If you are like most leaders, you waste plenty of your own and others’ time. There is some good news about how to do more with the time you have left: BJ Fogg, the Stanford scientist who founded Stanford University’s Behavior Design Lab, has discovered that people want more than anything to get more productive.

What’s more, after three decades of study, he’s come away with a simple and powerful insight: People can get more productive by making tiny improvements to their daily routines that will stick if they reward themselves after making the changes.

As CNBC reports, Fogg encourages people to insert the tiny habits into their normal routines–for instance, after they brush their teeth in the morning. If someone can’t stick with the new habit, she will feel little disappointment because her expectations were already low. Once she has added the new habit, she should give herself “a fist-bump,” Fogg told CNBC.

I’ve reviewed 12 of Fogg’s little habits and selected four that I believe are most useful for leaders like you. Each habit is connected with an anchor or prompt to help you remember to complete it. Read on for an explanation of why I picked each, why it’s important to entrepreneurs, and why the habit will boost productivity.

1. Sit down at your desk, then put your phone on do-not-disturb mode.

Successful entrepreneurs have great demands on their time from their team, customers, and investors. If you give in to their urgent desire to talk, you lose control of your time–which could make it more difficult for your company to reach its goals. 

To keep these people motivated, make a plan each day and stick to it. Ironically, that means you must keep these people from pulling you away from your plan. That’s why you must not to answer every call that comes into your phone by putting it on do-not-disturb mode. 

This habit will keep you focused on your key tasks and give you back the time you would have spent talking with the person, thinking about the call afterwards, and doing something to solve the caller’s problem.

2. Don’t browse social media for distraction. But if you do, log out.

Someone in your company–possibly in marketing or customer service–should be keeping an eye on social media.

I think founders should not spend time on social media during work hours. Yet some leaders cannot resist looking at Twitter or LinkedIn during work–possibly justifying it with the thought that they might receive an important business insight.

If you make that mistake, cut your losses by logging out. This will keep you from wasting more time. And if you feel the need for getting away from the grind, take a brisk walk around the building.

3. After you sit down in a meeting, write the title, the date, and the attendees at the top of your notes.

Leaders spend lots of time in meetings–say with potential customers or investors. If you’re like me, you take notes in those meetings so you can remember key details–such as who said what.

The notes help you follow up more effectively with the right people when you have time to think about the topics discussed in the meeting. This is why it’s particularly important for you to write down the date and the name and title of each attendee.

By doing this, you will save yourself the time and embarrassment of going back to the attendees and asking them for this information. That time will be better spent using what happened in that meeting to win new customers or raise needed capital.

4. After reading a time-sensitive email, reply with something like: “Got it. I will review it in detail and get back in touch soon.”

Leaders receive lots of email from their executive team, employees, customers, and others. Many of the emails are time sensitive to the sender but less so to the entrepreneur–who ignores the message. 

This failure to respond reduces the sender’s productivity by putting the related task on hold, which aggravates the sender. The simple remedy for this productivity-sapping inaction is to get in the habit of sending a quick note that you received the email and will respond by a particular time.

Adopt these four tiny habits and you’ll get more done.

Published on: Feb 24, 2020

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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