If you ask many, if not most business owners, what the hardest part of running their business is, one of the most common answers you’ll get is around productivity. It’s not surprising, considering that running a business, or even a side hustle, requires keeping so many balls up in the air. Unlike a regular 9-to-5, we must set our own schedules, answer to ourselves, and in the beginning juggle the different aspects of running all the facets of the business, from accounting to marketing.
One of the biggest struggles I’ve had in my side hustle first, and business later, was to be and keep being productive. I would be appalled at how fast time would fly, and at how little I would accomplish in a day, as compared to the monumental task list I’d have going. It seemed I would never be done, yet the tasks would keep piling up on my list. “How could I ever get it all done?“, was the question I would constantly ask myself.
In order to be more productive, it’s crucial to find ways to make better use of the little time we have. Here are 12 tips for small business owners to improve their productivity:
Running a business or even simply being involved with a business also means having a long list of to-do’s. From getting clients to answering emails, there are a gazillion things to attend to in a business. However, you cannot possibly attend to them all. Which also means that you must prioritize your tasks and rank them by order of impact.
To Do: Identify the activities that are most impactful to your business. These may include income-producing activities, as well as content and client outreach activities, for instance. Prioritize these and ensure that you do spend an adequate amount of time on them.
Identify the income-producing activities
As passionate as you may be about your business, it’s still important for you to make money in it. A business that doesn’t make any money, or doesn’t have any money-making potential, is a hobby. While your business may not automatically make enough money right from the start, you must pinpoint those activities that have the potential to bring income to it.
To Do: List all the business activities that are income-producing, and devise ways to fit these in your schedule on a daily basis. Focus on these and devote time to them.
Identify the least desirable activities, and tackle them first or delegate them
There will be many activities in your business that you will not be particularly attracted to. Those are the tasks that make you want to get a root canal instead of devoting yourself to them. Pay particular attention to these, and make a conscious decision to either tackle them first or delegate them to someone competent enough to handle them.
To Do: Go through your list of to-do’s and pinpoint the tasks that you are reluctant to tackle. Decide whether to work on them first thing in the morning, or to delegate them.
Focus on one task
As business women especially, we may be inclined to multitask. However, studies have proven that multi-tasking reduces our productivity and efficiency. Learning to focus on one task makes us more effective, especially within our businesses.
To Do: Pick one single activity to focus on at a time, and do not switch your focus until you’re done. Establish a system of rewards for completing each task so you can motivate yourself even more.
There are so many things to address in a business that it can be easy to lose track of time. Make it a habit of timing yourself from activity to activity. Use tools like the Tomato Timer, based on the Pomodoro time management technique, for instance. Assessing how much time it takes you to finish given tasks will give you a better idea of how efficient you really are. It’s also a great basis to improve your productivity.
To Do: Use a timer method of your choice to keep track of how you spend your time in your business. Start keeping weekly timesheets and assessing your time management. Track your progress and reward yourself as you go.
Communicate with your team
If you work with a team, or even just collaborators, make sure that your communication is effective. It can be challenging to keep the lines of communication clear and open when running or growing a business. Use collaboration tools like Asana, Slack, or Google Docs, to streamline and clarify your communication.
To Do: Make it a habit to communicate frequently with your team. If you haven’t already, pick a collaboration tool to use within your team.
One of the biggest time-wasters in businesses is unproductive meetings. Learn to reduce the necessity of meetings by communicating more effectively and clarifying directions. Instead of constant meetings, opt for mini-huddles to keep in touch. Use technology to stay connected with your team without spending unnecessary time in meetings.
To Do: Reduce the amount of meetings you’re involved in. If it can be said in an email, it does not require a meeting.
Take breaks and exercise
Businesses require a lot out of us. Which also means that we can deplete ourselves in the process of creating, running and growing our businesses. This is why it’s crucial to replenish our reserves, whether mental, physical or spiritual. Make it a habit to exercise regularly and take breaks throughout your day. Having a spiritual practice also goes a long way in keeping you focused and productive.
To Do: Schedule time for exercise and breaks as you would business commitments. Learn to honor this time to care for yourself and come back re-energized.
Thanks to technology, there are many tasks on your business to-do list that you can automate. From bank transfers to scheduling your social media posts, learn to streamline your activities by automating them whenever possible and effective.
To Do: Identify those tasks on your to-do list that can be efficiently and productively automated. Use the appropriate tools in order to run your business as smoothly and as effectively as possible.
No is a complete sentence. It’s also one of the most potent success tools in business. Learn to recognize those requests and demands on your time that are not aligned with your business purpose, and say no to them. Saying no is a muscle you must learn to develop if you want to be successful as a business owner.
To Do: Get in the habit of saying no to at least one request per day, that is not aligned with your business purpose.
Break up with social media
Social media has too many business owners and entrepreneurs flaunting false artifices on social media, instead of actually building and growing their enterprise. While social media is a powerful business and marketing tool, it can also constitute a huge distraction. Learn to schedule your social media activities around your business needs and stick to this schedule.
To Do: Use tools such as Buffer to schedule your social media posts. You may also schedule some specific time intervals to maintain your social media involvement, instead of being on it all day.
Schedule email time
Email is a close contender to social media when it comes to being a huge business distraction. Schedule your email time as you would any other commitment, and stick to it. Make sure to maintain a clean inbox, and declutter your email subscriptions regularly.
To Do: Set some time on your daily schedule devoted exclusively to email. Keep away from email outside of this time. Get rid of any email subscriptions that are not aligned with your personal or business purpose as well. Anything you haven’t opened or read in the past six months is obviously not needed, so get rid of it.
How do you keep productive in your business?
To Your Success,
The Corporate Sister