Productivity is a buzzword that has lost its buzz amid a raft of blog posts giving you the magical answer to “20x your output”. However, being productive (not just being busy) remains a linchpin of effectiveness for small business owners. There is only so much time in any given day and whilst you are covering all bases – especially those that bring you the most ROI – is crucial.

Remember they are not all hard and fast rules, but guidelines to play with so you find what works for you.

Step 1 – Do the hardest task first

Since we were children, we have been putting things off. Now we have moved on from not tidying our rooms or delaying the hard homework to not tackling the biggest or (as is often the case) most emotionally difficult task in the workplace.

To state the obvious, if you start off by doing the toughest task, you know things will only get easier. You may get some quick wins by accomplishing simpler tasks first up, but the anxiety of the “big job” will continue to hang over you like a dark cloud.

Step 2 – Create an organised workspace

Have a space you use for work. It can be a distant corner of the bedroom, a desk in a workspace or your own office. Whatever it is, make it about work. Keep it tidy, with everything you need and separated from your personal life.

  • My top 3 tips are:
    • Use the likes of G Drive or DropBox to store files systematically so you don’t have to go searching on your laptop.
    • Create templates of emails, contracts, booking forms or any repeated “paperwork” so you can re-use and keep them all in one place.
    • Keep your inbox tidy by creating folders, labels and by regularly moving emails from your inbox to the right folder. A clean inbox helps to keep a clear mind and is representative of an efficient business.

Step 3 – Outsource the repetitive

Outsourcing is a powerful way to lighten your load and save time. Anything you can get off your plate is going to free you up to concentrate on what you do best within your business.

There is in fact no limit to what you outsource. If you need help documenting operational processes or completing the tasks these can be outsourced. Any area in which you lack expertise can be outsourced to someone who knows more than you do and is better equipped both in skills and time, to handle it.

We find that for many small businesses support and social media are two areas in which outsourcing can create huge time savings opportunities. Our virtual assistants can free up anything from 30 minutes to several hours per day to allow business owners to grow their business.

Step 4 – Organise your time well

There are so many ways of doing this and I will list a few I have tried. Now I say tried, not because I have tried, and they failed but simply because I tend to mix them up. This is because I am human and sometimes making a change is a good way to re-focus. Here are my top tips:

  • Try Time Blocking
    When I am busy this is crucial. I block out set times during the day / week to do certain things. For example, 9 to 9:30 – Social Media, 10 to 10:45 – Emails, 11 – 13 – Project A, 13:30 to 14:00 – Call with marketing team, and so and so forth.
  • Compile a To Do List
    This really will save time and it’s an easy one this, but I do it almost every day. A good tip is to keep the short because they become more daunting otherwise. Also review the list from the day before and move your incomplete tasks from yesterday to today.
  • Put things in your calendar
    I am constantly amazed how many people fail to use a function that is standard on every phone and every email platform. Apart from the fact that there is no excuse for missing a meeting these days (was there ever?) putting things in your calendar helps you organise your working day. It helps you know what you must do and when.

Step 5 – Set yourself deadlines

Would it cross your mind to not set deadlines for people in the team? Accountability is a crucial part of any job. You should therefore make yourself accountable by setting deadlines you need to adhere to and, if it helps, spread the word; inform others about these deadlines. Once something is public knowledge it has an extraordinary power to motivate.

Deadlines ensure you deliver what you need to for your business to grow and they also mean you set examples for others working or collaborating with you.

Step 6 – Use software to help you

Software applications can help to automate tasks, and many can be integrated with one and other to communicate and further increase efficiency. Here are a few we use:

  • Automating emails
    Think about the emails you are going to be sending (lead gen, asking for services, follow up emails, declining someone etc..) and create templates that you can send in just 1 click. You can even set up auto-responses to certain emails. If you look at emails only once per day, consider an auto-response that acknowledges receipt and manages expectations.
  • Managing your calendar
    Here is a tip to further save time: start using Calendly. You can simply share a Calendly link in an email or embed your calendar in your website so people can choose a time slot. It will automatically schedule that appointment in your calendar and gets rid of the back and forth of time-wasting emails. It will also send out links to Zoom so the whole call is set up and everyone is informed automatically.
  • Collaborating with colleagues
    Zoom for video conferencing. Whether your meetings are one the spur of the moment or scheduled in advance Zoom gives you good quality video, easy screen, and resource sharing so you can speak and present quickly and efficiently.
  • Time-tracking
    We have used a few different apps for tracking time and the best is Toggl. Time tracking means timesaving as you can work out clearly where your time is spent. You will be more efficient, you will see what needs to be outsourced and what gives you the best ROI of your time.
  • Invoicing & Payments
    By using invoicing and accounting solutions such as Quickbooks or Xero you can save time by automatically issuing recurring invoices. Because your bank is connected you will have access to all your transactions, so you don’t need to compare statements and excel sheets to reconcile.

Step 7 – Shorten your workday

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? This one is a bit of a curve ball.

I have tried it (a bit) and I think it works. But it takes courage, and I am not going to sit here and pretend that I have managed to commit to doing this regularly.

Shortening your workday is a legitimate way to concentrate your mind and force you into greater efficiency and less procrastination. If it is hard to get your head round, then maybe it’s one to set yourself every now and then as a means of re-focussing.


Are you interested in saving some time and making more money?

If you would like a free 30 min consultation to find out how we can help to provide flexible experienced resources, please contact us.

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