There are two kinds of entrepreneurs. Those who advocate hustling 24/7 until they drop dead, and those who allocate and plan their days in advance, for each hour of the day.
In this guide, we’ll be focusing on the latter and attempt to explain how (and why) you should be optimizing your day for maximum efficiency and productivity, and why staying up till 4 am working is actually counterproductive.
One thing all successful people have in common is their time management skill and that they can follow a work routine. The most productive people are those who are masters of efficiency.
They make sure to make the most of each minute of their day and focus to get everything done within those 24 hours - while maintaining a healthy work-sleep balance.
The myth of the “hustling” entrepreneur
As an entrepreneur, you might have heard repeatedly, time and time again, that if you want to make it far - you need to hustle. This means locking yourself in a room, avoiding social contact and working till 4 am till your eyes bleed.
Now, we shouldn’t have to explain why this is not healthy, both mentally and physically.
The word “hustle” is often overused and has completely lost its meaning. Staying up working until the sun comes up is a sure way to achieve burnout.
And if you’re staying up till the early hours, this most likely means you’re just bad at time management and couldn’t get everything done throughout the morning.
Many wanting entrepreneurs are guilty of doing this.
But if you actually want to make it far, you need to be optimizing your day for maximum efficiency.
1. Planning out your day the night before
What you do before sleeping directly affects your next day. If you want to increase your productivity for the day - start with the night before.
Think about it: what is the first thing we do before going to sleep or the second we wake up?
We reach for our phones - checking social media, emails, a quick time-wasting app or something else.
The reason behind this is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). We constantly struggle with the fear of missing out on important information, news, opportunities, and many other things. We want to be up-to-date, and know what everyone else is up to.
If you want to save time (your future self will thank you) - plan out your day in advance, preferably the night before.
Finish each day by writing the most important tasks you want to get done tomorrow, schedule them, allocate how long it will take to get them done, and continue with your day.
The most effective productivity systems are usually the ones that are quite simple, in this case, planning out your day the night before.
Yet, we still continue searching the most productive ways and life “hacks” to schedule our days, while the answer is right in front of us the whole time.
Once you have your day mapped out, here’s what you need to do -
2. Staying focused
Entrepreneur or not, this is something everyone has struggled with at one point or another.
There are two main reasons why we often fail to focus, even when the task is right in front of our nose.
First, we’re not interested, passionate, or care enough about the given task or the project. This is the main reason why our attention tends to wander onto other things.
If your heart’s not in it, you can either grind it out and get it out of the way (eat the frog, in other words), or you can outsource it to a virtual assistant instead. Depending on your budget, the latter might be expensive. But it’s still an alternative worth considering if you have too many small tasks on your hand that you can’t get around to.
Secondly, all too often, what happens is we start doing a certain task, and then we succumb to distractions.
Distractions come in many shapes and sizes. Your phone, notifications, social media, physical distractions like someone knocking on your door - all of them add up. And the next thing you know, you’re staying up till the early hours again to finish work.
So, to fight back, make sure your environment is as close to a place where you can achieve laser focus as possible.
This includes eliminating any and all distractions (mental, physical), your desk is clear, any work unrelated programs and sites are closed (or blocked), and your physical environment is as quiet as possible. If the worse comes to worst - consider investing in a pair of noise canceling headphones if you work around noise.
To achieve focus, you need to be ready both physically, and mentally. Another way to achieve that is by -
3. Taking breaks and exercising
This might sound counter-intuitive at first, but hear me out.
Numerous studies have shown that regular breaks and exercise leads to better long-term productivity.
Instead of working hard to the point of burnout, we should take regular breaks and try to sneak in some exercise throughout the day. The reason this works is because of how our brain handles motivation and staying focused.
The average attention span for an adult is between 15 and 40 minutes.
After this, the distractions tend to snowball and we become less motivated to continue working.
To avoid this, we should structure our work-break in a way that lets us rest, and then continue working feeling refreshed. The pomodoro technique encourages working and taking a break based on intervals. This is a classic example of why the approach works so well.
Instead of looking at breaks as a further distraction, set a timer for 5-15 minutes and completely turn your brain to something else. Go for a walk, enjoy your lunch and some fresh air, as long as you’re not thinking about work.
As long as you get your blood flowing, you’re going to come back with an improved mental state of mind and a boost in creativity. Taking a break can give you a fresh perspective on things and can get your creative juices flowing.
Remember, a healthy mind resides in a healthy body.
If you overwork yourself, you’re guaranteed to burnout. If you take regular breaks, you’re more likely to finish the project.
All in all, the myth behind the “hustling” entrepreneur who works late hours and doesn’t get enough sleep is an extremely unhealthy stereotype and sets a bad example for others.
Businesses that excel at productivity tend to make more money. The same principle applies to people.
The best way to make sure you have a productive day is to go to bed early. Simple advice, you probably already knew that before, but it works. A restless night just means you’ll be even more unproductive the next day. If you still feel there’s so much more to be done, consider waking up earlier (like 4 am) instead of staying up till then.
In short: no one is highly productive 24/7. It’s important you’re not neglecting your mental state and health while working.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy and you might end up working more hours than most people.
But this doesn’t mean you should overwork yourself and lose the passion that got you started in the first place.
And if you want to make sure your day is planned out for maximum efficiency - be sure to follow up the above tips!