own pace, free of meetings or push notifications. It energises me,” she says.
Make an online to-do list
Colour-coded post-its are good, but they also accumulate, and it all goes down from the moment you lose your to-do list. Todoist lets you keep track of the tasks you need to complete, the plans you’ve made with friends or the books you want to read by organising them more efficiently and centralising them on your phone. A personal favourite of Christine Foster, managing director at The Alan Turing Institute: “I use it to get to ‘inbox zero’. I love jotting down plays that friends recommend or fun places to take my children,” she says.
Cut down on digital
Andrew Keen, writer of How to Fix the Future, says that he couldn’t live without Freedom – the self-described “internet blocker” app. “It lets me write books without the endless distraction of dumb emails and even dumber social media updates,” he says. And although the app isn’t free, starting at just under £2 a month, it will buy you attention. Something the Keen describes as “one of the most scarce and valuable commodities of the digital age.”
To improve efficiency in the workplace
Organise informal meetings
“The traditional meeting is a dated concept,” says Clare Gilmartin, CEO at Trainline. Its corporate atmosphere can indeed be daunting, with team members potentially feeling the pressure of being judged by their superiors. That is counter-productive, says Gilmartin; she prefers to organise small, mission-based informal meetings throughout the day. A better way to let her team share ideas informally, and to boost creativity and innovation.
Make sure that everything is communicated
Scott Walchek, CEO at Trov, still maintains that meetings are crucial to let teams communicate. He makes sure each week starts with a 20-minute long recorded meeting for different departments to explain what they are doing. “This isn’t a status meeting,” he says. “We encourage teams to say nothing if their work doesn’t have an immediate impact.” A way to take the pressure off while ensuring that each department is aware of what others are doing in the company.
Draw the line between work and pleasure
This one is for those working in the creative industry: how do you make sure that you remain aware of your productivity goals when your work is your passion? Alex Ward, the co-founder of Three Fields Entertainment, explains the challenges he faced when gaming, which began as a hobby, became his nine-to-five activity. “Playing games can be individual and solitary, whereas making them requires working as part of a team,” he says. It is crucial, he continues, to always remain focused on collaborating, problem-solving and stepping in to lend a hand in different areas.
Invest in quality
Although it may be tempting – and financially sensible – to constantly chase the lowest price, business coach Christine Hassler says that it is worth looking at the quality of investments, too. And putting more money in when it is worth it. “In the first five years, I thought I could save money by doing many things myself or hiring the person with the lowest fee,” she says. But that cost her opportunities – “now, I hire the most qualified people for any job,” she continues.
To make sure you reach your future targets
Overthinking causes worrying, and worrying stands in the way of accomplishment. It is better, sometimes, to take a risk and go for it, according to Hayden Wood, the co-founder of Bulb. He remembers starting his company, and still not having a name two months before launch because the team was afraid of getting it wrong. “My advice is: don’t overthink or worry,” he says. “Once it becomes yours, it’ll feel right.”
Change the little things
Small changes can contribute to improving your overall quality of life. For Robin Chase, the co-founder of Buzzcar, it starts with commuting. From spending 18 per cent of her income on transport, she went to spend eight per cent, “and my quality of life is better,” she says. Chase walks and bikes, or books a seat in a shared autonomous vehicle. Yet another reason to cut the time spent standing on the tube during morning rush.
Downgrade your standards (when they are too high)
“Don’t get it right, get it written!” – a familiar piece of advice for Elizabeth Varley, the CEO of TechHub. “My mother would tell me this when I’d be meticulously wording a paragraph of an essay due the next day in school,” she says. Getting things right is important – but if your standards of “right” stop you from accepting an option that is perfectly good, it becomes counterproductive. In many cases, it results in tasks not getting done at all. You can start embracing low(er) expectations, or so it seems.
Get used to criticism
Another parental piece of advice, this time from the mother of Otegha Uwagba, who founded Women Who: “Not everyone’s gonna clap for you”. That’s particularly true if you are working in the creative industries, where your work is almost certainly bound to be met with negative criticism at some point. “Not everyone’s going to like, appreciate or be into whatever you’re doing,” says Uwagba, “and that’s okay. Learn not to take it personally, and to move on.”