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7 Surprising Productivity Tips for Self-Employed Entrepreneurs

By:     Topics: Entrepreneurship

No schedules. No meetings. No commute.

As an entrepreneur, you don’t have to worry about the conventional productivity traps.

But minus the 9-to-5 workday and an uptight manager breathing down your neck, it becomes absolutely essential that you master the art of self-discipline and make the most of your work time.

How to Be Surprisingly Productive

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(1) Spend More Time Playing

One of the reasons why I love entrepreneurship is that it allows people to spend more time doing what they truly love.

That’s the theory, at least.

But if you let your never-ending to-do list weigh on your conscience, you may start thinking and acting in a way that lets real life slip through the cracks.

This ultimately hinders your ability to be productive, because you work better when you’re happier.

Work Hard, Play Hard

I recommend that you take at least one day off every week where you don’t allow yourself to even think about getting work done – then schedule that day to be jam packed with your favorite activities (i.e. hiking, jet-skiing, or spending quality time with a significant other).

By dedicating time each week to doing things that you truly enjoy, it will be much easier focus on the menial aspects of your industry.

(2) Take Lots of Breaks

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.

– Ovid

There’s nothing more important to your success than your commitment to working hard. But you’re not a machine (and even machines need to cool down every once and a while).

It’s more productive to work effectively and efficiently for 45 minutes than it is to spin your wheels for an hour. So it’s important to perceive when your mind or body is starting to feel overloaded – and give yourself permission to recharge.

Why Entrepreneurs Should Break Even More than Most

Entrepreneurs don’t just work within systems. They must create new systems.

They don’t just solve problems. They must anticipate and avoid them.

In other words, entrepreneurs are challenged daily not just to work hard, but also think hard – tactically, creatively, and laterally. Since entrepreneurs ask so much from their brains, it’s especially important that they allow them to rest throughout the day.

The Pomodoro Technique

One way to fit breaks into your work day is by using the Pomodoro Technique, which became popular with computer programmers in the late 1980’s. Wikipedia identifies the method’s five simple steps:

  1. decide on the task to be done
  2. set the pomodoro (timer) to 25 minutes
  3. work on the task until the timer rings; record with an x
  4. take a short break (5 minutes)
  5. every four “pomodoros” take a longer break (15–20 minutes)

Though the method calls for a timer that you wind up manually, there’s a ton of free software out there that can help people get in pomodoro mode on their computer. One Google Chrome application actually blocks you from accessing distracting websites while you’re in 25 minute work zone (Strict Pomodoro).

(3) Expand Your Work Environment

As human beings, we are remarkably perceptive of our surroundings.

Our mood flows from the space we occupy. A clean, streamlined space can empower you to think and act with clear focus. A cluttered, loud, or crowded workspace can transform you into a distracted and unfocused version of yourself.

You’re probably already aware of the importance of having the ultimate workspace. But our environment is more than just four walls and a desk.

Listening Environment

Sound waves are vibrating around us at all times. While silence is golden, the right soundtrack can get your mind focused and your body moving – which will make you more energized to work.

Try out this 8tracks playlist of 30 instrumental tracks. It was designed to help people study, but I find it’s a great companion for the focused entrepreneur.

Smelling Environment

Smell is so powerfully linked to our memories that one whiff of a familiar odor can instantly whisk us back to a day that we thought we’d forgotten long ago.

So how can somebody use the smell-memory link to become more productive?

Try buying a candle or box of incense. Put it in your work space and light it only when you’re ready to put in some hard work.

Your mind will begin to associate that aroma with those productive memories. Once you’ve established the connection, then you can light the candle or incense whenever you want to trigger your mind to buckle down.

Thinking Environment

When you’re solving problems and communicating messages, all of the hard work is taking place in your brain. So if you want to be efficient in that space, you must keep your mind like a good desk: open and uncluttered.

It’s a good practice to take 20 minutes each morning to sit and clear your mind. You may never silence your stream of consciousness completely, but you will cultivate a mental calm that you can carry with you for the rest of the day.

(4) Do Things the Slow Way

Measure twice, cut once.

– English Proverb

Productivity is more marathon than 100-yard-dash.

Like runners sprinting out of the starter gates, we often think that we can maximize productivity by doing things as quickly as possible. But hurrying through tasks can cause frustration and unnecessary mistakes, which leads to more work in the long run.

So take a breath and take your time.

Learn How to Do it Right

Self-education will make you a fortune.

– Jim Rohn

When your job asks you to accomplish an unfamiliar task, it’s tempting to think, “I don’t have time to research this. I’m just going to wing it.”

But usually it’s more productive to take the half-hour and learn how to do your job better or more efficiently. The Internet is like a classroom that’s always open and full of free lessons – take advantage!

How to Make Slow Work for You

Try setting aside 20 minutes every day to get a better or more efficient in your niche. Since I make videos for a living, I usually watch a video tutorial or become better acquainted with time-saving Photoshop shortcut commands.

You can check out these IncomeDiary tutorials that will help you be more productive making money online:

(5) Get Less Connected

Man has been struggling to clear his mind and focus since the dawn of time.

But focusing has become more difficult than ever since the dawn of StumbleUpon, Facebook, and YouTube.

If your work doesn’t require you’re connected to the Internet, then disconnect from the network until the project is complete. You might be surprise by how much more powerful your computer can be without the web.

A Tool to Help You Disconnect

If you need the internet, but want to stay away from certain distracting sites, try StayFocusd (it’s a Google chrome extension that blocks distracting sites from your browser).

(6) Sleep More

Every entrepreneur has been guilty of burning the candle at both ends. But working late into the night only to wake up early in the morning can have a seriously negative impact on your work performance.

According to Harvard Medical School, inadequate sleep affects your mood, motivation, judgment, and perception – and I can’t think of four things that are more important to the day-to-day success of an entrepreneur.

Furthermore, since deep sleep is when your brain processes the prior day’s experience, shortchanging sleep can prevent you from learning and moving forward on your entrepreneurial journey.

How to Be a Productive Sleeper

Getting into a consistent sleep rhythm helps your mind and body to understand when it’s time to work and when it’s time to rest.

So, take a few moments right now and think about your ideal, eight-hour sleep schedule. Write it down.

Stick with that schedule for the next seven days and tell me if you don’t notice an improvement in your daily productivity. Your body and your business will thank you.

(7) Think of Productivity as a Cycle

People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing… that’s why we recommend it daily.

– Zig Ziglar

Productivity isn’t a faucet that we can turn on and off at will.

You shouldn’t expect to sit down at your desk, turn a knob in your mind, and immediately become super-productive.

Think of productivity as a process that you’re taking part in throughout your day. It’s part of the way you eat, the way you run errands, and the way you unwind.

Once you begin maximizing your productivity, you’ll find that it becomes easier and easier to be productive day in and day out. Just like any other habit, being productive is a cycle that tends to repeat.

The Power of Productivity

He who conquers others is strong; He who conquers himself is mighty.

– Lao Tzu

As an entrepreneur, you are the engine of your business. Everything – growth, client acquisition, revenue – depends on your ability to produce, day in and day out.

In other words, there’s a direct relationship between your productivity and the success of your company. Become twice as productive and you’ll soon be making twice as much money.

The Simple Joy of Being Productive

The idle man does not know what it is to enjoy rest.

– Albert Einstein

Being productive isn’t just important because it allows us to create more valuable, successful, and profitable businesses.

A productive day earns an entrepreneur a sense of contentment that no amount of money can buy.

Rejoice in a job well done – then get back up tomorrow and do it again.

If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.

– Bruce Lee

Your Personal Productivity Technique?

Since effective productivity habits are different for everybody, I would appreciate it if you shared any tips you’ve uncovered in the comment section below.

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  • Raj

    I guess I should be doing the right thing – I sleep for almost 10 – 12 hours a day! :) I guess its very important for people to take a break. There is an old adage that goes like, ‘Its not the number of hours you put in, but how much you put in those hours’.

    A very different and and excellent post.

    • Nick Scheidies

      Thanks, Raj – I like that old adage. It reminds me of a Nietsche quote, “When one has much to put into them, a day has a hundred pockets.”

  • Michael Anderson

    Hi Michael,
    Great post. Can definitely endorse you comments here. Another great thing that helps with productivity is that you don’t have to squeeze everything in between the hours of 9-5. You can do what you need to do when the mood takes you. I often get up late and work in the evening – if I can be bothered of course…!

    • Nick Scheidies

      Not being tied to the 9-to-5 is one of my favorite parts of being self-employed (especially when the weather’s nice). Sometimes it’s easy for me to feel creative and focused at night.

  • James

    Hey Nick, nice tips.

    We have found that how we start the day has a major impact on how the day goes. I find everything flows without so much action effort on my part if I wake up and do a 30 min meditation. The right people will call, I will find something I was looking for quickly rather than spending hours on it, tasks just seem easier and less forced etc etc.

    The right mindset is more important that anyone can ever know.


    • Nick Scheidies

      I think that’s great advice. It all begins with your mindset.

  • Pat Mussieux

    Love, love, love this blog post! You are ‘right on’ when it comes to the ‘secrets’ of productivity – especially the points on slowing down, get disconnected and put a timer on those projects.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    Pat Mussieux

    • Nick Scheidies

      Thanks – I’m glad you liked it so much.

  • Nicholas Tart

    Very well done, Mr. Scheidies! I knew that it was a longer post and I thought, “what can a lengthy post teach me about spending my time more effectively?” I read every word. I especially like the candle advice. What scent do you believe is best for being productive? Hot sauce?

    • Nick Scheidies

      If you can find a hot sauce candle, I say go for it.

  • Glenn

    Compliments, Nick. Very well done.

    To your excellent guidelines, permit me to add the following.

    It is useful to understand that ‘Time Management’ is a misnomer. One cannot manage time. One can, however, manage themselves and select aspects of their environment they possess the means to control and/or influence.

    A worthwhile premise of an attempt to increase productivity can be stated as ‘an active process of seeking to improve future results and the means of producing those results.’ This perspective is an example of ‘working on the system’ as opposed to ‘working in the system,’ the latter being the prevailing tendency.

    From a CEO of an organization to a person contemplating their life, there is potentially great leverage awaiting the answer to the question: “Is what I do consistent with the goals of the systems over which I have control and those of which I am a part?” Any ‘no’ response represents a gap between ‘what is’ and ‘what should be.’ Close those gaps and you will align yourself with the interests of whatever entity is served thereby. Within the context that emerges from the goal of a system, you will not forfeit a premise of ‘doing things right.’ You will instead place greater emphasis upon ‘doing the right things’ – thereby able to address those places where the most leverage often resides.

    These issues deserve far more depth of explanation than can be covered here. In short, sound management, accurate perspectives, leverage and self-discipline combine to yield astounding results. Meaningful ‘productivity’ is a virtually inevitable byproduct of being first certain of doing the right things. Only then does it truly make sense to evaluate how ‘well’ things are being done – by whatever measures may apply.

    I hope that someone finds this to be of value.

    • Nick Scheidies

      I found it to be valuable. Thanks for contributing.

  • Xenios Theocharous

    These tips are pretty much common sense, but for various reasons we don’t apply them. Thanks for making a useful list of suggestions. I’ll try to follow #3 and #7. :)

    • Nick Scheidies

      They are common sense — but it’s still nice to be reminded. Best of luck with 3 and 7.

  • Mark

    Hey Nick
    Well said, and I love all the quotes! From Bruce Lee to Zig Ziglar…pretty eclectic.

    • Nick Scheidies

      Thanks Mark — those are two of my favorite quotes in the post. I also considered including this Aristotle quote: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, then, but a habit.”

  • Dr. Patrick MacNamara

    Thanks, Nick, for this valuable list. Entrepreneurs everywhere should bookmark this, send it to Evernote, or where ever they’ll see it consistently to remind them that success is found in the basics. If one would just commit to them, his or her world would be forever transformed!

    Thanks again for writing this stellar post!

    • Nick Scheidies

      Thanks – I hope people do feel compelled do bookmark this page revisit it. It’s nice to be reminded of productive habits.

  • Arthur

    Thank you Nick. Very helpfull.

    What do you recommend me, as a 20 year old wanting to start for myself,.. Having experience in real estate, and some internet,… What can I do? Wich mentors can I contact to get started? I hate working as an employee.

    Kind regards,Arthur.

    • Nick Scheidies

      I would say that you should find a way to provide value to other people while doing something that you genuinely enjoy on a day to day basis. As far as mentorship goes, there’s a ton of helpful content on Income Diary and I would also recommend you get in touch with Nicholas Tart at 14 Clicks.

      • Arthur

        Thank you Nick, about the valuable content of this website there is no doubt.Outstanding articles, I enjoy it a lot.

        I will contact Nicholas.

  • Macharia

    That’s a great article Nick. Very helpful. I’ll have to install the google chrome applications to help me block the distractions. I think it is also important to drink water regularly, it helps to fight fatigue.

  • Ian L. Gordon

    This article was so helpful. I’ve already installed Strict Pomodoro, and I think I need to clean my office next and clear the clutter.

    Much appreciated.

  • Mark

    Thanks love this article when it comes to making money online affiliate is the best way to get started Step by step Really Simple Home Business

  • Susan

    Great post, Nick. It’s so easy to burn the candle at both ends when you are really wanting to make something happen. Unfortunately, what happens is generally NOT what you want. Many thanks for all the great reminders you’ve included.

  • fazal mayar

    thanks for these tips, i guess outsourcing can help you achieve all of that

  • Phil Jensen

    Productivity and how it relates to successful entrepreneurship is not written about enough. Given the time constraints that most entrepreneurs have (probably because we take on too many projects) we have to develop some above average productivity habits to stay above water.

    Great post.



  • Cheptiony Mutai

    Great post Nick. I am too a video producer here in Kenya. I sometimes find Internet very destructive especially when you are working on a documentary project that requires lot’s of concentration…. and someone wants to chat with you. Lately I decided to disconnect the network cable so that I can concentrate on my video projects and I have found it productive. Every month I travel to my home village where I sit down in the wild listening to the sounds of water splashing on the river banks as it flows southwards…. sounds of birds singing …. cows mowing… dogs bark….fresh breeze and connect more with nature. Its usually my greatest times to spend in silence. Vijay Eswaran in his audio book the ‘In Sphere of Silence’ says its good to spend one hour each day in silence especially during the morning hours before the sunrise. During this time you think of what you did achieved yesterday, and ask yourself why you failed to achieve some of your targets.This gives you time to learn from mistakes thus giving you an hint on what to work on during the day. Also spend 20minutes of the time to read an inspiration book or listen to a inspirational audio. Spend the last ten minutes saying a prayer to God for help. I have found it work. I find my days shorter because I am always busy!

    Kudos Nick. your article truly inspired me!

  • Fernando

    Just another perfect post of IncomeDiary 😀

  • ferry

    Cannot agree more, the more you play – the more productive you are!
    Well.., we have the amazing brain, do we… :)

  • HP van Duuren

    Thanks for your post Nick,

    Those definitely are all great Productivity tips, I do think that I indeed already put attention to most of them.

    For example I do have attention for Playing time, also frequently take Breaks, to enjoy and to Recharge, infact during a break I actually got the Inspiration for the idea to (pre) sell Coffee Makers and Espresso Machines on one of my Blogs for the Coffee Breaks only it goes without saying not at night time when you want to have some good Sleep.

    I also like the idea to make the distinctions of looking at the Environment as a Listening-, Smelling- and Thinking Environment. For what the Listening Environment is concerned, that’s the reason that for example on my – Writer’s Lifestyle – Blog I also (pre) sell MP3 Players for Writers to be able to use them to Listen
    to Music when doing their Writing.

  • Steve

    Great article jam packed full of solid information. I am trying to emulate your ethics and hope that your info and site will be a suitable mentor for me to achieve my ultimate dream of financial security through Blogging and article writing. Any personal tips would be greatly appreciated.
    Anything learned will ultimately be passed on to help fellow Bloggers who want the same as I do.
    F.I. seems so far away at the moment.
    I have to do this.

    Kind regards

    Steve Mitchell
    ( Poshcoffeeco )

  • Jane | Problogging Success

    Effective time management which would yield to feasible results is well explained.Useful tips.

  • Marko Vucic

    Very good and encouraging post. I like the part with smells. I would add to light a candle with nice odor each time we make a successful deal – it can be very effective booster in tough times….

  • Paul

    This is probably the best post I’ve read over the last few months as far as providing me with some extremely useful help. Thanks, I needed to get some tips like this since I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and exhausted over the last little while with my business.