As a small business owner, I know how difficult it can be to get through all of the tasks you have in any given day. And, on the days when you only half complete half of your tasks, you feel like a failure. This feeling can pile up and eventually sink your self-confidence, your business and your creativity. So, let’s stop the cycle now and get back on the way to success.
Here are ten things you can do to improve productivity today.
1. Keep a list
This might sound counterproductive, but don’t sit down and jump right in.Take twenty minutes at the beginning of each day to list your tasks. First, write your whole work task list, carrying any over from yesterday and prioritize the top three. That way your task list isn’t quite so daunting and you are more likely to complete the tasks of that day. This also allows you to be more realistic with planning client meetings, and estimating deadlines. Once you have your work tasks figured out, go ahead and add your home chores – groceries, pick up kids, vacuuming – just because they’re mundane tasks that are part of your daily routine, doesn’t mean they aren’t time-consuming and productive. By adding them, you’ll have a better handle on your whole day and will be able to cross off and credit yourself with the many things you do each day.
Only twenty minutes spent planning will save you hours throughout the week that you would normally spend figuring out what to do next and allowing yourself the opportunity to squander your time browsing websites.
2. Designate your time.
The average attention span is dwindling. Chances are a few of you have already stopped reading this blog to check Facebook!
The more distractions we have, the less attention span we have, and while your deadline for a proposal may be today, it would be a lot more fun to check Facebook and see if anyone commented on your kitten photo, and then… oh look! Joe posted pictures of the wedding, and who’s that… before you know it, you lose an hour. By designating your time, you force yourself to stay on track until one thing is completed. For example, 10am is my writing hour. I write for one hour, whether it’s a blog for my site, or a client’s, a freelance article, or copy writing for a brochure – it’s what I do during that hour. I don’t answer the phone, I don’t check emails or Facebook, or post on Twitter. I write. And because writing is the biggest bread-winner for me, that hour is the longest period of time I designate daily (every other block is forty minutes with twenty minutes for email time/wiggle room in between) and it’s at my prime productivity time.
By designating your time into blocks, you’ll cross off more tasks each day and notice your focus sharpen the more you do it.
3. Check email intermittently.
As I mentioned, each of my blocks is forty minutes. That allows me twenty minutes in between, to get coffee, stretch, check my task list, or respond to emails. I don’t check emails every time I get bored because that can derail my whole day. Instead, I work it in to my twenty-minute wiggle room and honestly, I try to respond by phone whenever possible because it’s faster, more comprehensive, and more personal.
4. Send reminders.
As you plan your day and schedule your designated times, you’ll see the meetings you may have scheduled for the day. Send reminders to those people you’re meeting to avoid the “I’m running late” or “I forgot.” Of course, the meeting reminder also allows clients to get out of meetings, so if it’s a client meeting that you already know is shaky, you might want to call – you’re less likely to get a rejection and more likely to be able to rebook if they do blow you off.
5. Get ahead.
This can be really tough if you’re already swamped, but if you can spare a couple extra hours to get ahead, you’ll reap the benefits ten fold. Whether your job is developing websites, managing construction projects, landscaping, or accounting you have the ability to get ahead. Spend an extra two hours each week working on your task list. If you find those hours are spent simply keeping up with the daily three tasks, the next point might be helpful to you:
Take a good hard look at your life. Something can be designated to somebody else. Whether it’s mowing your lawn, picking the kids up from school, managing your accounting, delivering bids to clients, or sales calls there has to be something. Figure out the expense of designating, choose wisely (don’t pick something you love to do), and keep it on your task list. Just because someone else is doing the work, doesn’t mean you can’t get credit for being the project manager.
7. Never eat lunch alone.
You eat every day, right? You probably have at least one meeting a day, right? Take both and combine. Time is short and meetings tend to drag out and lose focus, so meet over lunch. You’ll find yourself much more productive because we’ve become trained to spend only one hour for lunch, and your meetings will be a tad more casual, with less presentations and more face to face conversation, which is never a bad thing.
And, on those rare days when you don’t have a meeting, eat with a friend. Or even a stranger. You never know where a business opportunity might lie!
8. Make meetings at odd times.
It can be such a waste of time to have to wait for people, so help people to remember your meetings by scheduling them at the 15s. In other words, “Let’s meet at 3:15.” People are more likely to remember something out of the ordinary.
9. Try the 3: 2: 1 ratio rule.
Do three things for work. Do two things for home. Do one thing for yourself. Every Day.
Three tasks for work is easy to understand. Two things for home might be vacuuming, or laundry. And one thing for yourself could be working out, or happy hour with a friend, or a manicure.
Sometimes you just gotta say no. Try it: “No. I can’t join the PTA.”
“No. I’m not going to be able to pick you up from the airport that day.”
“No. I can’t finish it by 4 o’clock.”
Don’t apologize, don’t feel bad, and don’t give excuses, just say no. It’s honest, it’s refreshing, and doggone it, it just feels right!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s 11 o’clock and I have work to do…