One of the most awesome learnings from our interviews is finding out what successful entrepreneurs do to help them bring their idea to life. What are their productivity habits? What do they do every day that truly makes an impact on their overall productivity? What actions do they take? How are their days different than mine? It’s amazing to me that just about everyone has a different answer on how they’re able to get things done.
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Here are 18 habits of successful entrepreneurs uncovered from our interviews.
1. Schedule a no-meeting day – Sarah Peck
Scheduling “no meeting” time or “no meeting” days. I’ve always held one day of the week as sacred for myself to completely reset. On these variable days, I’ll actively reorganize what’s first. If it’s essential to check email four days a week, stay in touch, talk with all of my team members, and answer things rapidly, my single day — usually Wednesday or Thursday — starts with completely different priorities.
This is the day to put a long, easy workout onto the calendar first — not last — or meditate and write as long as I want to. Everyone can wait 24 hours. I’m reachable if there’s an emergency, but, for the most part, 24 hours is such a short amount of time and a great chance to reset.
This also makes the next few days easier, faster, and more productive. Whenever I skip these days to answer the cry of urgency, my body starts to wear down. I might catch a cold, stare mindlessly at the computer without answering any emails, or just forget what’s most important.
2. Listen to very clever people – James King
Talking to VCPs (very clever people). As I get older I’m (hopefully) getting that little bit more humble and ready to ask questions. If you surround yourself with people you respect and can collaborate with, you really can achieve anything.
3. Make sleep your number one productivity hack – Sean Dudayev
I’m religious about my sleep schedule. I make sure to get my sleep to stay mentally sharp. When you’re tired every molehill seems like a mountain and 30-minute tasks take hours to do. Cutting out sleep is overrated, all you’re doing is borrowing time from the future because you’re bound to crash. Sleep is my #1 productivity hack if you can call it that.
4. Isolate yourself for 4-6 hours on a Sunday – Baldwin Cunningham
I spend 4-6 hours completely isolated on Sundays to think high-level about where I am personally to make sure I’m moving in the right direction.
5. Make a complete to-do list – Jim Krause
Well, I do have my share of unproductive entrepreneurial habits… but my most positive productive habit probably has something to do with the way I use lists. I like to make a very complete to-do list for my day’s tasks, I include absolutely everything that needs to get done on that list, I put numbers next to each item on the list so that I can do things in a certain order (mostly, I do hard things up front, and save the easy stuff for later), and then I put my head down and get to work. These lists help me stay focused and keep me from constantly wondering “what’s next” throughout the day.
6. Break tasks into manageable chunks – Q Manning
Again, being productive is a matter of definition — so you need to define what productivity means to you. Starting anything from scratch is a huge undertaking. My plan is to always break things into manageable chunks that I can tackle one by one. A brick wall isn’t hoisted into place; it’s placed there brick by brick. Productivity is the same.
7. Keep asking questions – Deren Baker
Keep asking questions until you understand something. In highly technical businesses, you’re not going to understand new concepts without hearing about them numerous times. So keep asking questions, force yourself to explain that concept aloud, and don’t be afraid to acknowledge that you know less about a topic than your team.
8. Write – Jacques Lepine
Writing, especially patents. This is an extraordinary process that forces you into finding the best words or phrasing, thus making your ideas sharper. I am sure even Albert Einstein (not that I would compare to him at all!), took great advantage of being a patent expert.
9. Look beyond yourself – Mark Daoust
Taking time every day to look beyond myself. It’s so easy to get caught up in the minutiae of business that I sometimes forget the bigger picture of life. I try to take at least 30 minutes every day to pray and think about overarching questions: What is truly important? What do I want to reflect on at the end of my life? Who is important to me? How will my kids remember their childhood? How will my friends remember me?
This practice has helped me maintain perspective in both the great times and the really difficult ones. When we think about the bigger picture, our daily adventures become sufficiently small.
10. Learn to know when to stop – Andrew Markou
Learning to know when to stop and switch off. Productivity is about quality of time, not quantity of time.
11. Focus on your personal life – Ash Rust
Taking the time to focus on my personal life — diet, exercise, and relationships — is huge. You can’t work seven days a week for 12 hours a day and be at your best.
12. Focus on your team’s productivity, not your own – Daniel Kraft
As the CEO, I focus on strategy and building a team, not my personal productivity. By nature, that often requires creative ideas, detours, and time to let something develop. One of our investors told me once, “Anything you need to do yourself suggests that you don’t have the right people.” So my focus is to empower my people and not optimize my personal output. Being available and approachable for my team is key.
13. Divide online and offline work – Mor Assia and Shelly Hod Moyal
Dividing online and offline work helps to increase productivity. While in the office, we have a lot of “online” work that consists of internal meetings and external meetings with startups and investors, work sessions, and phone calls. In the evening, we log in and do some “offline” work. We create content and brainstorm on strategic decisions. The day at the office is very hectic and does not always provide the needed setting for these offline efforts, which are very important and should not be overlooked.
14. Be obsessed with action – Mattan Griffel
I’m obsessed with action, so I’m always thinking about little steps I can take to bring big ideas to life. For example, I set a New Year’s resolution to build a table. I broke the task down into tiny steps. I bought some cool table legs that my friend recommended and ordered a slab of wood from IKEA (which I had a TaskRabbit pick up). Now, I just need to drill the two together. Tada! Table. Ideas start small — with just one person — and build up.
15. Ask why – Mike Kalis
Ask, “Why?” I think it annoys everyone to no end, but if something doesn’t make sense to me in a meeting, I can’t stop myself from asking why until we uncover a solution that makes sense.
16. Don’t confuse urgent with distracting – Chris Kelly
The day-to-day of being an entrepreneur involves juggling a lot of different things. This can be highly overwhelming and distracting. To maintain productivity, I’m extra mindful of not confusing “urgent” with “important.”
17. Empower others – Daniel Kraft
One of our investors told me once, “Anything you need to do yourself suggests that you don’t have the right people.” So my focus is to empower my people and not optimize my personal output. Being available and approachable for my team is key.
18. If it takes less than a minute, get it off your plate now – Clint Coghill
When it comes to staying productive in spite of the curveballs, I have a general rule that if the task will take less than one minute, I get it off my plate immediately. If it requires more time or thought, I flag the task or email with certain colors and try to get to it within the next four hours. I also try to make the most of my time by using my morning commute or plane flights to catch up on emails and circle back with people on those less urgent tasks.
Image credit goes to neetalparekh
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.