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3 Essential Habits Of Productive Entrepreneurs

Can getting ahead in entrepreneurship be boiled down to three basic ideas? Read on to find out.

Most successful business people work hard and commit a lot of time and energy to their businesses. But simple hard work isn't the only thing that makes them stand out and remain successful.

There are three basic things successful entrepreneurs learn to do over time to ensure that they continually improve their productivity and success in all their endeavors.

1. Ideas have a shelf life—use yours before they expire.

This applies both in business and in your everyday life, and has become my personal motto.
If you have a good idea that you know is worth your time and efforts you are better off setting the wheels in motion as soon as you get it.

In most cases, ideas are triggered by everyday events. This means that the idea going through your mind might also be going through another person's mind.
Procrastinating and shelving your idea, no matter how good the idea is, will only lead to disappointment when someone else comes up with the same idea, and uses it to their advantage.
It is also true that certain ideas are time bound and will only be relevant within a short time. Act on such ideas immediately before they become irrelevant.

That's not to say that you should use "half-baked" ideas: all ideas should be ripe when they are being implemented.

The way to avoid running with unformed ideas is to do as Seth Godin calls "thrashing early," which gives you time to explore all sides of an idea before you commit to it. Only executing on the idea once it is clear will ensure that you do not waste your time and efforts on an idea only to realize it wasn't worth pursuing.

2. Give each type of task the time it deserves.

Activities in most businesses fall in two categories: invention and communication. It is important for you to allocate adequate time for both types of tasks, since they drive business results.

How much time you allocate to each will differ depending on stage your business is in. If you're in startup mode, you might be spending most of your time inventing and creating. If you've been in business awhile, you might find that your time is best used communicating with and leading your team, or networking with partners and peers.

You might find that allocating full days for invention and full days for communication might work really well for you. Other entrepreneurs might prefer to set specific hours every day for different activities, for example starting with creation in the morning and moving into communication by the afternoon.

The reason it's worth separating "doing" tasks from "talking" tasks is because each time you switch between these, you need time to get into the productivity zone.

If you've got back to back meetings and calls, you're already in that state of mind. If you're working on a piece of writing, you don't want to stop what you're doing to take a call. Instead, you want to work on it until completion, so you don't waste time switching tasks.

Your brain requires total concentration when you're inventing so you should plan to make your creating time free of any distractions.

3. Pick a deadline and have others keep you accountable to it.

Nothing is as motivating as external pressure, either from customers or fellow like-minded people. Most people make plans but rarely follow them through because they aren't accountable to anyone.

Choosing goals, setting deadlines for achieving them, and telling people about these goals will go a long way in ensuring that you follow through.

The people you communicate your goals to should have a genuine interest in your business and be in a position to listen to your plans and keep you accountable to your deadlines. Such people can include employees, investors or even customers.

You have to be careful with your planning and only announce things to the public that you truly intend to follow through on. This will ensure that the people you communicate to take you and your business seriously, because keeping your word is a big part of creating trust with your customers.

Planning activities and setting deadlines might be enough for some people who have no problems following their plans, but most entrepreneurs need that extra pressure that will make them swing into action, and accomplish the goals they promised to meet within the specified time.

Nathalie Lussier is an award-winning entrepreneur and host of the Take Your Business Off The Charts web show, an annual live event held in New York City. She's also the creator of the free 30 Day List Building Challenge for entrepreneurs who are ready to scale.

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  • Carissa Pelletier

    Picking a deadline was crucial to my recent launch. I chose to start with the December issue of the magazine and had contributors relying on me. So there wasn't a choice. Things fell together quickly. It wasn't perfect, but it got done on time!

  • Nathalie Lussier

    Done is better than a great idea that never came to fruition. Way to go on pulling everything together! :)

  • Everypost

    Great post. I think another point that should be noted in terms of how we plan and allocate our time is the need for workflow management tools. As you mentioned, time can be lost as we switch between creating and communicating and it is critical to our efficiency if when we do make the switch, we are organized and can get into the mode we need to be in quickly.

    For me, at least, it feels great to check things off my list and I like being able to quickly look at what I need to do and what I can perhaps delegate through. Do you see a role for technology that would help foster these essential habits?

  • Nathalie Lussier

    I absolutely do! I'm partial to Asana, and it keeps me and my business team on track... and it's also easy to see at glance what's coming up (deadlines) and who is working on what. It gives me peace of mind that everything is on track, too!

  • Cynthia Dallmann Lamarucciola

    The time allotment for types of tasks has always been a challenge for me. Your comments regarding the stage of development of the business have brought some clarity. Thanks

  • Nathalie Lussier

    I totally hear you Cynthia! It seems like it should be easy to figure out all of these tasks per day, but it definitely depends on whether you're in startup mode or more of sustainability/scaling mode!

  • Nadia Chaudhry

    Love that you highlight that some ideas are time-sensitive and only relevant for a short period. I need to get crackalackin'

  • Nathalie Lussier

    Thanks Nadia, and yes sometimes we need to get crackalackin' and taking that first step is enough to propel us forward!