For many, staying organized and improving productivity can be a task in and of itself. When trying to run a successful business, it can be easy to get caught up in the big projects and let lesser priorities or personal time fall by the wayside.
To seek perspective on managing your calendar more effectively, I connected with three founders to learn the tricks they use to keep themselves on track. Here’s what I found:
1. Calendars aren’t just for meetings
A study out of the University of California Irvine found that employees are interrupted, on average, once every three minutes. That’s why Boomerang co-founder and CEO Aye Moah uses her calendar for more than just scheduling meetings. “I make a point of blocking out windows of time where I can focus on certain tasks for the day, uninterrupted,” says Moah.
Savvy entrepreneurs embrace this approach, using their calendars to block off time to finish specific projects, work on strategic initiatives, or just get a quick break. For those who find themselves bogged down in calls, Moah has another great tip: “I block off time windows daily specifically for taking meetings, leaving the rest of the day for deep work that requires focus. This way I know I won’t interrupt my productivity flow by having to jump on a random 30-minute call in the middle of what I’m working on.”
2. Keeping it personal
As the CEO of a company dedicated to workplace productivity, Moah understands how easy it can be to let technology and automation dictate your day. “Especially in a hybrid work environment,” she says, “it’s important to not lose the human connection when working with your colleagues, clients, or customers.”
Though technology tools can make everyone’s life more efficient, using technology that helps enhance that personal connection rather than replace it is key for anyone running a company. Beyond preventing employees from operating on auto-pilot, it fosters more productive work environments that allow everyone to feel heard.
3. Creating healthy routines
Research has found that productivity can increase up to 77 percent when people are working from home. And given those increased productivity levels, it’s important to make sure work life doesn’t bleed into your personal time.
Steven Weinstein, co-founder and CEO of Seismic Capital Company, makes a point of sticking to a routine and creating separate spaces for work and home life. “There’s a danger that work time and personal time can intermingle to where you can’t tell whether you’re on or you’re off. I feel it’s healthier to turn it off when it’s time to pay attention to family and friends … and self,” says Weinstein.
The myth that all entrepreneurs need to work 24 hours a day and never take a break to be successful is overplayed. “This division of time and space will not only help prevent burnout, but also ensure that you’re able to fully focus on work during work hours to be your most productive self,” says Weinstein.
4. Go analog for a change
Does everything have to be digital? With technology on our wrists, in our laps, and in our pockets, it never hurts to take your to-dos offline. “I use a paper notebook for my to-do list (left side) and for handwritten notes (right),” continues Weinstein. “It’s old school, but seeing my to-dos in one place helps me get them done, and it also helps me know when I’ve accomplished what I need to do today–all without being beholden to an electronic device.”
I share this approach to going analog more often as well. If you’re struggling to keep track of lists and next steps in tabs and documents–or just putting away your laptop or phone–then pen and paper might be the best approach for you. If for nothing else, there’s something inherently satisfying about crossing something off your to-do list.
Weinstein isn’t the only founder taking things offline. Justin Kline, co-founder of the influencer marketing firm Markerly, uses physical folders to stay organized. First introduced in David Allen’s 2001 book, Getting Things Done, Kline’s approach involves setting aside 31 folders, one for each day of the month. Kline then puts a piece of paper with a task that needs to be done on any given day into the corresponding folder. Need to give someone a call on October 12? Kline advises, “Write it down on a piece of paper and put it in the 12th folder. When the day comes, open it up and right there, you’ll see that reminder, along with any others you’ve placed in there to be done that day.”
5. Organize your inbox
Even with the rise in workplace messaging apps, many entrepreneurs funnel the majority of their tasks through their inbox. Kline takes advantage of this, using his inbox to essentially function as a to-do list. “I filter emails into three categories,” he says: “Actions (things I need to do), waiting-for (things other people need to address), and reference (something that may not need to be acted upon but will be useful to refer back to). This system allows me to know where I need to devote my time and effort in an easy-to-use format.”
To Kline’s point, it can be easy to get bogged down in an overwhelming amount of emails, but by making your inbox work for you, entrepreneurs can tackle their days more efficiently.
Whether working from home or in the office, entrepreneurs have their work cut out for them when it comes to staying on top of their tasks. Competing priorities and interruptions are a fact of work-life, and the founders who shared their tips for this article tackle these obstacles head-on every single day. So, if you’re looking to step up your productivity game, try out one of these tips and make the most of your days.