If you run a small business, one thing you always need more of is time. There’s never enough time to deal with all those pesky customers, impossible employees, demanding vendors, new products in development, and all that red tape. Imagine if you had an extra hour every day.
Well, I’ve got nine secrets of how productive entrepreneurs and small business owners squeeze more time out of their overly-demanding days:
1. Do one thing at a time. Most entrepreneurs are great multi-taskers, as well as having a certain level of ADD (attention deficit disorder). But doing too many things at once makes you feel overwhelmed, and you’re actually less productive. That means your “to do” list stays longer longer. Set times aside to focus on just one task and finish it.
2. Block distracting websites. C’mon, let’s be honest. If you’re working on the web, it’s easy to surf over to check Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or even the news. There goes 30 minutes. Use an app that blocks sites you choose for a time you set. One of my editors turned me on to the app “Self Control” and I’m using it now while writing this column. It’s free but only for Macs. Other choices are Freedom, good for PCs and Macs but for a fee, and the extension StayFocusd, for users of the Chrome browser.
3. Just say no. The easiest way to keep something off your “to do” list is to not put it on there in the first place. Before you take on a new client that’s clearly going to be incredibly difficult, volunteer to take on a big project for a friend or relative, or coordinate your trade association’s annual event, stop and ask yourself, “What’s this going to do to my work week? To my bottom line?”
4. Automate. What are the processes you do every day, week, month, or year? Are you still doing them by hand or with an old software program? I’m betting you can use a more powerful, faster, cloud-based app. Some cost a few bucks, but they save you many hours and headaches. For instance, we set up all recurring bills on autopay with our bank. I can still review them, but I’m not writing out checks all month. I’m a huge fan of Intuit Quickbooks Payroll. I process my employee and contractor paychecks and take care of payroll taxes fast and easily. And we manage our social media accounts with services like Hootsuite or SproutSocial.
5. Delegate. Sure, you can do everything yourself and probably better than an employee or contractor. But isn’t your time better used on income-producing activities rather than ordering office supplies, sending out invoices, standing in line at the post office, answering routine phone calls? Isn’t it time you got some help? And if you already have help, delegate more stuff.
6. Hold meetings in your car. Do you commute to your office? Use your Bluetooth or hands-free device to discuss business with employees or clients while you drive. If you take public transit, catch up on your business reading.
7. Use canned responses and templates. If you get a lot of inquiries about the same thing — your price list, proposals, schedules, why you can’t work for free – create templates or canned responses and use those.
8. Make a list at the end of the day. “Another task, Rhonda?” Yes, it will take a few minutes to make a good, thorough to-do list, but it pays off. Organize those tasks at the end of the day so you can dive right in the next morning.
9. Just do it. There’s something called the 90/10 rule: “The first 90% takes 90% of the time, and the last 10% takes the other 90% of the time.” In other words, finishing that last 10% can take just as much time as the rest of the project. Most things you do in your small business don’t have to be perfect. Sure, if you manufacture heart valves, you better sweat the small stuff. But if you’re getting out an email newsletter to announce a buy one-get one sale, you’ve finally got to get it out the door. Remember, “perfection is the enemy of progress.”
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2016
This article originally ran in USA Today on May 20, 2016