An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Being Productive

What stands between us and many of the things we desire in life is the amount of work we can produce.

The loser in us fantasizes about a chance encounter with a luminary at a cocktail party. Perhaps we’ll get an invite to the next event? Maybe we’ll get ‘in’ with that crowd.

We all know people who build their lives around these fantasies– “lottery ticket thinking” as my buddy Tim Conley calls it.

Meeting people doesn’t mean anything if you haven’t done any work.

It makes sense then that entrepreneurs are obsessed with finding ways to improve their productivity. It’s everywhere. The life hackers and the time trackers. There’s endless articles about “how to build your business after your job, commute, family stuff, and other activities.” Less people seem to be pointing out the obvious– if the work is so important, why do you have a job, commute, family stuff, and other activities?

The best strategy for productivity is pretty boring– make producing valuable work your life’s top priority. All the modafinil in the world won’t add up to one intelligent decision, one key hire, one decision for a strategic focus.

I’m not supposed to be writing this blog post.

I should be editing the sales letter for the October Tropical MBA class. A few moments ago, while I was getting ready to do that task, I got distracted and headed over to the Dynamite Circle, as I often do. While poking around I started reading a fascinating thread about productivity.

Many members have been inspired by Sebastian’s 90 day productivity experiment.

I started to explore that idea. And that’s when this article got started. 

When the winds of passion are blowing, put your sails up.

An old version of myself would have fought the impulse to write this article. I don’t fight that kind of stuff anymore. If I want to build something, write something, make a movie, write a song– I do it right then and there.

If you are unhappy with what you are doing, stop doing it.

I recently had a friend tell me that for the past few months he’d been phoning phoning his work in. He wasn’t doing work he was interested in. The past few months. Now I not some productivity saint here, but I’m sure during that time this guy was rocking the Pomodoro technique, going for inbox zero, and all that producto-porn stuff.

There’s a slew of higher callings buried in all of us. A bigger challenge, a hidden lever, a more profound passion that we are missing right now. If you want to optimize anything, how about finding a way to uncover these broader visions?

Get good at creating culture. 

The culture of your business is a process that helps many employes self-direct. Highly productive entrepreneurs can’t spend the most productive hours of their days delegating tasks to team members. This basic almost cliched business advice is consistently overlooked by producto-gurus, as it should be. It would put them out of business. There is nothing so profound as another intelligent vinegar-pisser (or two) helping to build out your vision.

Get good at letting little bad things happen.

I was reminded of this great Tim Ferriss quote by my friend Tim Conley. He claims that every 100M+ entrepreneur he’s met is good at this. I thought of this as I was laying in bed last night re-considering a customer service email I recently sent.

I got to thinking that over the years I’ve probably had 1,000’s of customers that were miffed at me in one way or another, and that this state of affairs was inevitable. No amount of extra attention to the matter would change that inevitability. And so any attention spent on it was time wasted.

I reminded myself that this was a very different thing from not paying attention to the details. And then I went to sleep.

Before you go to bed, write down the three big, proactive things you’d like to get done the next day.

Articulate them as “next actions” and not projects. That means “write a sales letter for new SEO service” becomes “start a new post @ Tropical MBA and write 100 words about my new SEO service.” Are you going to procrastinate writing 100 words? Ok. Well, some people can’t be helped. :)

Consume a ton of amazing content, even if it’s immediate usefulness isn’t apparent.

I’m worried that in general consumption of content is disproportionally scapegoated as preventing people from taking action because of it’s apparent oppositional relationship with production. I’m tired of hearing this messages that disparage voracious consumption of entrepreneurial information. Most of the top producers I know are also the top consumers. So read one dear web surfer!  Here’s a good one.