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Setting & Achieving Goals

5 Work Productivity Hacks Used By Rockstar Entrepreneurs

Productivity begins when you clear your calendar.

Han-Gwon Lung

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As a business owner, I often find myself struggling to make sense of my time. How did two hours just vanish into my inbox? Did that weekly catch-up call really end up taking an entire hour? Why isn’t my Seamless order here yet, and who’s responsible?

Seriously, though – it pays to pay more attention to how you spend your time. But instead of listing out ways to be more productive or get out of work one hour earlier, I’m going to take a look at what really successful people do instead. Specifically, people who make it their business to make all of us more productive.

Here are five ways that productivity entrepreneurs make better use of their time:

1. Cancel recurring meetings

Slack, the team messaging platform, has helped a lot of people be more productive. It’s no surprise that the company’s worth just keeps going up. In fact, it may be somewhere close to $4 billion.

Obviously, you can’t build up a productivity company worth that much money unless you’re a productivity wizard. Here’s what Slack’s founder, Stewart Butterfield, has to say about staying productive – “We just went through this process of cancelling almost every recurring meeting that we had to see which ones we really needed.”

Related: 4 Tips To Improve Your Business Productivity Over Public Holidays

Wow. When he puts it that way, it really does make sense, doesn’t it? What about meetings in general? How can we make them more efficient? The short answer, Butterfield said, is not to make meetings routine.

“One way that empathy manifests itself is courtesy,” Butterfield said in a interview with inc.com.

“Respecting people’s time is important. Everyone should try to make the lives of everyone else who works here a little bit simpler. So if you’re going to call a meeting, you’re responsible for it, and you have to be clear what you want out of it.”

Takeaway: Meetings really don’t have to be recurring.

2. Delegate more, and relax more

Hootsuite lets you manage your social channels in one easy-to-use platform. It saves social media managers so much time that I doubt most of them would have their jobs if it, and/or Buffer, didn’t exist. (Hootsuite and Buffer are competitors.)

Here’s what Ryan Holmes, Hootsuite CEO, has to say about prioritising tasks and managing expectations. “[Prioritising what needs to be done] is round-robin, and by relative importance.”

Okay, easy enough. I think by “round-robin” he means delegating tasks to the right people, rather than doing all of them yourself. I’m sure most of us know this intellectually, but we could all stand to delegate a bit more and micro-manage a bit less.

Takeaway: Not all tasks are equally important. Prioritise, then delegate.

3. Hang out and work with productive people

colleagues-coffee-break

Leo Widrich, Buffer CEO, has this to say about sticking to daily routines – “I think the key to a good daily routine is to have a great environment. I think Jim Rohn’s quote applies: ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’ This is something that I believe makes all the difference of whether you can stick to a daily routine or not… Finding others who also have an interest in a great and productive routine really is probably 80-90 percent of what you can do to set yourself on the right track.”

This one’s definitely a keeper. Leo’s arguing that one of the keys to productivity is just spending time with productive people. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered that piece of advice in a project management workshop before, but it totally makes sense.

Takeaway: Want to stick to a daily routine? Hang out with people who are productive.

Related: 5 Time-Management Tools for Small Businesses to Improve Productivity

4. Break up tasks into smaller tasks. Then breathe

Zapier, in a nutshell, makes connections between apps and software so that you can use shortcuts to save time. It helps busy developers and project managers automate certain tasks.

Here’s how Zapier CEO Wade Foster tackles big, unwieldy tasks:

“My biggest ‘hack’ for productivity is to break a task into the small piece that’s actionable. That way I can get started. As soon as I do that you start to realise big tasks don’t feel quite so big.”

This one really resonates with me and my experience building up Tailored Ink. Sometimes, we’re all stuck at a wall at work. We may even feel what I like to call a “spiritual unwillingness” to do a specific task, even if it’s easy.

Takeaway: There is no such thing as a big task. There are only small tasks.

5. Don’t waste time on temporary fixes

ZipSchedules helps users create Gantt charts for teams. Project managers can stay on top of each team member’s contributions and deadlines in a visual dashboard. That way, project leaders can easily identify timesucks and focus on priorities instead.

Mitesh Gala, CEO of Altametrics, has this to say about choosing between competing tasks – “What you choose not to do is more important than what you choose to do. Before you do anything, take time to think it all the way through… Thinking things through will save you tons of time versus when the idea or initiative fails and you have to recommit all the effort again. If something is not sustainable or structurally aligned, don’t do it, you are just running in circles.”

I couldn’t agree more. Beyond the initial kick-off meeting and the final deliverable, many managers have little insight into what individual team members are actually doing.

Even if they do, they might not be able to identify where team members could shift priorities to better complement each other’s tasks.

Takeaway: Before you commit to something, ask yourself if it will have lasting value.

How often are you productive at work?

productivity

If I learned one thing from these collected tips, it’s that being more productive is an ongoing process.

Nobody’s really figured it all out yet – that’s why there are so many books, seminars and workshops on the subject. But it’s also not rocket science. By taking small, sensible steps towards improving your workflow and by trimming the fat off team meetings, just about anyone can get out of work a few minutes to an hour earlier each day.

Related: 7 Traits That Define Work Productivity Superstars

My personal tip? Make a running to-do list at the start of each day so that you can forecast your weekly workload and earnings.

Prioritise each task and, by 5:00 or 6:00 pm (whenever your work day is supposed to end), push all the remaining low-priority tasks into the next day’s to-do list.

This will help you make sure you’re doing what’s important every day, but will also keep you from overworking and help you leave the office when you’re supposed to.

Takeaway: Be accountable to yourself. No one else is more responsible for your success.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Han-Gwon Lung is the award-winning CEO and proud co-founder of Tailored Ink, a boutique writing agency for businesses that want language that sells. He was the first hire at Prose Media, and got his agency chops at places such as The Writer and The Economist. His ghostwriting has been published in Content Marketing Institute, Convince & Convert, Kissmetrics and Moz.

Setting & Achieving Goals

How You Can Turn Those ‘Near Wins’ Into Successes

As a start-up, there’s nothing more devastating than losing a deal you thought was yours, or realising your great idea isn’t the game-changer you thought it was. But there’s an upside to those ‘near misses’ — they’re excellent opportunities to learn from and perfect your offering.

Tumi Menyatswe

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perseverance

By good fortune, I started my career in a commonly misunderstood and widely overlooked sub-sector within the aviation industry, load control. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know what that is. In simple terms, load control focuses on the safety of passengers and the weight and balance of an aircraft. The work ensures that the centre of gravity is always within certified limits and structural weight and balance restrictions are never exceeded. A huge responsibility, even for the trained and desensitised.

For most of us hyper-ambitious individuals, when we don’t get to ‘the top’ as per the initial plan, we tend to wonder whether it was even worth it to start our journey. We lose our centre of gravity. Being one of the two selected candidates (after a nationwide search with over 500 applicants) for a world-class management trainee programme and later moving on from that ‘fairly clear path to success’, I’d always felt like I had failed, and dismally.

Let me explain. The programme was aimed exclusively at nurturing new talent within Global Load Control. It was industry-specific, and when I secured such a coveted spot, I felt on top of the world — my path was clear. Except it wasn’t. I realised I wanted a different environment where I could get exposure to working with entrepreneurs, especially because by then I had spent time within the Cape Town start-up ecosystem. I knew exactly why I was moving on, but it still felt like I’d failed.

Here’s the harsh truth: Nearly winning is failure, but that’s okay. We learn from failure. I’ve established my own core values and I’ve dared to speak up and write my own narrative. I’ve learnt to own my purpose. The road hasn’t always been easy, but in hindsight, it’s definitely been worth it.

Creating a compelling need

I have an innate ability to choose industries that aren’t open to changing their status quo. I then intentionally challenge and critique how the systems in those industries have been operating. This means things rarely go my way. It’s the entrepreneurial mindset, whether you’re starting a business or employed, to question everything, and that’s my mantra — I always ask ‘why?’

The problem is that even though I know I have a solution my customers need, because I’m challenging the status quo, they don’t always see things my way.

Related: For Vusi Thembekwayo, Focus Leads To Big Wins

As an entrepreneur, I’ve learnt that understanding the reason behind the multiple ‘not yet’ and ‘nos’ from your ideal first customers is a gift. But in order for you to claim that gift, you have to be committed to the process of understanding your customer’s needs.

Multiple authors and experts will tell you that however good your product or service is, the simple truth is that no one will buy it if they don’t want it or don’t believe they need it. And you won’t be able to persuade anyone that they want or need to buy what you’re offering unless you clearly understand what it is your customers want.

One aspect that isn’t being sufficiently discussed, is the fact that committing to that process is going to be uncomfortable and even painful in some cases. Really digging into your customer’s business to the point that you can offer them a real solution that they need takes confidence, resilience, hard work and sometimes even a thick skin if your customer or prospect pushes back. You need to really believe in your solution — but you also need to be willing to change what isn’t working.

Entrepreneurs are people too, and let’s face it, no parent wants to hear that their baby (or business or business idea) is ugly. Nurturing a positive view of yourself, finding ways of developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience as an entrepreneur. And yes, that means that sometimes you have to face the truth and change what isn’t working in your business. When facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion because that terrible feeling of not winning at first will wear off, eventually.

Stimulation for further achievement and mastery

When we don’t complete projects perfectly, it can feel as though we’ve failed. However, ‘near wins’ are important steps in achieving our long-term goals. Near wins are almost, if not always, more important than actual wins, as they set in motion a constant pursuit of improvement. In her brilliant TED Talk Embrace the Near Win, Sarah Lewis deep dives into the concept of the near win and how it’s instrumental in achieving success.

I, like most people, have experienced my own set of near wins. According to Sarah, that’s okay, because failure is what we experience on the way to mastery. And mastery is ultimately more important than success. Sarah defines success as a single moment. Something that comes and goes and is a byproduct of effort. However, what she calls mastery, is the act of working towards something. A system for continuing to set and reach for goals. As I’ve personally learnt, being engaged in that system is a crucial element in mastering your goal. Purposeful efforts make life interesting.

Stay on your own leading edge

More will always be required of you. That’s a fact. Recovering from failure requires sufficient strength and an ability to support your sense of well-being while managing the stresses brought about by failure.

The trick is learning the art of bouncing back. The term most often used is resilience. The Road to Resilience, a publication of the American Psychological Association and the Discovery Health Channel, offers a useful definition. “Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress — like family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. Find ways that are likely to work well for YOU as part of YOUR own personal strategy for fostering resilience and overcoming failure. Along pathways to success and mastery, entrepreneurs, change agents and leaders alike will find adversity, doubt, and near wins. How you manage those is what matters, so learn and adjust where necessary.”

Related: 3 Personality Traits You Need For Success: Grit, Determination And The Will To Succeed

One last thing I would like to stress is learning to cope with who you are as a person. Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. I know it’s a cliché but it’s also essential to your overall well-being and success. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience. Protect your peace because you can’t possibly function in chaos. Remember this, the dark moments that will come will also pass, so focus on getting that shine on. Cheers to celebrating your next near win.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve learnt that understanding the reason behind the multiple ‘not yet’ and ‘nos’ from your ideal first customers is a gift. But in order for you to claim that gift, you have to be committed to the process of understanding your customer’s needs.

Staying motivated

  1. It’s called ‘the entrepreneurial journey’ for a reason. It might take you a bit of time to see the value of some lessons and that’s okay, the light bulb will go on eventually.
  2. Accept that you don’t know everything. While you may start to build a business and it actually begins to work, don’t think that you’ve become a Mrs/Mr know-it-all. Continue to learn from your customers and the people around you
  3. It’s not all about you and your idea. Your business will exist because there’s a value exchange between yourself and your customer. Be very clear about what that value is and how you can keep improving on it
  4. Find a mentor. By that I mean someone who’s actually built a business and succeeded, not an entrepreneurship activist. Inspiring entrepreneurship activists are fine, but it helps to have a solid sounding board and that takes experience, and someone who has experienced failure themselves.
  5. Breathe. Starting a business is hard, growing one is hard and running one is hard. Doing this day in and day out can be exhausting. Remember to celebrate the small wins and avoid the notion that you have to land some fantastic, outstanding client or reach thousands of customers before celebrating. Rejoice over the first customer or transaction, or over squashing a minor coding bug in a few days.

WATCH THIS

Embrace the Near Win by Sarah Lewis

“My triumphs are not merely the result of a grand achievement, but of the propulsion of a lineage of near wins.”— Arctic explorer Ben Saunders

Sarah Lewis is an art historian and critic who celebrates creativity and shows how it can lead us through fear and failure to ultimate success

In her talk Embrace the Near Win, Sarah Lewis shares the following insights:

  • Success is a moment, but what we’re always celebrating is creativity and mastery. The secret is converting successes – big, small and near misses – into mastery. This starts with the value you give to a near win.
  • Success is achieving a specific goal, but mastery is knowing that it means nothing if you can’t do it again and again.
  • Mastery is not the same as excellence. It’s also not the same as success, which is an event, a moment in time, and a label that the world confers upon you. Mastery is not a commitment to a goal but to a constant pursuit.
  • In other words, the pursuit of mastery is an ever-onward almost.
  • Mastery is in the reaching, not the arriving. It’s in constantly wanting to close that gap between where you are and where you want to be.
  • Success motivates us, but a near win can propel us in an ongoing quest.

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Setting & Achieving Goals

6 Reasons Why Concrete Goals Are Essential To Entrepreneurial Success

Making dreams come true is a precise, step-by-step process.

Timothy Sykes

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Believe it – there is a right way and a wrong way to approach setting career goals. In a nutshell, the more specific your goals are, the better.

If your professional goals are nebulous, like “become rich” or “gain success,” you may be psyching yourself out without even realising what you’re doing. Setting specific goals gives you the motivation and focus to begin making them a reality.

Ready to readjust your goal setting methods?

Related: The 7-Step Formula For Goal-Setting

Here are just six reasons why you need to set specific goals to get ahead in your professional career to get ahead:

1. They keep you motivated

Setting specific goals allows you to get really clear on what you are working toward in your career and why.

For instance, if you have a vague goal like “Make more money,” it will supply similarly vague motivation. When you reach the first sign of resistance, that goal will seem unattainable and too hard, and you’ll be more likely to give up.

On the other hand, a specific goal like “Buy a condo in San Diego” is very specific and gives you something specific to work toward and to help you maintain motivation.

2. You’re more likely to achieve specific goals

Goal Setting Theory is the culmination of research that began in the 1960s by Dr. Edwin Locke and Dr. Gary Latham. In researching the connection between clear goals and performance, they found that there was a relationship between how difficult and how specific a goal was and people’s performance of a task. Further, they discovered that specific and difficult goals led to better task performance than vague or easy goals.

Related: You Need This One Trait To Succeed In Reaching Your Goals

Basically, research shows that when you have specific long-term goals, you’re far more likely to perform better, which will ultimately make achieving said goals far more possible.

3. You can break big goals into mini goals

A benefit of setting specific goals is that you can then get tactical about how to make them a reality. Namely, you can break each goal down into mini goals or milestones.

Say that one of your goals is to increase sales for your business by 25 percent this year. You can set specific dollar amounts as milestones for each month or quarter.

Having mini goals like this will help you stay inspired and will give you an impetus to put specific actions in work to make them happen.

4. You can adjust as needed

gpsSpecific goals are kind of like a career roadmap.

However, just like your car’s GPS, sometimes you need to shift the destination for various reasons. It’s easier to shift or adjust a specific goal than it is to change a vague one.

For instance, say you are approaching your very specific goal at a more rapid rate than anticipated. To keep yourself motivated, you can look at that goal and adjust it to meet your current circumstances. This way, you always have something to work toward and can continue to push yourself in positive ways.

5. They will make you more confident

There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment that comes from setting a specific goal, working hard and then finally attaining it. It makes you feel confident and secure in your own abilities.

Related: Follow These 8 Steps To Stay Focused And Reach Your Goals

When you’re imbued with this sense of self-accomplishment, it has the effect of making you feel more self-confident. Self-confidence can help you advance quicker in your career and improve your performance, which helps keep you working toward your goals with ease.

6. They make you more ambitious

Once you’ve set and then attained a few specific goals, you’ll believe in yourself even more. This means that as you progress in your career, your goals will become even bigger and more ambitious.

By continually setting specific goals and adjusting them to remain aspirational, you’ll create a powerful source of inspiration that will serve you throughout the course of your career and life.

Set specific goals from now on and you’ll see a big difference over time!

Related: Feel Like Quitting? These 9 Women Prove Grit Can Lead You To Massive Success

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Setting & Achieving Goals

How You Can Do Big Things

The secret to achieving impossible dreams is accretion — slowly and steadily working towards your goals.

Erik Kruger

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line-in-the-sand

When you realise that accretion is about the accumulation of all the things that you do and all the decisions that you make, you start to see the importance of aligning everything in your life in the direction of your goals.

In 2005, four Navy Seals were sent on a mission to extract a high value target. Unfortunately, the mission didn’t go according to plan, leaving the Seals to fight for their lives. Three of them were killed in action. The other was shot, fell off a cliff, and in the process shattered his back and legs. He also bit off half of his tongue, and endured multiple gunshot wounds.

Yet, despite the fact that he couldn’t walk, he managed to crawl 11 kms to a nearby village and to safety.

When he was asked how he did it he said that he took a stone in his hand, stretched his arm out in front of him and drew a line in the sand. All he wanted to do was get across that line.

As soon as he managed to drag his feet across the line, he drew a new one. In fact, he kept drawing lines and crossing them for 11 kms.

Related: Follow These 8 Steps To Stay Focused And Reach Your Goals

That is how he did the impossible. One line in the sand at a time.

The Paradox

Motivational speakers love telling us to take big actions; to think and act big. Although I can appreciate the sentiment, and sometimes it’s apt, I think that it often has a counterproductive effect.

It scares people. It implies that there is also the possibility for massive failure. But it’s not just about the actual failure of a project or business. It’s the internal dialogue that goes with it.

The inner voice that starts telling you that you aren’t good enough. That you shouldn’t even try. I’m sure you can relate. We all have a judger inside us that rears its head when we are trying to do meaningful things. That criticises every move and decision. The judger has a great ability to prevent us from taking any action at all. Let alone massive action.

The Way

It’s for this reason that I always encourage entrepreneurs to simply focus on the line in front of them.

Keep in mind the direction you want to move in, and the goal you would like to achieve, and then start by crossing that first small line. And when you’ve done that, cross the second.

As you continue, you pick up momentum. Your actions become bolder because you become more confident.

Soon you find yourself taking bigger and bigger decisions and actions.

But they were born from the thousands of small decisions and actions that you took before.

Related: 7 Steps To Achieving Our Higher-Level Goals

Accretion

I talk about this principle often.Accretion is the accumulation of all of your compounding efforts, small wins, abilities, knowledge, and experiences. Over time this process accumulates and perpetuates what you feed into it.

When you realise that accretion is about the accumulation of all the things that you do and all the decisions that you make, you start to see the importance of aligning everything in your life in the direction of your goals.

The reason I am writing to you today is because of the body of work that I have accumulated through the writing of my daily email. An email that has gone out more than 580 times. Every day without missing a beat.

It’s my line in the sand that I cross every day. And the result of it has not simply been an accumulation of 580 emails. It has been a successful business, the opportunity to become a coach, to speak on stages with well-known businessmen, and write this column for Entrepreneur magazine.

Remember that consistency breeds success.

I’d much rather bet on the guy who consistently executes well than the guy who hits a home-run every now and then.

Draw a line in the sand.

Cross it.

Then tomorrow, do it again.

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