productivity tips

By Andy Bailey

You can’t say business owner with saying “busi.” Okay, kind of a weak pun, but the point is, all business owners are busy. Oftentimes the busyness restrains your business from growing.

When I first meet with new entrepreneurial clients, they usually tell me they’re so busy working in their business they can’t focus on it. Meaning, they’re so caught up in day-to-day tasks, they don’t have time to set and execute overall business goals.

I get it. Owning and operating a business is difficult. You feel as if you’re already working at maximum capacity. The truth is, your business will never grow if you can’t make time to work on it rather than in it.

To get ahead, it’s usually not about working harder—you must work smarter. Here’s how:

  • Focus on the important, not the urgent. In Orna W. Drawas’ book, “Perform Like A Rock Star,” she presents the analogy of your own personal pickle jar that you fill with rocks, pebbles, sand and water. The rocks are those big important tasks that actually make a difference, but are often the most difficult to accomplish.

Often we spend our day filling our jars with sand and pebble tasks that pack our time, and our jar, with insubstantial activities and we end up without room for the rocks. Recognize your rocks and fill your jar with those first.

  • Purge the little things. Sometimes all our little tasks act like mental roadblocks. They make us anxious and keep us from accomplishing our top priority. The Mayo Clinic suggests releasing all the little things from your mind by writing them down. This will cure your anxiety because you know that they are all accounted for in another space.
  • Stop multitasking. We live in a world where multitasking is praised. If you can tweet, write and do the Macarena at the same time, you’re considered a go-getter. The truth, multitasking is the nemesis of focus and only allows high-level deliverables at best. The multitasking grind might sustain you and your company’s current level of success, but it will not elevate it.
  • Limit distractions. It takes the average person 12 minutes to refocus after a distraction. That’s 12 minutes after every phone ring, email ping and door nock. Power down your phone, close your email and hang a sign on your door that reads, Do not disturb– genius at work or Disturb and die. I find the second suggestion to be extremely effective.
  • Schedule your day every day. Block off time on your calendar to complete those big tasks that significantly impact you and your company’s forward movement. Even after a long day at the office, take an additional step before heading out—jot down tomorrow’s to-do list. Capturing your important tasks while they’re fresh in your mind ensures you’re ready to go as soon as you get to work in the morning.
  • Implement the one-touch rule. When you start a project, finish it. This focus will help you create a better-finished product, and you’ll be able to check it off your to-do list, which is motivation to complete your next project.

As a business owner, you will be busy. Just make sure you’re busy working on the tasks that will move your business forward. Make your time count. Work smarter instead of harder.

Andy Bailey is CEO and lead entrepreneur coach with business coaching firm Petra, and serves as the Entrepreneur Organization’s global membership director. Visit his blog at for more business and leadership insight.