15 Productivity Hacks To Make The Most Of Your ‘Real Work’

Between endless meetings, constant emails and messages, and managing employees, entrepreneurs and business leaders often feel they have precious little time to check “real work” tasks off their to-do lists. The secret to overcoming this feeling is finding ways to boost your productivity during those limited distraction-free periods.

Below, 15 members of Forbes Business Council share some hacks they’ve found for stretching productivity when they have limited time to get work done. They explained how entrepreneurs can incorporate these hacks into their own lives to manage their time while accomplishing more throughout the day.

1. Get A Virtual Assistant

I have a virtual assistant on Zoom with me all day holding me to my schedule and helping me manage what has to get done and when. While I am getting my “real work” done, she manages all my digital distractions–from managing my inbox to making sure my calls are answered. – Craig Goodliffe, Cyberbacker

2. Set Up ‘No-Meeting’ Days

Getting the “real work” done needs to happen outside of meetings. Try to have dedicated “no-meetings” days within your teams. If you’re unable to block off whole days, start small by having fewer meetings, especially ones with too many people or sparse agendas. Finally, if your calendar is full of standing meetings where you’re just a listener and not a contributor, you probably don’t need to be there. – Erica Brinker, Array Technologies


Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?


3. Designate Times To Answer Emails

I answer my emails three times a day: before work, at lunchtime and then after work (excluding urgent client queries). This approach means that I don’t get caught up in the ping-pong of email responses, which can absorb chunks of my day. It also has the added benefit of empowering the team to make decisions without constantly turning to me for permission. – Victoria Usher, GingerMay

4. Plan Your Day Ahead Of Time

Scheduling out my day helps me to see what time I realistically have to get work done. When it’s not scheduled, it can be hard to visualize the time you have and how best to use that time. Scheduling also ensures that you are putting in those breaks, which can help avoid distractions while you are working. – Josh Thompson, Thompson Construction

5. Schedule Your Day And Focus On Those Tasks

There’s a time and a place for everything, so chunk out your day and focus on designated tasks. Don’t let other items or needs distract you during your “real work” time. Either delegate those tasks out or set aside a time for later in the day (or after-hours) to address nuisances that can steal your attention during your most valuable hours. Focus is key. – Nadir Qazi, DO, Qazi Cosmetic Clinic

6. Assign Time Goals To Your Tasks

When I am time-limited, I always write down my list of priorities and evaluate which needs to be done immediately and which can wait. By assigning a time goal to each, you maximize your efficiency. – Bryan Fried, PANGEA Global Technologies, Inc.

7. Do Your Work, Not Others’

There is one thing you excel at and that should be the only thing you do. When you find yourself doing something that can be done (better) by someone else or it’s not what makes you a rockstar, you know your time is being misused. Removing anything that gets in your way of doing what you do best or setting things up so you can do more of it needs to be the top priority. – Jean Paul De Silva Clauwaert, Web Content Development

8. Filter Your To-Do List With A Prioritization Matrix

A prioritization matrix is a tool that helps you figure out which tasks are the highest priority by giving them more weight than others. It one ups your typical to-do list with a filter that allows you to view your tasks in order of priority. This is super effective at helping you get a feel for the difficulty level of each of the tasks, as well as understanding which tasks are most important. – Meg Yim, MSA Security

9. Outsource Smaller Tasks To Focus On More Time-Consuming Ones

I’ve never been the sort of business owner to shy away from spending money when necessary. Outsourcing is an extremely effective hack in that it has the added benefit of getting someone else to bring in income, which in these uncertain economic times is proving more vital than ever. – Tevin Jackson, Stellar Service Group

10. Work From Home To Minimize Distractions

Schedule remote work days regularly to give yourself time to accomplish your own work without the disruptions of the office. This will also give your employees the opportunity to perform their responsibilities without you always present, building a self-sufficient team. – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing

11. Get Organized

We use an organization tool across our entire organization that has been amazing. At all times, I know what I need to do and how to prioritize those tasks. People talk about slowing down to speed up and it’s true. If you want to be more efficient, take the time to organize and stick to your habits to get more done. – Sabrina Shafer, Transformation Continuum

12. Use Your Energy To Your Advantage

Do your toughest challenges when your energy is highest. If you’re a morning person, get it done then. If your energy is highest after a run, go for a run and then do a couple of hours of work. You’ll be amazed at how efficient the mind can be when it is time-bound and you are energized. – Marian Evans, Elevate BC Ltd

13. Understand That You Will Be Able To Handle More With Time

I have found that my productivity and ability to get more done have both grown over the years. Much like you can build your strength and muscles at the gym by increasing weight and exercise, I believe periods where you are required to produce a lot at work prepare you to handle a lot more over time. – Lucie Marchelot Shukla, Straight Teeth Direct

14. Work Smarter, Not Harder

Simplifying my schedules, grouping tasks and streamlining my meetings with strict agendas are some of the hacks that have improved my day-to-day activities, and in turn, improved the lives of people working with me. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution in the situation, as these hacks were all very effective to me. – Michael Ede, Uplift11 Sports

15. Determine What Habits Are Holding You Back

The most useful advice I can give others is to identify one small habit you want to change and replace it with a more productive one. For example, I used to start my day by reading emails that took me directly to projects and tasks. Today, I start my day with a meditation practice that sets my intention as my priority for the day. I also end my day with a sincere evaluation of my day’s work. – Loubna Noureddin, Mind Market Consultants

Business Tips