The Internet is full of productivity and similar advice for entrepreneurs: start your day early, exercise regularly, plan a consistent schedule, etc., etc., etc. As an entrepreneur myself, I wanted to share what I feel are my keys to doing my best work, because I have a feeling many others might benefit from the same strategies:

  1. Get the right tools for your needs
  2. Make a schedule that works for you

Get the right tools for your needs

When you’re starting a business – or even if you’ve been running yours for many years – you’re forced to wear many hats. You just don’t have the budget to hire employees to handle all your many needs: finances, accounting, marketing, administrative work, sales, and so much more. Some of this you’ll outsource, of course, and there’s great value in finding the right partners to work with.

But I’ve also found extraordinary value in choosing free or low-cost software tools to help with those everyday business needs. Technology today makes running a business so much easier, and if you choose the right combination of tools, you can take advantage of time and cost savings. Here is a toolkit with a list of my favorite tools, and a couple of the best I highlighted below:

  • BufferApp: As a marketing consultant, social media is an integral part of my business, but I’d argue that just about every business owner should have a social media presence of some type. Luckily, pairing BufferApp’s great scheduling functionality with a little planning makes managing your social media program vastly simpler.
  • ToDoIst: If you know me (or have read my blogs before), you know I’m a list-maker. ToDoIst manages all those lists in one application, which I can access on my computer, tablet or phone for easy task management. I organize my entire work schedule with ToDoIst.
  • FreshBooks: One of the most important roles any business owner must fill is handling finances and accounting. However, most smaller businesses don’t need the services of a full-blown accountant (and would prefer not to spend the money on one either). There are many tools that help you manage your finances, but I have found FreshBooks to be superior. I can track billable time and manage projects for each client, produce invoices in seconds, collect payment via email, track income and expenses, and much more. It has been one of my most valuable investments—at only $19.99 per month.

Of course, this exact group of tools may not be what suits your business, but I wanted to share what’s been working for me. I love all three of these tools and would recommend them wholeheartedly. My larger recommendation to business owners is that you identify what your needs are, then do an in-depth search for a tool or tools that meet those needs. For example, when I was looking for accounting software, I knew I also needed an app to track my time, so I was thrilled to find a solution that met both those needs and more.

Choose the schedule that works best for you

This second suggestion is where I might disagree with some of the “conventional wisdom” out there on the topic. So often, I read that the most successful people wake up earlier than everyone else, for example. Well guess what? I’m not a morning person. And that’s okay.

Are there mornings I wake up early? Of course. And sometimes I even schedule important meetings or networking events for early morning, to help me start my day (and ensure I get out of bed and out the door early as intended). But there are other days when I start my days later into the morning—but I also work at night quite often. That’s usually when I have more energy and motivation, so I go with that.

If I’m feeling energized to work until 2am, I’d rather do that and then sleep until 10am the next day, rather than forcing myself into a “traditional” schedule just because. To me, that’s one of the perks of owning my own business, so I choose to listen to my body and work a schedule that works for me. Of course, depending on your family and home life, that might be easier for some than others, but my feeling is that you should do what works for you. (And of course, there are plenty of times that I work morning, day and night, like every entrepreneur, but I’m just speaking in general here.)

 

Fellow entrepreneurs, what are your tips for success and productivity? Do you have anything to add, or agree/disagree with my ideas? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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