10 Female Founders On What Productivity Means To Them

Work smarter, not harder.

Workin' Girl

Just a few months ago, I packed everything that I loved (including my dog) in my Honda Civic, and traveled 22 hours from Texas to California to pursue a new venture for my business. Since making the move, I've been introduced to new opportunities, but I've also been exposed to a lot of distractions. Sometimes when you're on a new journey, it's easy to become preoccupied with unnecessary things and lose track of what truly deserves your attention and energy. In return, this can cause your productivity level to decrease. It seems like in a blink of an eye, the worst happens.

Whether you're bossing up as a business owner or in the corporate world, your level of productivity can easily dictate whether or not you're successful. Being productive isn't something you can just pop up and be a beast at immediately. Mastering productivity happens over time and requires a change in mindset and lifestyle. It's something you have to intentionally practice every day.

Recently, I connected with a few business owners on what productivity means to them and how they maintain a high level of productivity. Keep reading to learn from these bosses and snag some inspo that you can use in your own life!

Let your past and shortcomings be fuel for the future.

Image via Sky Landish

Sky Landish, Founder, StripN'Fitness:

Being productive means continuously hustling daily for the things that add up to the big picture in your mind.

"I feel as though the largest two challenges surrounding my definition of productivity is the motivation that facilitates your hustle and the vision that keeps that picture in your mind clear yet attainable. We constantly have to reinvent motivation because it can quickly expire. A vision of your picture--your end goal--can be clouded with small setbacks and financial or personal struggles such as breakups or costly bills. When I was 23 years old, I was homeless, struggling to finish college, working a full-time job, unhealthy, unhappy, and had recently been cheated on. There was a moment where I didn't know what to do. However, I somehow found my motivation in the anger of being treated less than by another human being and it led me to hustle harder, to start working out, and to share more on social media. I saw my bigger picture in my ability to take the worst situations and make them a positive light. That alone allowed me to build on me, what I wanted out of life, and how I could create the dopest future for myself.

"A productive workday for me includes waking up at 9 a.m, creating the vibe for my ladies who are signed up for my 'Transform Your Eating & Exercise' program in our Facebook group, and responding to their questions.

"After that, I answer any emails from brands for influencer collaborations, negotiate, and sign any contracts. I then go to my beauty room and tape content for my social media platform, then head to the gym to do my daily workout. Once I'm done, I go to my collaborative office space that I share with my fiancé, and we typically discuss whatever calendar updates, bookings, or other things that are coming up. We usually end the day with dinner together, and I head home to catch up on news or trending topics for the day."

Let technology aid in your productivity.

Image via Alexis Davis

Alexis Davis, Founder, The Content Plug:

There are only so many hours in a day, so having systems and using your time efficiently is vital for entrepreneurs and businesses of every size.

"It takes a certain mindset to perform at your best each and every day. For one, I strongly believe that getting started early helps me have a productive 16 hours. I like to begin my day by checking emails and responding to items that need immediate attention. I double-check my calendar to see what meetings I have planned for the day and ensure that I have my agendas and notes prepared well before my meetings are set to begin. Scrambling at the last minute will only pull me away from focusing on other important tasks.

"Managing my to-do list on Trello helps me significantly as I am able to put dates and times on tasks instead of feeling like I need to accomplish everything in one day.

"Since I am a social media manager, I spend a lot of time on the various platforms looking at discussions or trends to see if there are any conversations I can appropriately jump into on behalf of my clients and to keep an eye on current events. Ironically, looking at pages that have nothing to do with my clients can get distracting, and I have to have a bit of self-control.

"Finally, getting a full eight hours of sleep helps tremendously. I was once a person that could stay up all night and run on a few hours of sleep, but [that will] catch up to you and does not help you or your productivity in the long run! For me, a productive month ends with happy clients, new proposals delivered to potential clients, at least one new invitation to speak on a panel or teach a class, a short to-do list, and little to no emails."

It's OK to pivot.

Image via Psyche Terry

Psyche Terry, Co-founder, UI Global Brands:

Being productive means to be moving but not in the same place and to have energy but not in the same area. It's about forward motion even if it's not the original direction but you're still moving, learning, and being challenged. It's about growth rather than standing still.

"A couple of years ago in my business, we were doing the most! We had two LLCs under one company---one was apparel and the other was beauty. I was still in motion with both so [I was] not as productive with my beauty business because of the time that I was spending on the apparel brand. This wasn't a line--it was a whole company! I put a lot of time, energy, effort, and talent into it, but ultimately it was distracting from my other brand.

"Great business mentors are part of my success story. Enrolling in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program was most productive for us as a company because it helped me to identify the best path for us while truly looking at the final outcome.

"Once I considered the end result, it forced me to choose the most productive route and avoid distractions. My definition of a productive workday is constantly changing.

"I would define a productive workday as anything that helps me get closer to my end result. [It's] if I'm able to move, whether the movement is positive or negative, to get closer to that end result that I have stated for myself. This also includes self-care, rest, and being conscious of my personal well-being. To do that, I have to breathe and reflect in self-care. To me, that's the true definition because if you end up burned out at the end, then what's the point?"

Every second counts.

Image via Instagram/getfitwithmassi

Masiel Encarnación, Weight-loss coach & Founder, The ConFITence Blueprint:

Being productive means being efficient and wasting as little time as possible.

"Instagram used to be a major distraction when I first started my business. First, I followed too many influencers in the health and wellness space which clouded my creativity and focus. Scrolling through a feed full of others in your space to be 'inspired' is actually a sure-fire way to always be in second place. I had to quickly learn that being an influencer and being a profitable business owner were not always the same thing.

"The way I overcame this was to unfollow almost everyone in my space unless I knew them personally and focus on my company's framework and mission.

"Secondly, I love connecting with my community, and in the last 6 years, I've built a very engaged following. However, at one point, I constantly felt pulled into 100 different directions with requests from all over the place. My desire to be accessible and immediately responsive to hundreds of DMs (and emails) in real time was unrealistic and a huge stressor. Once I changed my mindset, prioritized revenue-generating activities, and set better business boundaries around my availability and response time, I was able to be more efficient.

"For me, a productive workday begins with self-care and non-work activities. I create, meditate, write, read, journal, exercise, eat breakfast, and then dive into work after I've already poured into myself. Work happens between the hours of 9 a.m.-9 p.m."

The small wins add up.

Image via Kaylen Zahara

Kaylen Zahara, Founder, AmazedByKay Consulting:

Productivity is knowing each day you performed a micro task that targets executing your macro goal.

"The biggest distraction for me as a founder and content creator is analysis paralysis along with a pinch of procrastination. As the boss, you have no one to micromanage you but yourself, so there are times when my moods can get the best of my mornings. The fear within will nudge me to put things off for later in the day. Before you know it, it's a new day and my to-do list has barely been tended to. On days my moods aren't in charge, my fear of failure is, and I convince myself that if I spend more hours being analytical, that contributes to productivity, therefore I can't be hard on myself after all, right? If you can relate, the best way to eliminate these habits and comfort zones are to look in the mirror and be honest. Realize you are just afraid of your best version of yourself.

"To rise to success, you have to sit with that fear and be friends with it, quiet the noise, and reprogram your subconscious to believe you are capable. Remind your conscience of your why.

"Here's what a productive workweek looks like: 5 a.m. wake-up times to set intentions for the day, 45 minutes of daily exercise, therapy sessions, deal-closing, accomplishing the biggest to smallest tasks, and assisting my team to meet their needs and to ensure overall brand success."

Being aligned with your team is important.

Image via Jasmine Shells

Jasmine Shells, Co-Founder & CEO, Five to Nine:

Productivity means to be in a state of flow and to accomplish the tasks I set for myself to complete.

"As a startup founder, things always pop up onto your radar that tend to divert your attention from the goals you set for the day. It's inevitable. Those things typically disrupt the flow completely. So I started looking at my to-do list in an aggregate week view versus a daily view. It provides me with more flexibility to accomplish my goals and to allow room for those things that pop up. For low-priority tasks, I easily prioritize them later in the week without any associated guilt.

"I've noticed that weekly to-do lists give me what feels like more control over my schedule and my mindset by creating a more realistic working environment for what startup life looks like.

"A productive workday or workweek from my perspective is alignment between my team members. We have work that is interdependent and collaborative, so keeping us all on the same page while moving a million miles an hour is a constant focus. This, to me, is the ultimate productivity goal."

Understand that success takes a village.

Image via KaDeadra McNealy

KaDeadra McNealy, Founder, Millennial Nail Bar:

As a founder, being productive is understanding what skill set isn't my strongest and reaching out to other female founders for recommendations.

"When Millennial Nail Bar (MNB) first launched, I truly thought I could do it all. From creating the website, running the social media accounts, and partaking in pitch competitions---all while searching for potential investors. I remember speaking with a fellow woman founder who not only explained how important it is to lose the grip on 'your baby' and onboard a team, but how to properly select the individual who can help you accomplish the company's goals.

"Every week, I look over the prior week and/or month's goals. This might include eliminating or continuing current tactics or understanding where the ball was dropped and how to prevent it from happening again."

Planning must meet consistency.

Image via Dawn Myers, Esq

Dawn Myers, Esq., Founder, The Most:

Peak productivity means meeting specific metrics for my organizations as efficiently and effectively as possible.

"In the past, I have been guilty of sacrificing sleep and pulling egregiously long workdays. I was moving the ball forward, but I wasn't working smart, and I was careening toward burnout. It took me a while to realize that the easy way is the smart way. I come from a professional background that glorifies backbreaking work hours, so it took some time to stop feeling guilty about delegating. I thought I was being lean by doing it all myself instead of hiring contractors and virtual assistants. I know now that delegating allows me to focus on the highest-impact activities which result in the highest impact gains. Also, delegating has forced me to build a team, put repeatable processes and training documents into place, and strengthen my management skills. I'm happier and less overwhelmed, and my company runs much more smoothly than it did when I kept a firm grip on every single task.

"Productivity is what happens when planning meets consistency. With the time freed up by delegating low-impact tasks, I've been able to embed small but mighty habits into my routine like blocking off an hour each day for investor outreach or fitting in a morning workout to power me through the rest of my day. Having the space to make consistent, measurable progress has been transformative. Measurability is the key here. Make sure that you associate goals with attainable daily and weekly metrics.

"A successful, productive week for me starts on Sunday night. I have an alarm set on my phone for 7 p.m. to skim my calendar and plan in any high-priority tasks for the week. Less is more. I aim to complete no more than I can fit on a sticky note each day (I use ruled notepads so I can't cheat by using smaller script). If I delegate effectively, adhere to healthy habits, and manage a few high-impact tasks every single day, I am guaranteed to see stunning progress month over month."

Make conscious decisions to take care of yourself first.

Image via Gabrielle Deculus

Gabrielle Deculus, Founder, Business Rules for Women:

Being productive means moving the needle forward, productivity ultimately equates to accomplishing my goals and accomplishing my goals yields success.

"To be honest, mental health has been a challenge, and I work on it daily. There have been times when I struggled with productivity because of it, specifically because of personal life events and work-related experiences. Without having proper support as a founder, you will be impacted and distracted in a multitude of ways. The bottom line is things will happen, but how will you handle it? This is why I actively invest in my mental health and why I started Business Rules for Women. Being ambitious and in business can be lonely, and I have had to deal with a lot on my own.

"Within the last year, I have made conscious decisions to go to therapy, actively develop stronger relationships with my business friends, and share as much as possible with others. We learn when we teach, and we grow when we are vulnerable and willing to listen.

"The past several months, I have been continuously working on producing a much-needed 3-day conference for ambitious women happening April 3-5 here in New Orleans. I truly believe in fully utilizing my time, which means my days are filled with setting timers to meet deadlines, holding several meetings each day, and communicating with my team to ensure things are constantly moving."

Multitasking is a trap.

Image via Dorian Morris

Dorian Morris, Founder, Undefined Beauty:

Productivity is about taking it step-by-step, building brick-by-brick and not trying to boil the ocean while also recognizing multitasking is actually the ultimate productivity killer.

"As the solo bootstrapping founder of Undefined Beauty, there's never enough time in the day to tackle the constantly growing to-do list and capitalize on opportunities, especially in the dynamic and ever-evolving cannabis and CBD space. It can get overwhelming but I find chunking--breaking big tasks into small steps--makes it easier and less anxiety-provoking to GSD (aka get stuff done).

"It takes focus and removing unnecessary, derailing distractions like social media and resisting the urge to multitask, which makes each task actually take longer. I also celebrate small wins along the way to maintain momentum.

"A productive workday involves balancing the strategic versus tactical tasks--putting out today's fires while also planting seeds for future growth and opportunities. It's definitely a journey that's part art and part science, but that's what makes entrepreneurship fun."

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Featured Image courtesy of Dawn Myers, Esq

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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