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Entrepreneur Productivity Tips: Systems vs. Tools


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When you think about productivity tips for entrepreneurs, there is a wide range of topics. A few years ago when I was trying to get into hand lettering, I was following some of the masters of the field. As more and more people discovered them, it was obvious that it was a beautiful skill many wanted to learn. However, the most common question wasn’t “How do I learn this?”, it was “what pen do you use?”.

Looking back at that, it makes me chuckle because I was definitely wondering the same thing.

A pet peeve of photographers is when people say “Wow, that’s a great photo. You must have a great camera.”

People miss the point. Sure, the tools are great, but it’s about the skill. (Believe me, I know. I have a “good” camera but my skills are nowhere near professional level).

This can really be applied to any skill. It’s the same as music. If you’re a good musician, you can make something beautiful on a used $100 guitar and Garage Band.

When it comes to working effectively in our creative businesses, the tools are amplified with the discipline we put into it. People are always asking me about project management and invoicing tools.

I definitely have my preferences, but the thing is, technology is always changing. First it was Trello, then we had Asana, and now we have Clickup. We had Quickbooks and Paypal invoices, and now we Dubsado or Honeybook or Wave. I don’t think I’ll be giving up Adobe, but then again many people have moved on to Affinity for budget reasons.

What is productivity in entrepreneurship?

There’s a popular myth that productivity means doing hard work by getting a lot of tasks done in a short amount of time. Let’s put that myth to rest. If we believe that, then the idea of being productive would be a complete turn off to anyone who wants a balanced life!

Real productivity is about producing systems that are essential to the goals. That means taking away any excess and only working on what is necessary in order to have a higher quality life.

How much better does that sound?

Minimalism, essentialism, or the act of minimizing clutter does not come naturally to most of us. It’s kind of like buying a large house and eventually filling it with a ton of stuff. If we had less square footage, we wouldn’t be as inclined to fill it. And most likely, we don’t need most of it! It gets lost, forgotten, or dusty.

The best productivity tips cut out what are mere distractions in order to get to the goal or task at hand.

Why do effective productivity tips focus on systems & processes rather than tools?

Systems and processes are part of a discipline. We see what works through trial and error, and from there we create something that is either repeatable or scalable. If it’s successful, it’s something that you’re able to teach to assistants or other team members. It’s using a tried-and-true method to get through work routines or projects.

Without systems, the tools are meaningless. We need our processes to work time and time again. Doing so can increase certain metrics that help with profits. For example, you have a system for how you generate leads. Or you have a process from start to finish on how your onboard clients and take them through a high-quality customer experience.

Using the latest tools and software will aid in that. If something happens – we don’t like it anymore, it’s gotten too expensive, there’s something better out there, etc. – we can simply migrate our existing system over to the new tool.

Learning to use a program well has many benefits, but it’s important to know the system behind it. The tech will evolve, but our purpose behind it is something we learn over time.

What makes a business process effective?

A good system takes into account timelines, feedback, methods, and troubleshooting methods.

You can ask yourself questions about each category.


  • How long does this take me?
  • How long will it take me to teach it to someone else?
  • Is this a rigid or flexible timeline?
  • Are there variables that can make it shorter or longer?


  • How easy is it to audit this?
  • How easy is it to revise?
  • What does communication look like?
  • Who is able to give feedback?


  • What are the ways this can be completed?
  • Is it a list of items or sequential?
  • Are there any prerequisites?
  • If so, what are they, and how long does it take to learn them?


  • Will it delay timelines significantly if there is a setback?
  • Will everything have to be redone if there’s a problem?
  • Who will handle these setbacks?
  • How will it be remedied?

What are the best productivity tools for entrepreneurs?

Once you’ve gone through this article and understood the importance of establishing systems and the differing productivity tips out there, check out this post on my current list of tools. It’s not comprehensive, but it’s a good start.

The best type of tools is both digital and analog.

When it involves teams, usually having something digital is far more convenient. But when it comes to planning, brainstorming, sketching, or any other sort of discipline, an analog system may be best.

Test it out yourself before delegating

One last thing that’s important to note is gaining the knowledge to do it yourself. Some people get frustrated and want to hire out specialists or assistants. That kind of delegation is only beneficial if you know how to do it successfully. You won’t be able to make audits, set benchmarks, analyze data, etc. if you have no idea what’s going on!

Also, results are better understood if you know how long something takes and if there are multiple steps to get there.

For example, if you wanted to find new ways to get clients and wanted to try SEO to get to the local market, it’s important to know the elements of it. If you hire someone and then fire them after a month because you didn’t see results, it may not be because of the person. SEO sometimes takes several months to really establish a presence. If you weren’t aware of SEO basics and what to do, it may discourage you and have you move on to something else too early!

To get the most of productivity tips, it’s best to test and establish systems before you worry too much about the tools at hand.

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