Entrepreneur ProductivityThis touches a nerve. You are working hard. Nobody can tell you that you’re not. But perhaps what you’re not doing is focussing.

My name is Josh Valman; I’m 18, still studying A levels and Managing Director at Miproto. I’m a recovering obsessive workaholic.

I know exactly what it means to work hard. I’m balancing exams, a factory team in China, design & development teams in the UK, investors, partnerships, family, friends, a girlfriend, oh and supporting a local bike shop.

For a long time I have both practiced and preached extreme hours. Working through the night to get things done, beat time differences, and keep everybody happy. However recently it came to my attention, I wasn’t working as hard as I thought.

So you worked for 18 hours yesterday, you’re struggling to keep going today due to a lack of sleep, but what did you actually achieve yesterday? Be honest with yourself, it wasn’t actually that much. Write a list, how long should what you achieved have taken? Research has shown that sleep deprivation can have the same effects on brain function as alcohol, not to mention the obvious signs of heightened irritability and inability to focus. Cutting down on work hours, but maintaining or increasing them is something I mentioned briefly here at the end of this interview. What I actually said was: “Don’t work to work. Set goals the night before. Wake up and smash them.”

So I propose you follow me in doing something that seems ludicrous to somebody of my mind-set: stop and relax.

I challenge you for a week to work just 8 hour days and still achieve the same amount by considering these 5 things to create focus.

1.     Plan Ahead

What are you going to do tomorrow? What desperately needs doing tomorrow? What can wait? What doesn’t even need doing at all? Make a list the night before.

5 Important things that require focus, ie ‘write that marketing plan for the board meeting tomorrow’.

5 semi important things that require less brain juice, ie ‘pay that invoice due this week’.

And 5 things that aren’t so important to be done now, but you could do if you finish everything, ie ‘book flights for a trip 9 months in the future’.

Once all of that is done you stop. Finished in 5 hours? Bonus, reward yourself with something unhealthy.

If you want to take it one step further, quote yourself time for completion against each item and enter them into a 10 minute break down of your day. You can download the list template with day breakdown HERE.

2.     Get to the point

You’re working, don’t chat. Make your point, expand on this with necessary information, and repeat the point with a call to action. What do you want the recipient to do? If you can’t think of a call to action, it’s probably a pointless message! Plus, if it’s not on your list, and isn’t a result of something on your list, it can wait.

3.     Be omnipresent

Why spend an hour every day finding interesting things to post on company social media, or setting reminders to pay invoices? At the beginning of the week get it out of the way. Find yourself some software to queue your posts, your payments, your newsletter email, even a happy birthday message to great aunt Beatrice on Facebook. That way when people think you are getting creative on twitter you can actually be elsewhere working hard on bigger things. Once you get the hang of it you can be everywhere, making payments, tweeting, posting, checking in, scheduling a meeting and pitching to investors all at the same time. It’s also a very good way to make a small startup look like it’s supported by a much larger workforce.

I personally use:

Tweetdeck: Self-explanatory really – I queue my company tweets for the whole week. I link twitter with Facebook so my posts go there too, saving more time.

Mailchimp: Prepare, queue, track, and manage your email campaigns. I use this to queue my newsletters, why set an alarm to press send when it’ll do it automatically and notify you of actions such as opens, discards, and unsubscribes.

Barclays: I bank, with Barclays, but most online banking systems allow you to schedule payments, whether they are one off or recurring.

4.     It can wait

Wait all day, refreshing your emails, to see if there’s a reply from that big name investor? There’s probably a reason you have to wait for a reply, they get a lot of mail. Replying straight away will just put you back in the queue quicker, what difference does it make? Set your emails to scan for new messages a few times a day. Outside of those times, leave it alone. You have more important things to focus on. Plus, you know successful busy people take time to reply. So what impression does that give those contacting you?

Note: Leaving emails from big clients for a few months to show them how much of a deity you are, is not advised.

5.     Input, not always output

Being productive is all very well, but if you are always on the output, you’ll never learn anything, you can’t improve that output. Take time every day to learn. Read blog posts, watch the news, watch interviews, read books. Do everything in your power to consume relevant information. And irrelevant to, life isn’t all about your work (Okay so I struggled to say that).

Some of my favourite sites are:

www.Under30CEO.com – This one!

www.inc.com – A business blog with a range of topics, some very captivating writers post here.

www.foundat.io/n – A collection of inspirational interviews with founders by Kevin Rose of Digg and now Google Ventures.

www.HowitStarted.co.uk – Some really inspirational stories and interviews on this new site run by a fellow young entrepreneur. Also features an interview with myself!

So I suggest you take a break and try those 5 things. I have been practicing these for a month or so now and feel much better for it. Whether as a result or coincidence of this, the future has started to look very bright here at Miproto recently.

Josh Valman is 18 from London and Managing Director of Miproto. Miproto is an internet based product design, developing and prototyping platform. It allows anybody to upload their product idea and manage the project as we turn it into something real. If you have any questions or just want to get in touch you can address an email to me at JoshValman@miproto.com, follow me on twitter @Miproto, or check out my tumblr www.Miproto.tumblr.com.

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