As I mentioned in my previous blog, Are You Investing in your Time or Just Spending It?, there is a big difference between investing in how you spend your time and just letting the hours and minutes slip through your fingers each day.

Think about it – if you’re running your own business then every working minute that you spend not focused on what’s going to drive your business forward can have a serious negative impact on your ability to generate income.

So how you spend your time is important. And for a time-strapped entrepreneur, it’s about finding the right tools to help you stay focused on your tasks, overcome procrastination and make you feel like you’ve achieved something at the end of each day.

The only problem is that there are so many productivity tools out there, it can be a full time job searching for the right one and then setting it up.

Well from my years of experience as a business owner, I’ve found that there are 3 essential tools that you can use to help you get more done. And the best bit is that none of them will cost you a lot of time, money or effort to set up and use.

So read on to discover the 3 productivity tools that you probably didn’t know about but will put a spring in your step when it comes to completing tasks off your to do list.

Pen and paper.  If I had a pound for the amount of time I’ve spent researching and setting up various productivity tools, I’d be an extremely rich woman!!  Online productivity apps do work but the main drawback is that you can spend a lot of time and effort in setting up the app rather than focusing on actually working on your to do list.

Which is why there’s a great benefit to using simple pen and paper.  You don’t need to learn how to use it or set it up; you can take it anywhere whether you have an internet connection or not; and it’s a quick and simple way to capture your tasks and thoughts as and when they come to you.

In fact I find that using pen and paper is one of the best ways to keep track of the most important tasks that I need to work on each day. I recommend that you focus on no more than 5 daily tasks, list them out on a piece of paper along with the amount of time you’re going to spend on each one, and then tick them off as you work through them.

Kitchen timer.  And once you’ve got your important tasks written down, you can set aside time to complete them.  And one of the best tools to help you do that is an old-fashioned kitchen timer.

Say you need to start writing some content for your next newsletter, you can block out 20 minutes to draft some thoughts and ideas.  Set the timer for 20 minutes before you start, then when it rings, finish off what you’re doing and take a break.  I’ve written before about the importance of splitting your workload into chunks to help keep your mind refreshed and focused on what you’re doing.  It’s easy to get bogged down in your work but if you do, you will end up achieving far less than if you “chunk” your workload into small tasks.

Journal.  There are many ways that a writing a journal can help you to stay productive.  For example, you can use it to capture ideas and thoughts as well as to explore creative solutions to complex problems.  I very often find it easier to draw mind maps or diagrams by hand rather than fiddling around with drawing shapes etc on my computer.

You can also use your journal as a “memory dump” of all that’s going on in your head.  One of the biggest blocks to productivity can be negative thoughts and doubts that we tell ourselves that stop us from moving towards our goals.  By getting those thoughts and feelings out of your head and on to paper, you can help to get clear about what’s going on and start to focus on a solution to move yourself forward again.

Another way that I use a journal to boost my productivity is to remind myself of all the successes that I’ve had over the previous week.  Celebrating your successes is one of the best ways to stay motivated especially when you’re going through a rough patch and you feel like giving up.

So these are the 3 productivity tools that will give you everything you need to power through your to do list and stay focused on what’s important to move your business forward.

© Photo via flickr

About Valerie Eaton

Valerie is the founder and owner of Smart VA who provides virtual PA services to self-employed professionals who are feeling overwhelmed by their workload and want more time to focus on growing their business.

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