3 Productivity Mistakes ALL Entrepreneurs Tend to Make…

This is a guest post by Matthew Turner.

Did you know that Arianna Huffington once broke her cheekbone because she was so exhausted and burnt-out from the “hustle”?

It’s true.

Back in 2007, she was sat at home on the phone, when all of a sudden she collapsed. When she woke up, she lay in a pool of her own blood, and had what she would later discover, a broken cheekbone.

After plenty of tests, the doctors returned with her diagnosis. It wasn’t cancer. It wasn’t a disease. The only person at fault was Arianna. She was, of course, exhausted.

She later described this terrifying period as the “wake up call that changed my life.”

Back then, Arianna worked 18-hour days. She burned both ends of the candle. She juggled this with family-life. She hustled like all good entrepreneurs do.

After all, The Huffington Post was one of the fastest online publications in the world, and Arianna was one of the planet’s most sought after business people.

Yet it was this that almost ruined her life!

I’ve seen this sort of “hustle” ruin many good lives.

Whilst writing my book “The Successful Mistake”, I listened to many an inspiring mind describe a period not unlike Arianna’s.

We live in an age that  glorifies such “hustle”. You watch Gary V work like a madman and reap the rewards. You think to yourself, “maybe I should do that… maybe I’m not working hard enough… not “hustling” enough…”

The thing is, there’s only one Gary Vaynerchuk.

What most entrepreneurs and business owners achieve during such a pursuit, is a loss in productivity.

I know, it sounds strange. You want to be more productive, you work harder and longer, right?

No. Not even close.

All this does is leave you in a pool of your own blood, and a “wake up call” you didn’t have to have.

Most Entrepreneurs ARE NOT Productive!

Most entrepreneurs (maybe you are one of them) are not productive.

They lose sight of what matters in the spirit of success.

  • They hustle…
  • They work long hours…
  • They stop learning (because they’re too busy to learn)…
  • They strain their relationships…
  • They hurt their family…
  • They destroy their health…
  • They burn out!

In doing so, you actually harm your growth and success.

Which is rather counter productive, don’t you think?

Most entrepreneurs are not productive, and it’s because they make certain mistakes each day (that I will share with you in this post).

Worst of all, these mistakes are their own doing.

These mistakes are YOUR doing.

Like Arianna was, you are the cause… so let’s turn your productivity mistakes around.

After all, you don’t need to wait for a broken cheekbone before you have your own “wake-up call”.

Mistake 1: You Work From a To-Do List

Do you wake up each day and check your to-do list? If you do, you are making a BIG mistake!

Working from a to-do list is a terrible idea, and this is why:

  • It’s easy to keep adding tasks to a to-do list…
  • A to-do list literally never ends…
  • You become obsessed about ticking tasks off your list…
  • You become enslaved by your list…
  • You stop thinking about what you should be doing, and instead follow what your list tells you to…

Worst of all, you give a task ZERO value by adding it to a list like this.

For example, I recently wrote, edited, and prepared this very blog post you’re reading. Each one of these tasks took time out of my schedule, but how much time would each task take?

10 minutes… 30 minutes… 2 hours… 5 hours…?

A to-do list doesn’t take time into consideration. It says you have a task to-do, and that today is the day you will do it. But there’s a big difference between a 10-minute task and a 2-hour one.

You may be able to complete twenty 10-minute tasks throughout the day, but only a single 2-hour task.

This is why your to-do list does not work.

It places ZERO value on your tasks (and therefore how you spend your day).

You become obsessed with getting through your list, so you don’t fall behind. As such you:

  • Work longer…
  • Work harder…
  • Rush through each task and provide less value…
  • Hustle…
  • Do more and more and more…

Having a to-do list is possibly the least productive thing you can do. It not only wastes your time, it refuses to value it in the first place.

So, what’s the solution?

It involves something else I’m sure you already have in your life: Your Calendar.

Successful, productive people work from their calendar. Each day, they place every one of their tasks in it, and they get to work.

This is great for a few reasons:

  • You give your tasks a value (an actual allocation of time)
  • You can only add so much to your day (once it’s full, it’s full)
  • It helps you prioritize your tasks, which makes you (that’s right) more productive

As such, you work less, produce more, and don’t lose yourself to the dreaded hustle.

I discovered this way of life through the multi-bestselling author, Kevin Kruse.

He writes about it in his book “15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management”, where he discusses his own “wake-up call”, which included an unfortunate encounter with a New Jersey Police Officer, and his first wife becoming his ex-wife.

“Overworked and overwhelmed,” he describes it, a salve to his work, his schedule, and his dreaded (and ever increasing) to-do list.

So instead of becoming a slave to your own to-do list, become empowered by your calendar instead:

  • Step #1: Add all your tasks to a monthly list in your notebook
  • Step #2: Place each of these tasks into your calendar (if it doesn’t fit, save it for the next month)
  • Step #3: Delete your to-do list app (you don’t need it anymore).

So simple, yet something so few people do. The question now is, will you?

Mistake 2: You Are “Ruled” By Meetings and Calls

Have you ever fallen behind your schedule because a call or meeting overran? If you have, I have the solution for you…

DO NOT let your calls or meetings overrun!

Easier said than done, I know, but calls and meetings that overrun are one of the core reasons people get behind in their schedule. Simply put, it:

  • Creates a butterfly effect (you’ve seen this in action at the doctor’s’ office, I’m sure. Your appointment is 30-minutes late because lots of other appointments before you were late).
  • Devalues your time (if you promised someone an hour of your time, and they use an hour-and-ten minutes, they have literally stolen ten minutes from you and your day).
  • Tells the other person they are more important than your work (each minute spent in a meeting is a minute you cannot spend elsewhere).
  • Forces you to re-stack your day (those tasks you need to do still need to be done, which means you must work longer… harder… quicker…)

In short, allowing your meetings and calls to overrun is one of the least productive things you can do.

Of course, the solution to this is simple: stick to your schedule!

Above all, this takes self-discipline, but you can make your life easier by creating three levels of meeting:

  • #1: Informal Meetings (15-minutes)
  • #2: Tactical Meetings (30-minutes)
  • #3: Strategic Meetings (60-minutes)

Informal meetings are reserved for drop-in sessions and quick chats (the employee who has a quick question, maybe, or a friend who wishes to share a quick business idea).

Tactical meetings focus on coming up with a solution (there’s a specific task, and you focus on this without allowing any distractions to take place. If something else comes up, arrange another meeting).

Finally, strategic meetings are for those times when you need to think… share ideas… delve deeper into a subject. If you need to make these longer than 60-minutes, do so. Just make sure you put a time next to it, and ensure everyone attending knows what this is (and that it will not overrun).

Dave Kerpen taught me all of this, after he fell behind his schedule for years. As founder of two thriving businesses (Likeable Media and Likeable Local) that hire hundreds of employees, Dave found himself enslaved by meetings, calls, and drop-in sessions.

But today, Dave overcomes this by having an open-door policy (meaning anyone can schedule a 15-minute call or meeting with him) BUT under no circumstance do these 15-minute sessions overrun.

Dave’s employees know this, and they respect the process. They know that if they ever have a question, he is there for them. But they also know they only have a few minutes, which means they get to the point.

You can do the same (not just with your employees, but EVERY meeting you have) by being upfront with the other person. Once they know how much time they have, it’s up to them to make the most of it.

And if they try to overrun, don’t let them!

Mistake 3: You Say Yes Far Too Much

There’s one word that is possibly the most dangerous word you use as a business owner.

That word is “yes”.

It’s so easy to say yes. It feels good to say yes.

But it’s a productivity killer, and this is why:

  • Every time you say yes to one thing, you cannot say yes to another…
  • Saying yes massages your ego (your ego is your enemy)…
  • Saying yes is what prevents growth, not the other way around…

Saying yes prevents growth? That can’t be true.

I’m afraid it is, and it’s one of the more common stories I heard whilst writing “The Successful Mistake.”

Take Erin Blaskie, for instance, the Digital Strategist who was one of the first people to make inroads in the virtual assistant industry.

As both her business and personal brand thrived, more and more people wanted a piece of her.

New business… new collaborations… the press and media… new clients… new types of clients… and all the while Erin said yes-yes-yes.

When I spoke to her for “The Successful Mistake”, she talked about the realisation one day that her standards had slipped; that not all of her customers got the same high-quality service (the very service that helped her stand out in the first place).

Saying yes not only burnt Erin out, but lead her to create an inferior product (which in time, had a negative effect on her growth and business).

So although saying yes is easy, and on the surface makes sense (more clients and business is a good thing, right?), it is a true productivity killer.

It wastes your time.

It ruins your focus.

It takes your eye off the prize!

The alternative, of course, is to say no. Not to everything, but to more things than you may feel comfortable with.

And to help you decide when to say yes or no, ask yourself these three questions each time an opportunity arises:

  • #1: Will this help me achieve my “big picture” goal / vision?
  • #2: Is this opportunity more important than what I have already committed to?
  • #3: How much value will this bring into my life (and those I care about)?

If said opportunity ticks all of these boxes, by all means say yes.

If not, take a deep breath and say no.

Your productivity levels (and your success) will thank you later.


After reading this article, you face two choices:

#1: Let your day rule you.

#2: Take control of your day, and rule it!

You don’t need me to tell you what the world’s most successful people choose.

However, that’s not to say they haven’t suffered at the hands of each one of these mistakes in the past. If I learned one thing from writing “The Successful Mistake”, it’s that successful people become the success stories they are by learning from their failures and turning them into damn-good-times.

Like Arianna Huffington did during her own “wake-up call”, you can turn bad into great.

And if you would like to see how 163 of the world’s finest entrepreneurs, speakers, and authors do this, you can grab a free (paperback) copy of “The Successful Mistake” now.

I hope you will, because then you can make sure you transform you next mistake into your greatest success yet.

— Matthew Turner


Matthew Turner is an author who works with entrepreneurs, founders & creative thinkers to build thriving businesses. After interviewing 163 authority figures, Matthew’s unearthed how successful people overcome failure and adversity, ensuring they fulfil their potential and craft epic success. You can too by grabbing Your Free Paperback Copy of The Successful Mistake Here

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