My Secret For Getting More Done Every Day

This post originally ran on American Express OPENForum and it seemed like a good Labor Day post.

Small business ownership is hard work. Physically demanding, stressful, mind numbing work—and that’s on the good days. But, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. One of benefits of owning a small business is that you are totally free—free to work any 80 hours a week you choose.

But no matter how efficient, there’s always more to do than time to do it.

For me, one of the secrets to getting more done each day is to pay attention to my physical energy and do everything I can to enhance, store and build it.

Spending time engaged in daily exercise is an example of an energy building practice that actually gives me time instead of costing time. In fact, some of what eventually turned into my greatest innovations and ideas presented themselves during an early morning run in the neighborhood.

Here are some of my other tricks:

  • Running: I started running for exercise in high school and it’s one of the most relaxing forms of energy creation for me.
  • Conscious eating: Whatever that might mean to you, it is another energy building practice.
  • Meditation and yoga: These are two powerful forms of stress reduction and energy building.
  • White noise generator: Simply Noise allows me to tune out distractions and gain instant focus.
  • Reading lyrical passages of literature: Passages such as those found in Anam Cara by John O’Donohue is energy and focus building.
  • Creating boundaries by shutting down technology: Doing this occasionally is a good energy building practice.

These are just some of the practices I keep in the energy toolbox.

Perhaps a lesson on healthy living seems odd on a business site, but it’s very hard to disconnect the physical you from the creative you in your business.

I suspect everyone knows they can take better care of the physical plant, particularly as we get older, but I wonder if you’ve considered the role this kind of energy building focus plays in helping you get more done, deliver purpose, maintain focus and bring only the healthiest emotions to the game.

Business owners are conditioned to think about assets and liabilities and ignoring your health and energy is one of the greatest ways to move a key asset (you) into the liability column.

I know that every single day I get some exercise, I get more done. Mind you, I don’t do it enough, but I can tell you that investing 30 of the 1,440 minutes I have in a day in energy building activities always doubles up and pays off in terms of increased productivity.

Go out and get a personal trainer, invest in a chef, create technology boundaries, start learning as much as you can about keeping your body and mind well—it one of the best business investments you can make in your business and your purpose.

Image credit: Peter Mooney

Using Gmail as a Simple CRM Tool

CRM systems are great and powerful marketing workhorses capable of funneling leads into campaigns, automating nurturing routines, tracking conversion metrics and interfacing with ordering and accounting systems to create a complete sales machine, but sometimes you just need to keep track of who you contacted and when.

Using Google’s free suite of tools you can create a nice lightweight CRM system with just a few tweak along the way. Since email has become one of the primary forms of contact, and particularly if you’re already using Gmail, exploring options that allow you expand on the tool you use the most might be the fastest route to creating a useable CRM like option.


Gmail comes with a contact database that will automatically store information on anyone you add or correspond with. You can add lots of information beyond email and name and upload contact information from other systems and files.

This isn’t the prettiest interface, but it has just enough functionality to work. Once you add a contact your email exchanges will be searchable and you can add them to a task or appointment in Google Calendar to create even more searchable data for the record.


One of the keys to using the Gmail contact database as a mini CRM tool is to use the contact groups function. By creating groups in your contacts page for things like customers, prospects, journalists, vendors and strategic partners you can effectively sort your contact list by function and even create mail campaigns to these groups.

Nested Folders

Another way to keep track of key information in Gmail is to use email folders for your key contact groups and add the nested folders function found in labs to create subfolders. So, if you have a client folder, then you can create a folder specifically for each key client underneath the client folder.

Then when you have email come in from a client you can use the move to function to store the email in the appropriate folder so you can access it more easily. You can also pull up any contact record and see recent emails to and from the contact.


Free 3rd party add-ons can also help beef up your new CRM system. Browser plugin Rapportive is a tool that adds social media data to your contact records. With this plugin added you automatically see LinkedIn or Facebook information on you contacts or anyone that sends you an email in the right sidebar of the Gmail screen.

You can also follow and connect with contacts on Twitter or LinkedIn directly from the Gmail interface. This is a great way to get a bigger picture of what your contacts are doing and have instant information on people that send you emails.


Another 3rd party plugin you might consider adding is Boomerang. This handy plugin gives your emails some smarts. When you send an email, for example, you set it remind you if you don’t hear back from the recipient in a set number of days. Or you set an email in your inbox to go away and put itself back in on a certain day.

Many of the functions in Boomerang allow you to set-up and operate your own little tickler file system based entirely on emails sent and received.

App Marketplace

Of course there are lots of additional apps that integrate with Gmail and the entire suite Google Apps found in the App Marketplace. For example, the Mavenlink app turns the system described here into a full collaboration and project and task management suite.

Full-featured tools are great, but sometimes a simple solution you can master and use in the way you’re already working is just the ticket.

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