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Use These Strategies to Maximize Productivity — Without Inventing an Extra Weekday

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Use These Strategies to Maximize Productivity — Without Inventing an Extra Weekday

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I’m not telling you to slow down. Even if I did, you prob­a­bly wouldn’t lis­ten.


6 min read

Opin­ions expressed by Entre­pre­neur con­trib­u­tors are their own.


Let’s be hon­est — there aren’t enough hours in the week for most entre­pre­neurs. Days run togeth­er and soon you are beg­ging for an eighth day of the week to catch up. We call this imag­i­nary day “Smurs­day.”

Relat­ed: How to Man­age Time With 10 Tips That Work

When you’re work­ing this hard, it’s dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish when your week starts and ends. It can be even hard­er to keep track of your startup’s accom­plish­ments and accu­rate­ly mea­sure your progress. Veloc­i­ty needs struc­ture.

Now, I’m not telling you to slow down. Even if I did, you prob­a­bly wouldn’t lis­ten. But, unless you can actu­al­ly cre­ate a new day of the week, get­ting more done means get­ting more from the hours you have. I’ve picked up a few strate­gies over the years, which were recent­ly put to the test when our team was weeks away from launch with months of work remain­ing. With these tips, we clear­ly defined our work days, max­i­mized pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and launched on tar­get.

Tip 1: Establish a regular cadence of commitment and celebration.

Fre­quent­ly mea­sur­ing progress toward your goals is just as impor­tant as set­ting the goals them­selves. With every­one work­ing at top speed, even one week of exe­cu­tion with­out direc­tion can be treach­er­ous. Check-ins force con­ver­sa­tions that answer ques­tions like: Is every­one focused on the high­est-pri­or­i­ty projects? Does every­one agree this week’s focus will pro­duce the most valu­able results for the com­pa­ny? What inter­de­pen­den­cies will exist three months from now based on today’s work?

At Clearcov­er, we use an Objec­tives and Key Results (OKR) frame­work for goal set­ting at every lev­el — from com­pa­ny strat­e­gy all the way down to week­ly pri­or­i­ties. The “objec­tive” part of OKRs is a ral­ly cry — it is meant to be some­thing bold, broad and a lit­tle bit scary. Imag­ine it as the type of accom­plish­ment that inspires team mem­bers to get out of bed each morn­ing. The “key results” are the quan­tifi­able mea­sures of suc­cess in reach­ing that objec­tive.

Relat­ed: Get it Done: 35 Habits of the Most Pro­duc­tive Peo­ple (Info­graph­ic)

While the OKR process helps us estab­lish direc­tion, it doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly ensure we’re mak­ing progress toward those goals. So, we take time every Mon­day to devel­op our indi­vid­ual work pri­or­i­ties (called “Mon­day Com­mit­ments”) and share them with each oth­er. These check-ins com­mu­ni­cate everyone’s focus areas for the week, estab­lish why we’re doing them and iden­ti­fy how we can help each oth­er along the way.

Then on Fri­day, we get togeth­er to cel­e­brate “wins” — the things we’re most proud of accom­plish­ing that week. This includes employ­ees shar­ing their big mile­stones, small vic­to­ries and even what was learned from mis­takes or fail­ures. On Fri­days at Clearcov­er, one per­son is award­ed a stuffed banana for tak­ing a bold risk that didn’t pay off. Beyond the obvi­ous­ly awe­some pay­off of a bright yel­low plush fruit to dis­play on one’s desk, this “dis­tinc­tion” rep­re­sents our com­mit­ment to rec­og­niz­ing risk even when it doesn’t reap reward.

Our “Mon­day Com­mit­ments” and “Fri­day Wins” prac­tice not only sup­ports our reg­u­lar cadence of goal set­ting and mea­sur­ing progress, but also allows the team to take a moment and pause, under­stand what every­one does all day and appre­ci­ate what each dis­ci­pline means to our over­all suc­cess.

Tip 2: Develop frameworks for decision-making and time management.

In a fast-paced, dynam­ic envi­ron­ment, entre­pre­neurs need to be able to make quick deci­sions and focus their ener­gies on the areas that will impact their busi­ness the most. Lots of time can be wast­ed on low-val­ue tasks or try­ing to make per­fect choic­es.

To encour­age focus on high-val­ue tasks, we use the “Eisen­how­er box.” The Eisen­how­er box clas­si­fies actions based on urgency and impor­tance. Deal­ing with cus­tomer issues, for exam­ple, is an urgent and impor­tant task, while grab­bing cof­fee with that per­son who mes­saged you on LinkedIn may fall under low urgency, low impor­tance. By clas­si­fy­ing your to-do list using these cri­te­ria, you can bet­ter man­age your time and elim­i­nate low-val­ue action items — you’ll get more pro­duc­tiv­i­ty out of few­er hours.

Relat­ed: 4 Reli­able Signs Some­one Is About to Waste Your Time

To com­ple­ment the Eisen­how­er box, we use a “cost and reversibil­i­ty matrix” to encour­age high-veloc­i­ty deci­sion-mak­ing. Just like the Eisen­how­er box, the Clearcov­er matrix sorts actions based on two impor­tant ques­tions:

  1. Is the deci­sion eas­i­ly reversible?
  2. Is being wrong cost­ly?

Image Cred­it: Cour­tesy of Clearcov­er

If the deci­sion is eas­i­ly reversible and not cost­ly, don’t waste time on the deci­sion — go ahead with exper­i­men­ta­tion. Sim­i­lar­ly, if the risk is cost­ly and change is per­ma­nent, employ­ees should engage in a thor­ough and delib­er­ate deci­sion-mak­ing process.

The cost reversibil­i­ty matrix enables team mem­bers to move quick­ly and empow­ers them to be inde­pen­dent lead­ers of their own projects. This way, qual­i­ty of work doesn’t have to be sac­ri­ficed for orga­ni­za­tion­al speed.

Tip 3: Commit to distraction-free productivity.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: You set a goal at the begin­ning of the week, block off time in your cal­en­dar and then, halfway through your work, you get a mes­sage on your phone. Before you know it, you’ve wast­ed an hour tex­ting and catch­ing up on mis­cel­la­neous emails.

Relat­ed: 10 Sim­ple Things Suc­cess­ful Peo­ple Do Every Morn­ing (Info­graph­ic)

Thanks to the inter­net and tech­nol­o­gy, our atten­tion span is short­er than ever. This makes it dou­bly impor­tant to com­mit to pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Turn off your phone, dis­able cal­en­dar noti­fi­ca­tions, phys­i­cal­ly iso­late your­self for blocks of time or try Chrome exten­sions like Habit­Lab. Seem­ing­ly small atten­tion-grab­bers pull you out of your work rhythm, which is dam­ag­ing to main­tain­ing deep work — the type of work required for max­i­mum pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.

Now, no mat­ter how hard you try to dis­con­nect, emails and calls will inevitably find you. It’s impor­tant to resist the quick, short bursts of dopamine you get from answer­ing them. Your mon­key brain will encour­age you to pro­cras­ti­nate, mak­ing it hard­er to com­plete sim­ple tasks accu­rate­ly and on time. To hone your focus, I rec­om­mend audit­ing your day to see how much time you spend on both menial and impor­tant tasks. This will help illu­mi­nate where you’re wast­ing time and where you need to trim activ­i­ties that keep you from achiev­ing your goals.

As an entre­pre­neur, there will nev­er be enough time in the week to accom­plish all of your goals. But, by clear­ly defin­ing your week­ly pri­or­i­ties, cel­e­brat­ing the wins and the mis­takes, empow­er­ing your team­mates and being dis­ci­plined with your time and atten­tion, even the busiest of entre­pre­neurs can get more out of every week — even ones with only sev­en days.

Relat­ed Video: Pow­er­ful Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty Tips to Get More Done in Less Time

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