Running a business isn’t for everyone. While it offers unparalleled benefits like flexibility, freedom and the ability to have total control over your daily tasks, it also requires a great deal of dedication and self-control.
While no one is telling you what to do (which is great), this means it’s all on you. Whether you’re feeling motivated and energetic or not, when it comes down to it, you’re 100% responsible for the success or failure of your business.
And this means that finding ways to keep up your motivation and boost your productivity levels is paramount to the success of your business.
So, how exactly do you do this? How do you consistently stay on task, get stuff done and make the most of your 8-hour workday?
Following are 10 ways you can stay on top of your daily tasks, all while meeting the needs of your clients and maintaining your sanity!
1. Turn off notifications.
With the average person checking his or her phone 110 times per day, we stand to save an enormous chunk of time by limiting this behaviour. And perhaps one of the best ways we can do this is by turning off all notifications.
This means no visual or audio notifications for new emails, texts and social media posts or messages. Instead, build time into your day when you are scheduled to check your various accounts.
Here’s the reason this is so important: Each time you are interrupted from a task or project, you lose a little bit of your concentration and you must factor in additional time to get back to where you were before the interruption. And with the average worker switching devices (phone, computer, etc.) about every 2 minutes (2 minutes and 11 seconds, to be exact), that’s a lot of lost productivity.
2. Have a plan.
When you let others decide how you’re going to spend your day, you end up meeting everyone else’s needs and plans but your own. Rather than simply responding to what’s going on around you, be sure you have a plan of attack for your day.
Too many of us show up at the office prepared to see what phone messages and emails await – and only then do we decide what the plan is for the day.
Instead, make a point of planning out your day in 1 hour blocks. Be sure to build in time for checking and responding to emails, meeting with colleague or clients, taking breaks, checking social media, etc.
3. Use time limits.
Further to #2, tracking the time you spend on daily tasks can be very beneficial. It’s easy to get a skewed sense of how much time you’re dedicating to certain jobs. For instance, if you love checking your Facebook feed and responding to comments, it’s easy to lose track of time. Or if you despise something – like budgeting, for instance – you may put it off assuming it takes too long.
But getting a realistic sense of how long tasks are taking you will allow you not only to plan your days more efficiently, but to make sure you’re spending more time on profit-generating tasks (see #8 below).
Consider using time management software to track and monitor the amount of time you spend on particular tasks. Programs like RescueTime and ManicTime make tracking your activities simple and effective.
4. Know what you’re good at, and what you should outsource.
Good leaders know what they’re good at, and what they’re not. They know that the key to success isn’t ‘doing it all’, but spending their time doing what they do best, and outsourcing the rest.
Not everything can or should be outsourced, but there are many daily, time-consuming tasks that can be contracted out, delegated to competent employees, or managed by a VA:
|4||Social media management|
|5||Scheduling and/or travel arrangements|
5. Don’t wait for something to be perfect.
As business owners, it can be easy to get fixated on a ‘pet project'; a task, client or project that has special meaning for us. We may justify that this project is SO important that it requires days or weeks of our personal attention. But in reality, we may be wasting valuable time that could be spent finding new clients or performing other profit-generating tasks.
Instead of waiting for something to be perfect (which it’s never going to be anyway), make sure it’s ‘good enough’. In the vast majority of cases, you’ll be able to tweak or edit things later anyway; and the amount of time it will take to tweak something later will very likely be far less than the time it takes you to get it ‘perfect’.
6. Limit your multi-tasking.
In our society, we tend to value the ability to divide our time and attention between multiple tasks. But the truth of the matter is that in many cases, multi-tasking can actually greatly diminish our productivity levels.
Research into the impact of interruptions on work and productivity show that switching activities can certainly result in an inefficient use of time. According to the researchers in one study, ‘interruptions’ (whether self-imposed or imposed by others) often result in the fragmentation of tasks:
“When you’re interrupted, you don’t immediately go back to the task you were doing before you were interrupted. There are about two intervening tasks before you go back to your original task, so it takes more effort to reorient back to the original task.”
7. Keep a thought list.
Particularly if you’re in a creative field, you may find that generating new ideas takes a great deal of your time. And coming up with ideas isn’t something you can always do at the drop of a hat.
Consider keeping a ‘thought file’ open at all times; whether this is in Evernote, Word or using one of many Idea apps like Idea Growr for Android or Ideabook for iPhone. This will dramatically cut down on time spent brainstorming, and increase the time you have available for actually implementing your ideas.
8. Do revenue-generating tasks first.
When in doubt about what you should be doing, or about what tasks you should be building into your day, it’s important to focus on revenue-generating tasks first. While there must certainly be time set aside for administrative tasks, be clear that to grow your business, you must dedicate sufficient time to tasks that have a direct effect on your bottom line.
These tasks will be different for different businesses, but may include:
|1||Finding new customers or clients|
|2||Marketing your product|
|3||Finding new funders, investors or advertisers|
|4||Making sales calls|
9. Address your procrastination head-on.
Large projects or tasks may seem overwhelming at first, which may in turn lead us to avoid them. There’s something quite addictive about projects where we can quickly see results; we tend to work harder, quicker and more efficiently because we know there will be a pay-off in the near future.
Experts in procrastination encourage workers to take a no-nonsense approach to overwhelming or unfavourable tasks:
|1||Keep an updated to-do list.|
|2||Set priorities and address urgent tasks first.|
|3||Do your least favourite tasks next.|
|4||Set realistic goals and deadlines.|
10. Remember that it’s ok to put your foot down.
Finally, in order to make sure you stay on task, it’s important that you know it’s ok to say no to people, tasks or requests that put your schedule in jeopardy. This of course must be balanced with the needs of others and with the overall goals of your company.
However, there are certainly times when it’s appropriate to speak your mind and to make your schedule a priority:
|1||Keeping close track of meeting starting and ending times|
|2||Encouraging co-workers or employees to schedule face-to-face time with you in advance (no ‘drop ins’)|
|3||Limiting email or phone calls to certain times of the day|
Being a business owner is, in my opinion, the best job in the world. But it also requires a great deal of determination and self-motivation, which isn’t always so easy to come by!
Hopefully these tips will give you a good start at learning to make the best use of your time, and to setting realistic goals for your daily tasks.
What daily tasks tend to eat up the majority of your time? Do you find yourself getting caught up in tasks that really aren’t contributing to the growth of your business?