No matter what industry you’re in or what kind of business you’re running, the old adage that ‘time is money’ is a non-negotiable law. And if you’re an entrepreneur, then taking this maxim to heart is all the more important. If you’re working in an office and you spend all day chatting around the water cooler, you still get paid. Pull the same trick as an entrepreneur though and you’ll have nothing to show at the end of the day.
For this reason, it’s absolutely crucial that you minimize your procrastination and optimize your productivity. They may be hilariously cute, but those cat videos you’re watching on YouTube are costing you money!
Unfortunately, becoming more productive is easier said than done. Most of us have already tried at some point to improve our workflow but have met with disappointment. It’s almost as though something is holding us back from fulfilling our full potential. So instead of trying to force your way through work you don’t want to do, perhaps it’s time to consider what those psychological barriers are that you need to overcome?
In this article, we’ll explore four possible factors that might be slowing you down and preventing you from being productive. Once you’ve identified them and addressed them, you may just feel liberated and find your productivity soars to new heights.
Or maybe you won’t… but it’s got to be worth a try right?
Lack of Interest
Writers’ block is the perfect example of feeling held back from your full productive potential. This is something many of us are familiar with and we all have memories of staring at blank pages with nothing to write. Of course, this is an especially big problem if you’re a novelist!
So what are novelists advised to do about this phenomenon? And what can we learn from them?
More often than not, novelists are advised to consider restructuring the scene they’re trying to write. The argument, is that they’re probably bored by their own writing and as a result can’t work up the enthusiasm! And if they’re too bored to write it, that doesn’t bode well for the readers…
So instead of fighting through that resistance, the good writer will find a way to make a scene more engaging. If it’s a piece of heavy exposition for instance, then they might change the setting or the delivery.
Think about how you can apply this logic to your own work. If you find what you’re doing boring, how can change things up to get yourself excited again? And if that’s beyond your control, try thinking about the aspects of your work that you do find fascinating still.
Get this right and you can recapture the kind of excitement experienced by so many start-ups. This is often thought to be the secret to unlocking those highly sought after flow states!
What You Can Do…
Take whatever it is you’re doing and think about the bigger picture. Why does this matter? Who is it important to? Why were you originally attracted to the industry/role? If necessary, you can even go further and try using the ‘5 Whys’. This means asking yourself: ‘why am I doing this?’ and then following that up with ‘but why’ four more times. Eventually, you’ll uncover whatever motivation it was that originally put you to work.
Find ways to make your job more fun and more enjoyable. This could be as simple as putting on some music you enjoy while you work. Better yet though is to do something that affects the actual work itself – which is easier if you’re in a creative industry but almost always possible if you’re willing to think outside the box.
Consider outsourcing the least enjoyable parts of your job. You could even look at using a virtual assistant service!
If you’re struggling to focus on work then another consideration is that you may just be exhausted. Too many people blame an inability to complete their to-do list on a lack of time. Actually though, most of us have more than enough time – we just lack the energy to do anything with it!
What can you do about low energy? There are a number of answers, which include everything from exercise to diet and supplementation with nootropics.
More often than not though, a lack of energy means you’re probably stressed and overworked. Most of us simply try to fit too much into the day and if you’re holding down a job on top of your entrepreneurial endeavors, or attending lots of classes and social events, then you won’t have any bandwidth left at the end of the day. Energy is a finite commodity – you need to prioritize what you want to do with it.
What You Can Do…
Try to incorporate some exercise into your regime. The best kind for boosting energy levels is what is known as ‘High Intensity Interval Training’, or HIIT. This type of exercise is characterized by short bursts of intense activity, followed by ‘active recovery’. It has been shown to improve mitochondrial count!
Switch your morning coffee for a morning smoothie. People worry way too much about the sugar content in their juice drinks; a smoothie from Starbucks is usually under 100 calories and that sugar will provide you with immediate energy. This is the perfect way to start the day and is packed with vitamins and minerals that can help to heighten your energy levels and general health. What’s more, that coffee may actually have been slowing you down – what you thought was sleep inertia could actually have been withdrawal symptoms!
The wrong environment can make a huge impact on your productivity and this is something a lot of entrepreneurs get wrong. How? By trying to work from home without creating a dedicated workspace first. If you’re trying to convince your brain to get into ‘work mode’ when you’re sitting in the same place where you sleep and watch trashy TV, then you’re facing an uphill struggle. Untidy environments make matters even worse.
So next time you’re working from home, try taking your laptop to a nearby coffee shop. You may just find the environment is more conducive to getting some serious work done.
What You Can Do…
In his book How to Save an Hour Every Day, Michael Heppell recommends throwing out anything you haven’t used for a long time. If you have boxes on your wardrobe that you haven’t looked through in the past two months, then chances are that all that stuff can go to charity. Not only is it liberating having less clutter but the unconscious difference that having clear surfaces and nothing under the bed makes is huge.
Find a nearby spot that you enjoy working. Coffee shops are particularly popular because they provide free WiFi, power sockets and a ‘hum’ of activity.
Find the right backing track and a good pair of headphones. WordPress inventor Matt Mullenweg says that he enjoys putting repetitive music on ‘loop’ to get into a productive mindset. Or, for those who particularly enjoy the subtle tones of the coffee shop, Coffitivity is a website that lets you bring them home with you.
Fear of Failure
It sounds like the sort of advice you might get from a Disney movie but often a lack of productivity can be down to a lack of confidence or a fear of failure.
This is particularly true if you’re nearing launch date/completion and you notice yourself start to slow down. In this case, it’s very possible that you’re worried what people are going to say about your hard work. How will you cope if your product falls flat on its face? And even if it goes well, how will you feel once you’ve lost that big goal to work towards? This then causes us to drag our heels, or sometimes to avoid working toward our goals at all.
It’s surprising just how many people are jeopardizing themselves for these reasons and it’s something that Tony Robbins talks about a lot.
What You Can Do…
One interesting solution is to use Tim Ferriss’ ‘fear setting’ technique. Here, you write down all the things you’re afraid of that are holding you back. From there, you then go down the list, rating each item based on how likely it is to come to fruition. Then you go through the list a second time but add all the ways you’d cope if you had to. Now your fears have been defined, you’ll find they lose a lot of their power over you.
Start a ‘side project’. Side projects are great because they ensure you don’t have ‘all your eggs in one basket’. Once you start getting excited about the next thing you’re going to do, this will make letting go of the first that much easier!
Another strategy? That would just be to close your eyes, hope for the best and take a leap! After all, that’s often what it means to be an entrepreneur!