Productivity: a seemingly simple word that manages to both excite and terrify the entrepreneur within us.

Over the years, there have been plenty of self-help gurus and business owners that have come forward with their own ideas on how to boost productivity. However, some ideas are more harmful than helpful and a lot of people are unable to differentiate the good from the bad. Instead of wasting your time devouring self-help books and scouring the internet for productivity courses, take a look at 5 of the best tips for boosting your productivity below.

  1. Use Technology to Your Advantage

In the productivity world, technology is often advertised as the bane of one’s existence. While technology does have the potential to prevent you from getting work done, it also has the potential to increase your productivity.

One article on Ecopreneur explores several of the apps currently on the market that can help you improve your productivity, including:

  • Evernote: “Evernote manages everything from basic plaintext notes to rich text documents to images to entire web pages… Three of the handiest features are the ability to take a picture of a document with your device’s camera and store it as a note, which Evernote can then search within, the ability to record audio notes for either transcribing into text or for use as an audio recording, and the Shared Notebook feature, which allows you to collaborate with other members of your team. As a productivity app, Evernote is hard to beat.
  • HootSuite: “This social media management system makes it simple and effective to post to multiple social networks, including Twitter, Facebook (both personal pages and company pages), LinkedIn, and Google+, and it allows for collaboration with other team members.”
  • Carrot: “This somewhat aggressive to-do app helps motivate you to get stuff done by giving you feedback with an attitude. Carrot has a gesture-based interface, learns as you use it, and offers ‘rewards’ when you stay on track. This app, of all of those listed here, is probably the one most likely to be considered a productivity app exclusively, as it focuses solely on tasks and the completion of the tasks.”

Not every application will work for you, however. Make sure that you carefully research and test each app before you begin relying on it to boost your productivity.

  1. Know Your Energy Schedule

Everyone has certain times throughout the day when they feel the most energized. For me, I feel the most energized in the mornings. At around 2:00 p.m., I begin to experience a lull that affects my productivity and prevents me from plowing through my tasks. Instead of fighting it and trying to accomplish one task for hours, I use this time to complete simple tasks that require minimal effort. The lull eventually wears off and I begin working on my important tasks again.

Figure out when you feel the most energized, focused, and motivated and schedule your important work around those times. For some people, this may not be possible. You may be a night owl who is currently working a 9-5 job. If this is the case for you and your energy isn’t highest during your working hours, find ways that you can boost your energy levels.

Some great ways to boost your energy include listening to motivational music, getting up and doing a brief exercise every 10 minutes or so, and drinking plenty of cold water. Only consider caffeine and supplements if you have tried alternative methods and they haven’t worked for you.

If you are a night owl, don’t let society’s normal schedule prevent you from doing work when you are capable of doing it best. An article in Foundr recently investigated the night owl lifestyle and provided several examples of famous night owls including Elon Musk, who goes to bed at 1:00 a.m. and wakes up at 7:00 a.m., Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, who goes to bed at 2:00 a.m. and wakes up at around 10:00 a.m., and Moz founder Rand Fishkin, who goes to bed between 1:30 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. and wakes up between 9:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.

Related: Characteristics of a Social Entrepreneur

  1. Rely on Others for Time-Consuming Tasks

Outsourcing is a blessing for many business owners. No matter what type of business you run, there are probably hundreds of tasks you do throughout the day that takes away from the time you need to complete major projects. Maybe you spend several hours a day marketing yourself and your product when you should be creating content for your product. Maybe you’re taking time out of your day to schedule appointments with clients instead of working with clients you already have.

Whatever it is that is preventing you from being truly productive, I can guarantee that there is someone or something out there that could be doing these tasks for you. The freelance market has experienced a dramatic change over the past few years and there is currently an abundance of professionals on the internet, waiting to take on work that business owners don’t have time for.

Although outsourcing has a stigma attached to it, there is a way that you can outsource your work while being socially conscious. Companies such as Samasource and Digital Divide Data take the work that you need to be done and outsource it to underdeveloped countries to provide those in need with employment.

The CEO of DDD, Michael Chertok, further explains this in an article in Huffington Post.

“Today, more than two dozen BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) firms in countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Ghana, Haiti, Kenya and Pakistan deliver services to clients performed by individuals from very disadvantaged backgrounds. In countries where the BPO industry is thriving, including India, the Philippines and the U.S.A., social entrepreneurs are bringing this model to small towns and villages in rural and remote areas to create employment and opportunity.”

  1. Keep Your To-Do List Realistic

I can’t even begin to explain to you how many times I have packed my to-do list with nearly impossible tasks. If you know what I am talking about, then you understand the feeling that comes after you are unable to achieve everything that you set out to do. This daily feeling of “failure” leads you to believe that you are not capable of being a productive human being.

The problem, however, does not lie in your inability to tackle so many tasks at once. It lies in your inability to create a realistic to-do list. If you only have 8 hours to work and you’ve put over 10 large projects on your to-do list, you are setting yourself up for failure. Rather than going through this cycle, determine what you are able to do with the time that you have available.

Start by looking at your work and figuring out what needs to be done first. Organize your work in order of importance and start there. Once you’ve organized your work, schedule the most important tasks as soon as possible and place the items that you have time to do towards the end of your list or personal organizer. Take into consideration how much time you have to dedicate towards these projects and whether or not you will be able to finish each task on that given day.

Solène Pignet, CEO of Creators for Good, wrote a post on her blog a few years ago that explored the topic of social entrepreneurs and burnout. In it, she offered this helpful advice:

  • Plan – how much you want to work on a weekly basis, and stick to that
  • Schedule – your holidays and long weekends in advance. At least 6 times per year (yes! that often! You are not an employee; you need more rest than them to have enough energy!)
  • Be strategic – about the impact you want to have, the milestones you need to reach, and the selective actions you are going to take. And then, stick to it! Stop working quantitatively, and have a qualitative approach instead.

If you remain honest and organized, your productivity levels will begin to soar.

Related: 7 Productivity Myths Busted: Are You Falling for Any of These?

  1. Practice Self-Care When Needed

Sometimes, the best thing that you can do for yourself is to take a break and recharge. I know, it seems counterintuitive. However, think back to the last time that you attempted to do work when you were mentally exhausted or upset. Did you get any work done? If so, did you manage to produce the same quality of work that you would have if you were happy and well-rested? The answer to this is most likely no.

Jamie Green, a social entrepreneur who sells sleepwear and uses the proceeds to feed the homeless, creating homeless shelters, and generate employment, was recently featured in an article on Virgin where he commented on taking time to break away from his work:

“I spend 95 percent of my time behind a screen. If it’s not on my laptop creating pitch decks, answering emails and editing photos, it is spending time on my phone scrolling Instagram and reading the news – and to be honest it can take its toll on my mental health. I have different methods of dealing with this – I call them refocus days – and they might include going for a surf, cleaning the house or listening to a podcast while on a drive to get re-inspired.”

You can’t be productive if you have allowed your emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical health to suffer. If you need an entire day to recuperate, take a day off. If you only need a couple of hours, take a break from your work for a couple of hours. No matter how long it takes for you to recharge, you must take the time out of your day to do it or else your quality of work and your work output will continually suffer.

Do you need some ideas on how to practice self-care? Here are some suggestions that Forbes recommends for social entrepreneurs:

  • Set aside time during your day to meditate
  • Create a solid support system of people that you can go to when you feel overwhelmed with life and work
  • Start a journal that helps you to recognize symptoms and triggers of burnout

 

Productivity seems to be elusive to so many people because they believe it is an art or a science rather than what it is: a deep understanding of the self. Knowing what drives you, when you feel driven, and what helps you to tackle the world is productivity in a nutshell. With these 5 tips, you will be better able to understand yourself and become more productive.