As a small business owner, your work is likely never done. Even with a tidy task list, sorted and color-coded from the biggest must-do to the smallest “eh, if I get to it”, there often seem to be too few hours to make any real progress.
However, there are fast and (relatively) simple ways to improve both your personal productivity and that of your business. Below are six tips you can implement in 2014 and just see how much time you save.
Organize your workspace. How much time do you spend hunting for supplies or documents, or shuffling items on your desk to make enough room to work? Having a clean, organized work space not only eliminates the search for stuff, it can also put you in the right mindset to get things done.
Do a daily sweep of your desk to keep your most-used items in ready positions; at least once a month, do a larger purge in which you file, shred, or trash items you no longer need. Toss empty pens and office supply containers, and restrict yourself to the things you need.
Take control of your email. Much like organizing your physical space, clearing out the no-man’s land of your email inbox can eliminate stress and help you focus on the things that must be done. There are several ways to sort your email, some of which may work better for you than others:
- Sort messages by sender so you address the most important messages first.
- Filter messages from different senders. Use color coding or create a rule to send those messages directly to their own folders, which you can then check as needed.
- Unsubscribe from newsletters or mailing lists that you barely skim or simply delete when they arrive. Taking a few extra seconds to remove your email will save you time in the long run.
- Mark emails for follow-up as unread; they will be easier to find (and will keep your attention better) than flagged messages.
- Make a personal rule to keep no more than 20 emails in your inbox at a time – as you handle each message, move it to a folder or delete it.
Go off the grid. Time sucks seem like quick diversions but can end up eating hours of your day. Reclaim that time by closing yourself off from those distractions while at the office. Don’t leave windows open on social media sites, and turn your phone to vibrate or silent while you are working.
If you need a periodic check-in (which can be good for decompressing between tasks), set a timer for no more than 10 minutes to catch up. Another way to regulate your time is to only check a site when you have a specific reason for doing so.
Even if constant communication is a requirement for your business, restricting your accessibility to only necessary interactions will bump up your productivity.
Don’t multitask. You heard me. Close the ten extra tabs you have open, ditch the dual monitor*, and focus on one item of your task list at a time. Studies from as far back as 2001 continue to debunk the myth of the super-efficient multi-tasker, and claim instead that dividing your mental strength between two or more tasks at a time means that you aren’t actually performing any of them well.
This isn’t to say that you can’t switch between tasks – many of us need a break in the middle of a project. Instead of immediately starting another task, however, take a moment to close out everything to do with the first task before beginning the next one.
*You may not need to actually stop using dual monitors…as long as you’re only looking at material for a single task at a time.
Take advantage of productivity apps. Everything is digital these days – even productivity. If there is an area of your business that you could be running better, there’s an app for that. Free and paid apps for iOS and Android devices will help you keep track of documents, manage your social media, collect payments, and complete just about any task you have on your list.
Many paid apps also have a free trial or free version with limited features that you can test before you buy the full version.
Perform an 80/20 analysis of your business. Though the 80/20 rule (or observation) has been around for more than a century, it has gained more widespread popularity thanks to Tim Ferriss’s bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek. The analysis can be applied to any area of your life, home, and business, so use this tip to become more productive at every level.
An 80/20 analysis helps you identify the 20 percent of your effort that gives you 80 percent of your results. When you know where most of your leads or profits come from, you can focus your efforts on cultivating those client relationships. When you can identify your most productive employees, you can reward their performance and address lower-performing employees. Likewise, you can tailor your work day around your most productive time periods – schedule more demanding projects during your peak periods and save “busy work” for your real downtime.
Of course, not all of these tips may work for you at the same time. In fact, you may find after a test run that none of them are a great fit. By using these productivity-boosting exercises as a jumping point, though, you will already be more mindful of how you spend your time and will be prepared to look for the practices that work best for you.
Factor Finders can help you increase your productivity in one further way – by eliminating your cash flow concerns. Small business factoring provides immediate access to cash without creating debt, allowing you to put your focus on your company where it belongs. Learn more about our small business factoring programs and contact us to get started today.