You wake up, check your phone, and before you know it, you are flying down a rabbit hole of endless email replies. Then noon arrives, and all you have done is engage in comment battles on Facebook and check your Twitter several times.
The feeling of not getting anything done lingers. It stings, it really does. And when you allow that feeling to persist, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy and even depression.
I’ve been there countless times. As an entrepreneur, I have endured lots of failure and disappointment. Eventually though, I figured out what I need to do to get stuff done consistently.
Plan Your Day
Related: Q&As: Planning for the Future
Everyone says it, and as cliche as it sounds, failing to plan is planning to fail. My definition of planning doesn’t entail accounting for every second I’m awake. I’ve tried this and it doesn’t work.
Instead, I follow a few principles when planning my day:
- Do the hard things first: In particular, the tasks that require extra mental energy, brain power and focus.
- Set short deadlines: Under 4 hours per task tends to work best for me. For instance – write 500 words in 30 minutes or finish a proposal in 2 hours. Even if the task normally takes longer than what you allocate, you will accomplish more than you would without a deadline.
2. Minimize Distractions
We all know that cell phones and the internet have all but eviscerated our attention spans. Three things help me ensure that I won’t get distracted by unimportant things:
- Putting my phone on airplane mode: Ever notice how you can read an entire book on a flight. No, it’s not because airplanes have a magical productivity field.
This trick alone can be attributed to a drastic increase in my productivity. Try it out, even if you start with an hour.
- Deleting nearly all apps from my phone: An argument can be made for keeping every app, but ask yourself if you need every app on your phone. You can check your bank account and respond to your Facebook messages from your laptop.
- Setting aside times for social media and texting – I like to use a 15 minute block of time at lunch.
3. Use Rewards
Science backs this – incentives motivate us . Without rewards, you will lose momentum and want to give up as soon as you face resistance.
Since I am addicted to lattes, I often reward myself with a latte at lunch after I finish the difficult tasks I planned for the morning. See how these rules work together?
4. Track Your Progress
Not with complicated spreadsheets and formulas. I keep it simple by adding two sections to my daily planner: what I did well and what I want to improve. Every day I list two or three items in each of these sections, and over time I observe what areas I consistently falter in. Rinse and repeat.
5. Create Habits
Each of the above rules must become a habit, otherwise you will find yourself abandoning ship.
The only way to create a habit is to mercilessly force yourself to do something for 30 days in a row. When you face resistance, which you undoubtedly will, force yourself to do it anyway. There is no way around it.
My productivity explodes when I implement these principles in tandem. I’ve found that they don’t do much on their own. Hopefully, I will inspire a few ambitious people to achieve what they want without having to resort to complicated tactics or strategies.
A serial entrepreneur with a passion for creating companies that disrupt the way people live. Nick is the co-founder of Leverage and the former CEO of CalvinApp.
Before making the jump to the startup technology space, Nick spent more than eight years on Wall Street as a high-frequency algorithmic trader. His personal mission is to help busy entrepreneurs and executives optimize their lives in a meaningful way and help them go from idea to execution in as few steps as possible.
In addition to his professional interests, Nick is an avid chess player, traveler, and athlete.