Entrepreneurial Mindset: 33 Productivity and Success Tips

Saturday, August 18, 2007 at 11:45pm by Site Administrator

Productivity is a mindset that’s easy to slip out of without practice or a few reminders. Many of these tips are geared to the digital entrepreneur, but also apply to almost anyone running a startup business.

Email Management

Email messages can take up a significant portion of an entrepreneur’s time, especially if you’re working online – since a greater percentage of conversations end up being online.

  1. Delay email checking.
    Don’t start the morning by checking email. It’ll just distract you. Most people find morning the best time to write or plan. Maybe there’s a task needed doing from yesterday.

  2. Improve readability.
    Lifehack has a Better Blogging Gmail extension for Firefox which has numerous useful options. One is a choice of “skins” for the GMail interface, some of which make finding a particular email easier (if you’re too lazy to search).

  3. Apply GTD for email.
    GTD, or Get Things Done, is a productivity philosophy for task management started by David Allen. It’s also a book by him by the same name. If you are using GMail (Google Mail) on the Firefox browser, you can install the GTD Inbox for GMail extension.

  4. Use the two-minute rule.
    Finding yourself taking too long for some tasks? Time yourself, track your best time on repeated tasks, then try to best your score by completing non-essential tasks in two minutes. But do them now instead of setting them aside. For email, the GTD Inbox Firefox extension (above) has a timer for both GMail email and the GTalk chat dialog.

  5. Minimize email folders.
    Most popular email clients allow you to create folders to partition your email and keep your inbox from being out of control. Jim Gibbon suggests you keep only two email folders to manage all messages. This forces you to decide now what to do with a message, rather than deferring it until later in a folder you’ll probably never look at again.

  6. Reduce email checking.
    This won’t work for everyone, but some people like to check email and respond only once per day. This eliminates unnecessary time spent checking when you’re bored or distracted. To enable reduced checking, consider answering personal email after work hours. [Urgent messages are usually received over the phone, not by email.]

  7. Don’t reply unless necessary.
    In the course of an email conversation thread, you’ll get to a point where it’s not necessary to respond. Some people are overly polite and want to simply say “okay” or “thank you”. If you’ve already said “thanks in advance”, why waste time saying “thanks” once more? Consider how many times per day you’re doing this, day in and day out.

  8. Auto-filter email messages.
    Some email clients such as GMail allow you to set up automatic filters that either clear out junk or redirect email to folders. If you’re using more than two folders, you might as well send, say, newsletters from specific email addresses to a “newsletters” folder, or what have you.

  9. Use email instead of having a meeting.
    Sometimes, communicating by email is considerably faster than setting up a meeting, sharing pleasantries, etc. That is, you don’t always need a meeting.

  10. Use text chat over email or telephone.
    When a quick answer is necessary, sending emails back and forth is a waste of time. Text chat also beats the telephone because it allows you to share text, URLs, or files and get responses in real time. Another aspect of text chat is that you can keep a session open over a long duration and interact when necessary. Group chat can also be more productive than conducting a live meeting.

Task Management

Successfully completing tasks often relies solely on being organized.

  1. Plan ahead.
    Having a roadmap to a goal does improve the chances that you’ll get to your destination. Not every inch of your journey has to be planned out, though knowing the major milestones helps keep you on track. You’ll also need to know what you have to do to get to your destination.

  2. Write a to do list.
    The act of writing down a to do list helps to reinforce it in your mind, and to provide the sense of its importance. If you prefer, type it, or use a calendaring tool such as Google Calendar – which makes it easier to move an incomplete task to the next day. If you don’t have time to write, or are unable (i.e., because you’re driving), try carrying a voice recording and having someone transcribe later.

  3. Review your to do list.
    Just planning and building a to-do list isn’t enough. Review your list of tasks and/or ideas as soon as possible. Did you accomplish what you set out to do? Did a task take longer than you expected? Less time?

  4. Adjust tasks accordingly.
    Your daily to do list is a rough guide for what needs to be accomplished today. Highest priority tasks should, of course, come first. However, if you’ve reached a bottleneck, instead of fretting about it, work on something else that you’ve already prepped.

  5. Don’t procrastinate.
    Do it now. Easier said than done, of course. People procrastinate many reasons:

    • Boredom.
    • Unprepared or unskilled for a task.
    • Fear of failure due to past experiences – often unrelated.
    • Distractions, such as too many things on the mind. Unload your ideas.
  6. Multitask properly.
    This is related to tip #14 above, Adjust tasks accordingly. There’s a trend right now to declare that multi-tasking is bad. That’s especially true for lots of physical tasks. But many other tasks can be multi-tasked if:

    1. They’re sufficiently different in approach.
    2. A computer or machine is involved that can be set to run on its own.
    3. You prep tasks by breaking them down into sub-tasks.
    4. You are not progressing with one task, but you’re capable of switching to another task and taking it to completion.

    It can be done. I’ve done it this way for 25 years, and it simply takes some planning.

  7. Don’t do two things at once.
    This is NOT multi-tasking, and only serves to confuse. (This also includes watching TV while trying to work. However, listening to music does sometimes aid work productivity.) Also, switching back and forth between two tasks because you can is also not multi-tasking.

  8. Leave work at work.
    The basic rule of thumb is to separate work and personal time. Assuming you don’t work out of the house, taking work home is a bad. Physical tiredness can appear out of nowhere when you switch environments. There may be distractions such as family members, pets, personal tasks. If you work out your home, try to keep your work area separate, so that you can mentally leave work at work by stepping away.

Management, Meetings, Business Miscellaneous

Do you work with others? Optimize productivity for yourself and them with a few simple habits.

  1. Delegate tasks.
    If you have a startup business, you can probably get by with doing nearly everything, but only for a while. As each role you’re fulfilling grows in scope, you will need to delegate. And utilize each person’s best skills accordingly. Some workplaces are notorious for putting employees into the wrong roles, as Scott Adam‘s Dilbert comic has amusingly shown. We don’t need more companies like that.

  2. Don’t micromanage.
    Once you delegate, don’t micromanage, watching over others, nagging them about details. If you trust them enough to hire them and delegate tasks, then leave them to complete the tasks as they see fit. It’s hard to let go, especially when you’re concerned with the future of your business, but it’s necessary since you cannot forever do everything yourself.

  3. Choose compatible partners.
    This should be obvious, but friends often go into business together. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. If you’re arguing that one partner isn’t doing enough work or whatever, then it’s time to make business-changing decisions.

  4. Keep your appointments.
    Keeping your appointments saves rescheduling time for all parties involved. Meetings also partition your day, and the time in transit can give you a much-needed break – even if it’s only a few minutes.

  5. Prepare for meetings.
    This is especially important if you are the moderator. Without the necessary research or documentation, it’s difficult to have a productive meeting.

  6. Send meeting agendas in advance.
    The more people that will be involved in a meeting, especially if they are participating remotely, the more important it is that they’re prepared, too. Send any meeting agenda or documentation in advance.

  7. Weigh out opportunities.
    Say no to an opportunity if you don’t feel it’s right. There’s no rule that says you have to accept all offers, and not every opportunity is worth the rewards – especially if it affects existing work with regular clients.

  8. Do things online.
    There’s a lot you can do online that are incredible timesavers. For example, if you’re planning some business travel, forget driving to the travel agency. Book your flight and hotel online. Or delegate the task to your assistant.


These are general productivity tips that don’t fit in above.

  1. Take a break.
    Not taking a break results in an overloaded mind, which in turn results in employees wasting nearly 25% of a work day.

  2. Take a nap.
    Go one step further than a break and take a nap. Instead of reducing productivity, a nap can clear your mind, even present solutions to pending problems upon awakening. It also is a stress reliever, and stress kills productivity.

  3. Exercise.
    Staying healthy increases your chances of success. Exercise gets blood flowing, to the body and brain. Schedule it like a meeting if necessary.

  4. Wake up earlier.
    If you’re capable of getting up earlier than usual, you just might find that not only is life quieter then – allowing more concentration – but that you’re more productive, especially with creative work. If getting up early doesn’t work for you, challenge yourself to be more productive in the same amount of time.

  5. Reduce distraction.
    Unless you do phone support, are in a crisis situation, or are expecting the boss to call, you do not need to answer the phone every time it rings. If you are the boss, well… you can get away with not answering everytime. The same goes for email (see above): don’t feel compelled to answer the moment you receive a message.

  6. Reduce stress elements.
    Stress occurs for many reasons. Take your pick, then deal with it:

    1. Fire an underproductive employee if talking doesn’t help.
    2. Get a loan if finances are a problem, even if you generally follow a bootstrapper‘s credo.
    3. Buyout a difficult partner.
    4. Get rid of anything causing you stress.
  7. Turn off the TV.
    Turning off the TV forever supposedly can make you several million dollars, if you leverage both the time and expenses saved.

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  1. Thanks for the link and for all of the great tips. I really like the one about sending out meeting agendas in advance. Sometimes if you do that, you can eliminate the need for the meeting altogether.

    Comment by HD BizBlog — August 19, 2007 @ 12:14 pm

  2. Thanks for the link love! Wow, you have a lot of useful tips here.

    Comment by Donald Latumahina — August 19, 2007 @ 3:59 pm

  3. I think tips are great, but they are limited — a little like giving candy.

    I think the fundamental components/practices of time management are more important, and where a professional should be focusing his/her time. I also think there are 11 of them, and they form a group of practices that a user should be perfect and master over time.

    The tips are like candy compared to the basics, IMHO.

    The trouble is that no-one knows that the fundamentals are (I can only claim to be *trying* to define them.)

    Comment by Francis Wade — September 29, 2007 @ 1:12 am

  4. Hi Francis, thanks for dropping by. At the time I wrote this, a lot of other blogs already had time management tips. So I my tips are supplemental, and are straight from my own experience. Thus they may be a bit raw in presentation.

    And what’s candy to some people is sustenance to others. You have to understand that with the vastness of skillsets of readers on the web, some people know “stuff” and some people don’t. It’s hard to please everyone.

    Comment by Raj Dash — September 29, 2007 @ 1:38 am

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