Running a small business requires juggling dozens of competing priorities every day while still keeping an eye on the overall needs and growth of your company. Developing productive habits and systems is key to getting everything done.
No one knows this better than small business owners who are still in the sole proprietor stage. These busy entrepreneurs are responsible for every task that happens in their business, from responding to client concerns to maintaining a website to getting the actual work done.
They break up the workday.
Small business owners are known for having irregular workdays. Depending on your business and customers, you may work only evenings and weekends, start your day at 3:00 a.m. or have a traditional 9 to 5 day. No matter when your workday happens, you'll be more productive if you schedule periodic breaks rather than trying to focus for hours at a time.
Amanda Caswell, owner of Ad Buzz PR and a parent, admits that she doesn't have much of a regular routine. Her work days happen while her kids are at school – and in the summer, when they're at home – as well as during evenings and early mornings. But in between tasks, she still makes time for fitness classes or running. "It helps break up the day," explains Caswell. "I really need that time away from the office to free my mind from clutter."
Breaking up your workday forces you to move around and think about something new, and it sharpens your focus when you return. By focusing your energy and attention on a non-work task, you give your subconscious a chance to kick in, which can improve your problem-solving and creative thinking skills when you return back to work.
They recognize their own limitations.Small business owners wear many hats at work, no matter what stage their business is in. "I do everything from sales to janitorial duties to marketing," says Rockie Zeigler, the owner and advisor behind RP Zeigler Investment Services. "Everything is on my shoulders."
Even though he's currently the only employee in his business, Zeigler admits recognizing that he needed help in one area. "I'm a bad bookkeeper, so I hired that out this year," he explains.
Knowing when you need help is key to maintaining productivity. Sometimes this means hiring an employee or outsourcing tasks that prevent you from working efficiently. "In 2019, I plan on outsourcing some activities in order to take things off my plate," says Zeigler. "Things like answering incoming phone calls, placing outgoing calls for appointment setups. I'm also considering hiring a part-time office assistant."
Recognizing your own limitations includes turning to others for advice when you need the benefit of someone else's more extensive experience.
They schedule everything – and write it down.
Juggling dozens of tasks during irregular work hours can get overwhelming, and it's easy that some things get overlooked. But a lack of organization can severely hamper your productivity.
To prevent last-minute scrambling and forgotten appointments, use technology not just to schedule your time but to actively remind yourself what is coming up. "Utilize the calendar in your phone. Schedule everything and send follow-up reminders," says Caswell.
You can also use technology to keep track of ideas that occur at odd hours or details that you will need to remember in the future. "Email yourself whenever you think of something. Even in the middle of the night. You'll never remember it otherwise."
But don't just depend on technology. "Write down everything," suggests Caswell. "Not just written in your phone but actual notes."
Research shows that we remember things best when we put pen to paper rather than typing things out. And psychologists have found that activities like freewriting prompt the type of creative thinking that is essential to problem-solving and entrepreneurship. To stay organized, creative and productive, keep a planner or journal at hand and write in it frequently.
Read more via Business News Daily
Tips for Improving Productivity
Identify and Do the Most Important Tasks, Delegate the Rest
Delegating tasks to your team members can give you more time to focus on the really important items on your to-do list. But first, you need to determine what those important items are. Go through your to-do list and identify the items that only you can do or that are essential to your operations. Then find team members or contractors who can handle the items that don’t fall into those categories.
Prioritize the Items on Your To-Do List
You should also go through your list to find which items are the most urgent. The tasks that have to get done right away should go at the top. And more long-term projects can go on a separate list so that they don’t cause overwhelm or distract you from those more urgent items.
Get the Least Desirable Tasks Out of the Way Before Lunch
On every to-do list, there are items that you just don’t want to do. Anything that you’re dreading is going to cause you more stress than other tasks. So it’s best to get those things out of the way early. Pledge to complete those pesky items before lunch so that you can take a break as a reward for completing them.
Stick With One Task at a Time
Multitasking might seem like a great way to get more done. But studies have shown that trying to do two things at once can actually slow you down. So instead, stick with one task until it’s completed, then move onto the next item on your list.
Set a Timer for Lengthier Tasks
If you have items on your to-do list that need to be broken up throughout the day because they take too long to do at once, outline exactly how much time you plan to spend on those items per day. Then set a timer when you start those items so you don’t get caught up and forget to look at the other items on your list.
Finish Quick Tasks Right Away
On the other end of the spectrum, when you have small tasks like quick phone calls or emails that are cluttering up your to-do list, it can help your productivity to get those things out of the way early. Then you can focus all of your energy on just one or two major projects throughout the rest of the day.
Read more tips via SmallBiz Trends
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