According to recent data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the average business owner spends 33 hours in total looking for financing. With that number in mind, here are 33 tips that any business owner can incorporate into the day to improve productivity and efficiency.
1. Set a routine and keep to it! Start your workday at the same time each morning, and work until a designated time each night. If you know that your workday begins at 9:30 AM and ends promptly at 6:30 PM, you’ll be amazed at how much you pack in during those hours.
2. Your support systems matter, from the car you use to get to work to the team you rely on at the store or office. Make sure you’re supported by the best and most reliable people and things, so that you can always show up at your best.
3. Know your body, and listen to it! If you need protein in the morning to show up at work ready to be productive, then ensure that you have it every day.
4. Be protective of your mornings. If you’re like most people, it’s likely your most focused, energized time. So reading e-mails, or other similar tasks, may not be the best way to spend it. If waking up and checking e-mail drains you for example, try pushing all e-mail until later in the day.
5. When it comes to e-mail, the Golden Rule is: Don’t open it unless you have time to respond. Otherwise the unread message is sitting in your Inbox and draining your time and energy from tasks that require focus. Plus, you’ll have to spend time reading it again once you go back to respond.
6. When you do respond, aim to do it in two minutes or less. The vast majority of e-mails can be answered in this amount of time. Train yourself to get down to as fast a response-time as possible.
7. Keep a highly detailed schedule for your day, and stick to it. If someone wants to pull you into a sudden meeting, look at your schedule – if the meeting isn’t in it, then either the meeting gets added (and something else gets deleted) or it doesn’t happen.
8. If you are a list-keeper, be sure to update and/or create your To-Do list the night before. Once you’re in the flow of the day, you don’t want to interrupt your activity to make lists.
9. If you like to jot down ideas, be sure to have a notebook you can capture them in, or better yet, a tool such as Evernote at your disposal, so you can log an idea or thought whenever it comes. Otherwise you’re stuck either putting mental energy into remembering it, or else forget it entirely.
10. When it comes to time management, break your day into chunks. Whether it be fifteen minutes, a half hour, or a full sixty minutes, block your day into chunks of time and assign tasks to each of them. Some tasks have to be done every day, like replying to e-mails and phone calls. Others will be once a week, such as staff meetings.
11. You can also chunk your time by weeks, such as planning out your goals by two-week increments or 90-day periods. That way it’s easier to track progress–if a goal isn’t accomplished within 90 days, you’ll know that something isn’t working and needs your attention.
12. Tackle your most thought-intensive or focus-requiring tasks in the morning, preferably when you first get into the office. When you’re fresh and full of energy, you’ll be able to complete these big items more quickly, and with less effort.
13. On Friday afternoon, or maybe Sunday evening if that works better, take 10-15 minutes and look over your schedule for the week, making any adjustments as needed.
14. When prioritizing what tasks to focus on, take into account what you’re choosing NOT to do. For those tasks, see if they can be delegated out or completed some other way besides taking up your time later on.
15. If you have a project or task that you’re stuck on, identify what the roadblock is. Do you need more staff? Client approval? What is missing that, if you put it in, you’d be able to do this task? Doing this will provide clarity and keep you from spinning your wheels.
16. Adopt a stress relief routine during the day that incorporates movement. This may mean stepping outside for a walk around the block after lunch, or taking ten minutes to stretch after your 3 PM coffee break.
17. Despite popular advice to the contrary, multi-tasking is not an effective way to save time. Trying to do many things at once more often than not leads to greater inefficiency and less effective results. Stick to your schedule and do one thing at a time.
18. For scheduling, use tools! There are many at your disposal, and they are all easy to use. Google Calendar, Calendly, and VCita are all great options to start with. You might need to experiment to find the tool that works best for you, but using something like one of these three tools can be a real time saver.
19. Even within your tools, there are time-saving devices that will cut precious minutes off of your scheduling. For example, for Gmail users there’s Boomerang Calendar, which lets you schedule a meeting from your inbox, rather than set a time and place through e-mail, and then have to open a separate window to create a calendar entry.
20. For projects, meetings and tasks that require focus and concentration, turn off distractions. These include email and social media notifications, and all cell phone alerts.
21. If there are tasks that you simply hate doing, don’t just grit your teeth–look and see if there’s a better way. Could you delegate this task? Automate it? Is there a tool or an app that could make it easier and less time consuming?
22. Bring your team into the conversation about productivity. Ask them what tips and tools work for them. When trying new tools, try them collectively as a group, and assess whether they work.
23. With any team, it’s critical to make sure that you’re all working in a flow, and that everyone knows what their responsibilities are, and no tasks are being duplicated by multiple people. Use tools to organize task and project management for your team, such as Asana or Google Drive.
24. Try to minimize the amount of e-mail that is sent internally. For conversations among staff, look to tools like Slack or Hipchat, that allow group chats and messaging without the hassle of sending e-mails back and forth. Experiment with different applications to see which tool will work best for you and your team.
25. Say “No!” Just because you get invited to a meeting doesn’t mean you have to go. If a meeting conflicts with your priorities or goals, or if attending it means pushing off a more important task, then decline it.
26. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the big picture. Doing many things in a day isn’t necessarily working efficiently. Are the things you’re getting done moving the needle when it comes to growing your business? If you need help auditing your day or looking at your work from a broader perspective, bring in an outside expert.
27. If you are handling social media for yourself or your business, use a scheduling tool like Hootsuite to manage your posts and create them ahead of time. That way you won’t be interrupting your schedule throughout the day to Tweet or post to Facebook—and you can manage all your social media in one place.
28. If you need/enjoy Internet breaks during the day (watching YouTube videos, perusing Facebook) then schedule them in. Don’t let browsing the Web become a habit that you drift into at any time. If you’ve blocked off 15 minutes to check your favorite sites, you can focus during the rest of the day, knowing your break is coming up.
29. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by large projects or To-Do items, take a deep breath and start with one small step. Every incremental step forward is a move in the right direction.
30. If you’re in that overwhelmed state, focus on achieving three concrete tasks in your day besides the normal daily e-mail, phone calls, and meetings. Having three things that you can point to as progress will give you concrete momentum and a greater sense of control.
31. Be sure that you have “me” time in your schedule, in which you have peace and freedom to explore any hobbies or interests that are important to you. It may need to be very early in the morning or late at night, but it’s important to set that time aside to avoid burnout.
32. Don’t be afraid to reward yourself, or your team! If you have an especially productive week, take Friday afternoon off. You’ll want to rest and recharge so you can recreate the magic the following week.
33. Most importantly, time management only works if you’re also practicing self-management. That means eating well, getting enough sleep, managing stress and anxiety in the way that works best for you, and making time for activities and relationships outside of work. It’s all about balance!