Getting ‘Pumped’: Productivity for Entrepreneurs

What does “priming the pump” mean to you?

A quick search would show that the idiom describes the act of putting in a little energy of your own to get the action started. You get the ball rolling, starting the momentum, by making the initial moves and investing some of your labor, by making a sincere effort to jump-start something into working, and do it well.

In an entrepreneur’s life,  priming the pump makes for good habits in the following ways: Going back to water, a suction pump– those old-fashioned types with the handle you had to pump out and down — required that you pour water down the pump to get the air out, restore the pressure, and form the vacuum necessary to start pulling up the water when you pump the handle.

In your case, it  means doing a little something before-hand to make it easy to start something bigger: whether it’s starting on a project, continuing with something you left off yesterday, or starting the work-day properly.

Priming the pump can mean many different kinds of actions, but basically boil down to you preparing the stage to take the next step in your work:

  • You clean up after you’re finished so you can start with a clean, neat work space the next day.
  • You take good, orderly notes and organize your actionables into logical batches so you’re not all over the place attending to them.
  • You devote a block of time solely for making cold calls, or research, or deep thinking about where you want to bring your business.
  • You ensure that you are not bothered by distraction, and so on.


How can this help you:
Priming the pump aims to serve a particular purpose. In the field of economics, the phrase “priming the pump” means to provide stimulus for the economy to function properly. And when we use it right, it works the same for  us. We do things to  push our chosen activities work properly. We become more productive at the things that matter to us, and get more value out of the work that we do.

You prepare and act in a way calculated to ensure something works smoothly, the way you hope and intend it would. For example, if it’s protecting your most productive work-hours: in that block of time, you can move freely towards furthering your particular goals — whether it’s laying out a comprehensive content production calendar, coordinating next quarter business-targets, finishing and checking the code and UI  for a new app, etc. You set things up before-hand so you can do the work you’re good at, without bumps or intrusions.

Priming happens before the planned event — so these things have to be prepared for and thought through.  In a busy world, sometimes it’s all we can do at the end of the day to stagger home and fall into a tired slump on the sofa, but taking the time to plan things out really helps.


Things that come into your mind as important can be written down to get them out of your head. That way, you have a written record to refer to when you have the time . You write out the nagging items so they don’t clutter your head, then you’re cleared to attend to and  plan out the  important and the necessaries.

As a background — keeping track of your time (where, when and how you spend it) can really knock you out of the rut of thinking that you have no time . By time-tracking yourself you can be jarred by where the majority of your time goes. An audit can show you what you accomplish given your time, and you can check to see if you spent it well, or spent it on actions, activities and items that neither add to your life or bring you forward.   As an example, Rescuetime is one of a group of programs out there that help you keep track of your activities and help you track your time.

A schedule shouldn’t be carved in stone — such unforgiving confines can add to stress instead of helping decrease it. Flexibility and buffers,   are signs of a healthy and helpful system in that they respect your personal productivity levels and show that  you planned enough to have room to move in case something external delays you, or something internal slows you down.

In a way, having a good schedule — all the important parts there already for you to be reminded of — is like being able to control the future just by seeing it set down on the calendar.

‘Priming’ in the preparatory sense.
When you prime a canvas, you give it a blank coat of paint so any subsequent layers  won’t bleed into the canvas. In this sense, priming can help you establish a protective layer so items of low or questionable value don’t bleed on your agenda, or bleed into important activities.

You want to start something, you lay out the groundwork for it. That’s another sense of ‘priming’ — a preliminary step, one that happens before the operation proper . Whether the operation is starting a project, continuing it or concluding it, there  should always be a preparatory stage — and this is occupied by brainstorming, resource management and assessments, and assigning things in a measured way to ensure a successful start, middle and end.

Business doesn’t always operate in a linear, forward fashion: there are hold-ups, interruptions, break-downs and mistakes. Priming the pump on a regular basis helps you keep a steady hand on the wheel by the time you take it, and getting a well-plotted out map that will get you to the next step the most effective, least stressful, and efficient ways you can — with back-up options so you can adjust when needed.

Looking ahead.
What are you most vital loops to close today — over the week — over the month?
The trick is to look at the big picture and work your way back down to see the details that will make it so. Before anything big happens, a lot of small things need to start and keep going, in waves and stages, to culminate at the big finish. Priming keeps you regularly aligned towards the goal, and moving in one direction instead of getting waylaid, distracted or sidelined.

What tools are essential:
A planning system and a place to record it and keep the records in a centralized location.

On a personal level:
When planning, what works with you on a visceral level? As in, you really pay attention when you see and use these tools?  For certain people, the weight and feel of paper and pen helps them focus better. For others, paper can work okay but they work better when they supplement with  online tools and apps or programs that keep them company on their smartphones, tablets or computers — like Todoist.

If you’re the type to gamify things, HabitRPG can also act to motivate you into managing your activities (there are even corporate plans for groups.) “Habitica is a free habit building and productivity app that treats your real life like a game. With in-game rewards and punishments to motivate you and a strong social network to inspire you, Habitica can help you achieve your goals to become healthy, hard-working, and happy.”

Habitica is a video game to help you improve real life habits. It “gamifies” your life by turning all your tasks (habits, dailies, and to-dos) into little monsters you have to conquer. The better you are at this, the more you progress in the game. If you slip up in life, your character starts backsliding in the game.


On a team level:
A planning system and a place to record it and keep the records in a centralized location. Google calendars can be shares with team-members. Project planning and project management online tools like Trello and Basecamp also help communication open and clear in teams

One thing you need to hold onto is that motivation and will come from within. The effort and the action to start, everyday, must come from you. Taking the time necessary to check in with yourself and assess if your actions are taking you where you want to go–and if the direction you’re going is actually where you want to head, all of that helps  you get a clearer head as to making the small correcting and adjustments to make sure you’re on course.

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