7 tips self-employed people can use to boost productivity

Someone who recently made the shift from employment to self-employment said to me in passing, “What do I do all day?”

As an employee, we are told what to do and what not to do. We are given loose goals, and our bosses monitor our progress towards those goals. Failure to perform as expected results in consequences like pay cuts or loss of a job.

Self-employed people regularly boast that they are their own boss, and they see this as one of the biggest perks associated with this role. It is certainly nice to be able to set your own hours, but it’s much easier to be told what to do, or tell someone else what to do, than it is to direct yourself. When you fail to perform as a self-employed person, you lose your hard-earned dollars and your business struggles.

Here are some tips entrepreneurs can follow to be productive.

1. Plan

The secret to productivity is planning. Life itself is moving along a timeline, and planning allows us to predict and anticipate  our vision of the future, communicate that vision to those around us, and carry out actions that achieve those targets.

You’ve heard that you need to plan and create to-do lists a million times, but how often do you plan ahead? This means setting goals, identifying the actions needed to reach those goals, and then planning out how you will conduct those actions.

I’m not saying that you should produce a 5,000 word document. You don’t even need to put it on paper. Just visualise what goals you want to reach next week, then backtrack to what actions will be required to reach that target.

My weekly or daily plans usually look like a bunch of scribbles with arrows, dollar signs, and dates scattered around the page. As long as you can visualise what needs to be done and you’re able to communicate that to your team, you’re good to go.

2. Take advantage of peak productivity time

There are some entrepreneurs who only work during their peak productivity times. That’s a luxury many of us can’t afford, but we can still capitalise on it by arranging our days so that the tasks that require the most brain power and creativity are within those critical hours.

Studies have shown that people operating within their peak hours were able to triple their level of productivity and learning capacity.

Most people can fit into two categories: early birds and night owls. Early birds often find that during the hours of 8 AM to 11 AM, they are most productive. Night owls will find that they are most productive from 9 PM to 12 PM.

Do your high-power thinking between those ours, and save your menial tasks for later or earlier on in the day. For example, I write articles and do my high-level strategies from 8 AM to 11. Then I do menial tasks before circling back around in the afternoon to do editing.

3. Turn off email, check it periodically

For the first few weeks of your career, having a full inbox was a relatively good feeling. It made you feel like you were doing something. Now you’re probably feeling like email is controlling you, and it probably is.

When you’re in your most productive hours, shut off email. Quit Mail or close Outlook. If it’s urgent, people will call you.

This can be challenging when you’re operating tight customer service policies. For example, we reply to all business enquiries within 1 hour at NZE Services, so I will check my email every hour just before I take a break. Urgent emails get responded to.

4. Take breaks

Take work breaks, and take task breaks. If you’re doing the same task for a long period of time, you’re going to get brain fatigue. Don’t be afraid to switch things up a little. Do some energy-consuming work, then reply to emails or go make a coffee.

5. Close all social media

Productivity experts always say this, but they seem to be oblivious to the fact that businesses effectively run on social media these days. Social is a large part of our day-to-day activities, and as social media managers, closing those tabs can seem absurd.

Do it.

  • Schedule posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus using Buffer or IFTTT.
  • Interact with customers through Sprout Social. It has a better interface that provides analytics and removes distractions.
  • Schedule posts in your non-productive hours using content you’ve created in your productive hours.
  • Check your social when you  periodically check your email.
  • Close the tabs when you’re done.

6. Mind-boosting supplements

Overseas, entrepreneurs and high-level business managers have been taking the prescription drug Aderall to boost their mental clarity, memory recall, and overall productivity. There’s no doubt that it works, but after the buzz has worn off, users described a feeling that’s similar to a tremendous sugar crash. This feeling makes Aderall addictive – it’s an amphetamine at the end of the day – and prolonged abuse of the drug can cause serious mental health issues.

What’s lesser known is that there are natural and healthier alternatives which work just as well, if not better.

  • Niacin is a B Vitamin that has long been used for mental clarity and mental health issues. If you’re feeling dreamy or stressed, Niacin will often give you a long-lasting effect of feeling of feeling focussed and in control. Ask your doctor if Niacin is right for you.
  • Caffeine is a stimulant, but it works by taxing your adrenal glands. Over a long period of time, your body comes to depend on the stimulation of the adrenal glands from the caffeine, and this can lead to health complications.
  • Berocca is over-priced and over-marketed, but still effective. It’s essentially made up of acids and B and C vitamins, flavoured, then packaged nicely and sold at every petrol station or supermarket.

7. Clear your mind

Business people of all vocations and walks of life have turned to exercise, yoga, and meditation as a way to clear the mind. Bankers on Wall Street are turning up to meditation rooms. Tech CEO’s in Silicon Valley are busting out their yoga mats. Startup founders all over the world are using the gym as a way to clear the head and promote clear thinking.


What works for you might not work for everyone else. In our office, some people like to listen to music. I personally prefer absolute silence when I’m thinking. Finding the right balance between all the different factors associated with productivity is what is ultimately going to decide how focussed you are.


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