By Karen Axelton

Getting more done in less time is probably the number-one wish for any small business owner. It’s also a topic I know lots about. I love reading books and articles about time management, and ever since I entered the workforce, co-workers have been asking me for my productivity tips.

Time management is always a challenge, but especially so in those times when you’re slammed with work. Here are some tips that worked for me recently when GrowBiz Media had several huge projects due at once and my productivity powers were put to the test.

  1. Triage. When you’ve got 20 things that “need to get done NOW,” think like Hot Lips Houlihan on M*A*S*H and triage. For a nurse, triage means picking the patients that are the most critical; the rest will have to wait. For a businessperson, there are several ways to triage. When deciding between two tasks, you might consider which one pays more, which one has a drop-dead deadline, which one belongs to the biggest client, or which one involves others (for example, an important meeting the next day).
  2. Break it up. As someone once said, “Work expands to fill the time available.” If you give yourself all day to write a blog post, it will probably take all day. So set mini-deadlines. If you’ve got five things to finish by tomorrow, give yourself half an hour for one project, two for the next, etc. You’ll be surprised how much you get done.
  3. Delegate. In a crunch, it’s all hands on deck, so you may need to call in your employees and partners to cover tasks they don’t normally do–and maybe even hire a freelancer or temp if you’re really in a bind. I’m lucky that my partners and I are always ready to step in and help when one of us is overloaded.
  4. Don’t force it. It’s important to recognize when the law of diminishing returns starts to kick in. If you’ve been grinding away at the same project for hours and you’re not getting anywhere, it’s time to step away and recharge. That can be as simple as walking up and down your office stairwell for 5 minutes or grabbing a coffee downstairs at the coffeehouse. I work at home and sometimes, even unloading the dishwasher feels like a mini-vacation. Whatever you do to clear your head, I promise you’ll be more productive when you come back to the project at hand.

What tips work for you when you’re in a time-crunch? I’d love to hear about them.