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Productivity hacksThe past year of building two startups and consulting for various others has been an amazingly rewarding experience. Being January, this is a great time to be setting goals for the year, and many people have set the goal of being more productive. What many don’t realize is that the secret to being more productive in a startup is based on knowing the key distinction between systems and goals.

I’ve learned a ton about increasing productivity in 2013 and I wanted to share a few key lessons I’ve learned.

You Have to Build Your Own Systems

Having worked a corporate career for many years, I’m no stranger to the annual practice of extensive goal-setting. But what gets us to those goals is an effective system, of course. Large corporations enjoy the benefit of having inherent systems built-in that support your work flow, which is precisely what startups lack. It’s easy to forget while dreaming, planning, and going for goals that you have to focus on building that foundation too.

It’s likely that you’ll need to design it from the ground up. Anything as simple as well designed work methods, to actual pieces of technology, for example. In my own world I apply this concept mostly to my personal behavior and habits.

The beauty is there are no rules to what you build or how you do it. You should feel free to design the way you work unique to you and your company.

Systems are Everywhere

Start out by realizing that you have system for things whether you’re aware of them or not. So become aware of them. Make an assessment; which of them are hurting or helping? Should some be abandoned? Can some be improved? Are entirely new systems needed?

Quickly put attention into what activities, habits, and elements need to change in order to reach your goals. Very quickly you will see signs that those activities are either supporting the ‘design’ for your business, or not. Sometimes those activities will open up new opportunities and your goals will expand, or shift completely (another good reason that goals should be flexible).

Productivity Systems

Write It Down

You can see in this awesomely enlightening infographic from Entrepreneur magazine that 67% of the World’s mega-powerful billionaires do things as simple as write down their goals (most of them on paper). 84% believe that good habits create opportunity, and 76% believe that bad habits have a negative impact. Additionally, many read 30 + minutes per day, network 5 or more hours per month, and listen to audio books during their commute.

These are all part of a system of their own workflow that they are sure to practice on a consistent basis, from which the achievement of their huge goals stems. Do you want to develop your own system? Sweet, because we can get started, right now:

Write down two goals you want to achieve. Keep them simple.

Create a list under each of the key activities you think are required to get there. Share in a deep moment of honesty with me, and focus on what you know you need to get better at. If you need to, do a simple Google search (like this) to get you started.

My Roadmap

Now time for some self-reflection;

  • Why do you think these activities will get you there?
  • What are you doing now, not doing, or could do more of to facilitate that?
  • Narrow it down and create a list of tasks that you will act on weekly, daily, monthly

Voila! You actually have a roadmap to a new system. The ‘system’ part will arrive on its own and become clear with consistent practice. Along the way you’ll of course have the chance to make changes, fine-tune, and add to those new structures as your goals (and you) expand. Doing so will sometimes uncover these beautiful, indirect ways in which your activities get you to your goals.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of the most badass business Guru’s of the century, Herb Kelleher, who sums things up nicely with:

“We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.”

Now focus, be consistent, and GO!

For more information on being more productive, read about the power of saying no and productivity hacks from 9 young entrepreneurs.