By Meredith Wood, Fundera
One of the most important but challenging parts of being a successful entrepreneur is time management. No two ways about it.
There is so much to do, plan, and get done that it may seem like there aren't enough hours in the day to tackle it all. Things like “having a personal life” or “sleeping” may feel like distant goals.
But if you start your day off right, you just might get more done without zapping your energy reserves.
We got a chance to talk with entrepreneurs and business owners who share their simple producitity tips for making mornings more efficient. They reminded us that there are enough hours in the day. It’s simply about making sure those hours count.
1. Prioritize Your Tasks
We all know the feeling of working for hours but not really getting anything done, right? One of the most effective ways to battle this is to prioritize your tasks first thing. Know what is most important so you don’t get side-tracked with things that won’t help move goals along.
Aditi Shekar, founder and CEO of Zeta, says "Take 5-10 minutes to write down all your to-dos in the morning. Then prioritize the top three goals. Don't close out your work day until you've done those things (within reason). This method allows you to constantly re-prioritize and focus your day on the most important stuff for your business."
2. Do It the Night Before
Ben Sibley, founder of Complete Themes, takes prioritizing tasks one step further.
"Plan out your morning the night before," he says, "When you get to work, you can tackle your to do list immediately without hesitation."
This way, if you have already outlined your morning, you won’t spend the first 30 minutes of your day planning it. So take a few minutes at the end of your day to think about what is most important for tomorrow.
3. Set Out Your Clothes & Pack Your Lunch
Maybe this tip brings your back to elementary school days, but mom and dad set your stuff out the night before for a reason: to save time.
Hilary Thompson, health and wellness consultant with SleepTrain, says, "Set out your clothes, pack your lunch. This eliminates decisions in the morning that may delay you."
4. Tackle Your Emails First Thing
Yes, many people say it’s important to absolutely stay away from your inbox when you get up, but Christoph Seitz of CFR Rinkens has a different method.
"Every day, I read and respond to about 30 minutes worth of emails when I first wake up at 5 a.m.," he says. "Getting an early start on emails reduces inbox anxiety for the rest of the day."
5. Turn Off Push Notifications
Turn off notifications that interrupt you each time an email comes in. Set specific times to look at and catch up on emails.
6. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
Dan Roberge, president of Maintenance Care, knows that you can’t do it all on your own. Having a strong team and knowing which tasks need to be assigned to others is crucial.
"I determine what I can handle for the week, and then decide the best way to delegate some of my tasks to my employees," he says. "I collaborate with team members in order to come up with an effective plan for meeting those deadlines. Communicating effectively with your team increases efficiency and allows more work to be completed."
7. Mindfulness Is Major
Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, shares a piece of sage advice: "A wise man once told me that I needed to speed up by slowing down. One of the ways I go faster by slowing down is to invest 15 minutes every morning meditating."
Definitely a popular tip among entrepreneurs, Clayton adds that "a quick meditation every morning enables me to clear my mind and see the forest for the trees, so to speak. I can focus on what is important for that day."
8. Get Your Beauty Rest
You don’t have to burn the midnight oil in order to get things done. In fact, it's probably best you don't. Rest is key to keeping yourself healthy and sharp.
Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of global marketing firm Mavens & Moguls, says, "The key to being productive is to get a good night's sleep so you wake up early feeling rested and refreshed."
Hilary Thompson adds that adults need seven to nine hours of good sleep at night. She recommends sticking to a consistent bedtime routine, avoiding electronic devices right before bed, and sleeping on a good mattress.
9. But Don't Hit Snooze!
Getting a good night's sleep will hopefully help you avoid the snooze button. But Brian Scudamore, CEO of O2E Brands, emphasizes the importance of setting a designated wake-up time and sticking to it.
To give yourself some incentive to not hit snooze, he recommends you "take an hour for yourself every morning." That way you can begin your day feeling centered and not rushed.
10. Get Your Creativity On
Gretchen Caldwell, president and founder of Pure Planning LLC, says the morning is a great time to knock out tasks that require creative thought.
"I find I am more creative in the morning when it is quiet and the distractions are limited," she says. "I try to always block out morning time to write or complete projects that require more thought and creativity."
11. Visualize Your Goals
Entrepreneur, life coach, and author Dr. Jodi Ashbrook says that part of a good daily routine is simply envisioning your goals, even before you write anything down.
"Set your intention and visualize your desired accomplishments for the day," she says.
This practice allows you to take inventory of your day so you don't feel overwhelemd.
12. Give Your Brain a Workout
Jacob Dayan, CEO and cofounder of Community Tax, says exercising his mind with non-business information helps keep him focused and productive.
"Mental exercise is important, especially in the morning," he says. "Entrepreneurs often have what feels like millions of tasks to accomplish, and a 20-30 minute morning routine that includes non-work related reading exercises or games can stimulate thinking that carries over into the workday."
Dayan refers to these activities as "mental yoga" and says it gives the brain a chance to wake up in the morning and triggers thought processes that can help in problem solving.
PR strategist Clary Pollack of Clary Pollack Fine Art has a similar routine.
"I play Tetris every morning to get into competition mode so that I can tackle my day," she says.
Incorporating new habits might feel daunting, especially if you’re starting a new business. But consider testing one or two of these tips to see if your day goes smoother.
For even more tips, check out "Home-Office Hacks for Higher Productivity."
About the Author
Meredith Wood is the head of content and editor-in-chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Prior to Fundera, Meredith was the CCO at Funding Gates. Meredith is a resident finance advisor on American Express OPEN Forum and an avid business writer. Her advice consistently appears on such sites as Yahoo!, Fox Business, Amex OPEN, AllBusiness, and many more.