Sabir Semerkant is the founder of GROWTH by Sabir and a productivity couch.
Many entrepreneurs struggle with productivity. They don’t work as hard as they can or as much as they should, and no matter how hard they try, they keep falling into the same patterns of procrastination.
They desperately search for answers, ways in which they can become more productive and more efficient, but more often than not, they look in the wrong places. Because, contrary to what you might think, productivity is about focus and not time.
Why Productivity is About Focus and Not Time
Giving yourself more time won’t necessarily make you more productive.
It should be obvious, but it’s a mistake that many people make. They realize that they are not working as much as they should and so they try to eke more hours out of their day, doing everything they can to save an extra hour here and there.
The problem is, they usually spend that extra hour lazily browsing on Facebook or staring at an empty Word document.
If you’re struggling to be productive, it means you’re struggling to focus. All of the time in the world won’t fix that but changing your environment and your approach to work might.
Some of the ways that you can quickly improve your focus include:
- Start Working: Believe it or not, the best way to cure writer’s block is to start writing. It doesn’t matter what you write. If it’s terrible, you can delete it. What matters is that you actually start writing, as that will trigger the creative process. The same is true for most other types of work. Just make a start and your natural instincts will take over.
- Breathe Deeply: Trying to move from mindless Facebook browsing to productive work can be difficult as your mind is unfocused and chaotic. Instead, just sit in silence, breathe deeply, and try to clear your head before you begin.
- Take a Shower/Bath: There’s a reason you seem to have your best ideas in the shower or bath. It’s the silence, the lack of distractions, and the fact that you have some time to relax and think. If you’re struggling to get started, take a shower, clear your head, and move straight onto your work.
Being Productive When You Are Self-Employed
I’ve been self-employed for many years. I work with writers, designers, developers, marketers, and entrepreneurs who are also self-employed. Every single one of us struggles to be as productive as we would like, but such issues are rare as we’ve learned to adapt. We’ve found ways to work even through the distractions of home life.
But the same can’t be said for people who are only just acclimatizing to remote working.
It’s one of those things that everyone wants to do. The idea of working from home and setting your own hours is the dream for many Americans.
There is no commute. No noisy workplace. You can work when you want and where you want, and you have tea/coffee, and snacks within reach at all times.
But as many people discovered during the pandemic, when millions more Americans were forced to work from home, it’s not quite as easy as it seems.
When the constant pressure of employers, co-workers, and deadlines are replaced with the distractions of pets, friends, family, and Netflix, it’s hard to stay focused.
You will adapt after a while. But there are a few ways that you can hasten that process and become more productive much earlier.
One of the most important lessons that all self-employed individuals learn is that everyone is different.
It’s a cliché, I know, but it’s also something that many people forget when it comes to working from home.
Every single guide to remote working includes a section that advises you against all distractions. They’ll tell you to find a quiet workspace — preferably a room that no one else uses — and to make sure that there is no TV in that room.
But can you really work for 10 hours straight without anything to stimulate you? There are no conversations with colleagues to break the monotony. No music or phone calls. It’s just you, a computer, and complete silence.
It’s enough to send you insane.
The most productive freelancers I know all work while watching TV. Sure, it’s more of a background thing, and they’re not always paying attention, but the more experienced they get, the easier it becomes to enjoy films and TV shows while still producing great work.
Some prefer to listen to music. Others prefer to watch YouTube videos.
A writer friend of mine watches horror films and series for most of the day and has a subscription to pretty much every streaming service available. He works 7 days a week and 10 to 15 hours a day, and those films and shows are the reason he’s so productive and the reason he loves his job despite working 100+ hours a week.
The point is that there is no magic solution, and the articles that provide specific tips on procrastination and productivity might not work for you.
The most important thing is that you stay focused on the work at hand. If you have 10+ hours ahead of you, silence likely won’t encourage you to remain focused, but music or TV might.
Summary: Focus = Productivity