3 Tips For Entrepreneurs Who Want To Maximize Productivity In 2017

This story appeared on forbes.com

Spoiler alert: vacation is over. If you’re like most entrepreneurs this week, you’re tackling an overflowing inbox and juggling a crammed calendar, while trying to mentally check back into the grind.

We’ve all been there. At O2E Brands, we believe in “going dark” on vacation, so we use the holidays to disconnect completely from work. But after a few glorious weeks being OOO, it’s especially hard to focus. In fact, a Glance Networks study found that most businesses don’t get back to normal productivity levels until three weeks after New Year’s.

However, with some planning, you can get back into gear faster than your competition and set your business up for a productive month (and year) . Here are three things you can do right now to hit the ground running in 2017.

1: Paint a Picture for Long-Term Success

Over 45 percent of people make personal resolutions, but few of us make resolutions for our businesses. The new year is a perfect time to set goals for all aspects of your life. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t, and those odds for success increase to 50 percent when you write those goals down.

I personally experienced the power of visualization when I wrote my first “Painted Picture” — a crystal-clear snapshot of the future I wanted for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. In the early days, it was just a scrappy startup with three trucks and a lot of potential. Since achieving most of the goals in the first Painted Picture (like landing Oprah), I craft a new one every four years, and share the updated vision with our employees. It’s a powerful way to get your team fired up and working together towards a goal, not just settling into another year of the status quo.

The new year is also an opportunity for our team to look at our Can You Imagine? wall and their 101 Life Goals lists with fresh eyes. These are two ways we ask employees to dream big all year round. And when someone’s in a post-vacation slump, these tools are potent reminders about the exciting things that can happen when you intentionally set goals.

2: Snap a Leadership Selfie

How often do you take an audit of your strengths and weaknesses? A new year is a great time to reflect on what’s going well, and what could use work. Self-awareness is truly one of the greatest skills for success: not only does it make you a better, more empathetic leader, it’s also positively correlated with your company’s bottom line.

So how does a leadership selfie work? For me, it’s as simple as writing down my skills and what needs improvement. I make a list and solicit feedback, both formally and informally, with coffee meetings, chats with coworkers, and more structured surveys. And what better time to break old habits than those first few days when your work routines haven’t yet reformed?

3: Strip Away Productivity Blockers

What was holding you back or frustrating you last year? I’ve found it’s the little things that end up wasting the most time. But the good news is that identifying time-sucks is the first step to eliminating them.

For me, unproductive meetings are a big pet peeve and I’m not alone: 59 percent of people hate meetings that don’t stay on topic. So in 2017, set meetings with one direction, clear outcome goals, and only invite people who need to be there. Another simple trick is to schedule 22-minute meetings instead of half-hour ones. The idea, pioneered by Nicole Steinbok, is to make everyone hyper-conscious of start and end times.

Email is another productivity blocker. In fact, the average office worker spends 28% of their week managing their inbox. I learned long ago to tame this beast. Now, I sort every email into one of three folders (personal, end-of-day, and end-of-week) so I can power through later in one focused, productive chunk.