productivity hacks

Small Business Week 2016

small business week

Don’t miss yesterday’s Small Business Week post, “6 Ways to Find New Customers.”

Ask a dozen small business owners what they wish for most, and I bet 90 percent of them would say, “More hours in the day!” I can’t give you more than 24 hours, but I can share the productivity hacks that work best for my business partners and me.

  1. Use the first hour of the morning for your most important task. You sit down at your computer, and your energy’s high. Don’t waste it checking social media or even answering emails. Focus on your most important task of the day (figure out what that is the night before). Get to the office earlier than anyone else or spend the first hour of your workday at home to block out this time free of interruptions.
  2. Batch similar tasks. If you’re constantly switching back and forth between dissimilar tasks, like writing proposals and making phone calls, you’ll use up needless energy shifting gears. When possible, try to group similar test together. For example, if you need to have a series of staff meetings next week, grouping them all on Wednesday afternoon instead of scattering them throughout the week will save time and energy.
  3. Don’t overschedule yourself. So many of us book every second of every day with meetings, calls and projects. If the client is running late or a call goes long, the rest of our schedule is thrown off. Always leave a few hours of wiggle room in your day. This ensures that small delays don’t snowball into big problems, and also gives you time to respond to the inevitable emergencies.
  4. Yes, meeting in person is valuable, but traveling to meetings every time you need to talk to a client or prospect is a huge time-waster. When possible, try to substitute conference calls or videoconferencing. This technology is easy to use, and there are plenty of solutions suited for small businesses. Your clients will appreciate the time savings, too.
  5. Use technology wisely. Being able to work from the cloud has transformed my life. Being able to work wherever and whenever I want, instead of having to be in a particular computer in a particular room to access my files, saves me hours of commuting time each day. Keeping your data in the cloud also makes it easier to collaborate with employees and customers. And scheduling your life on a cloud-based calendaring system means you’re always up-to-date. Keep things simple by using cloud solutions that build on technology you already know and use, like Microsoft Office. The cloud is especially valuable if you’re always on the go, like this entrepreneur; she says she saves a couple hours a day by using Office 365.
  6. Understand your personal energy rhythms. Some of us are night owls, while others are morning people. Do you always slump after lunch? Are you most creative at midnight? Understanding when you work best can help you schedule your day so you maximize that time. Of course, it’s not always possible to do this, but as the boss you have more leeway than most people do in tailoring your schedule to your needs.
  7. Make time for breaks. Our natural inclination is to keep working, working, working, thinking we’ll get more done the more we work. Of course, for entrepreneurs, the work never ends! Eventually, you’ll reach a point of diminishing returns, where you’re working hard for minimal results. Learn to identify when you need a break — and take one (yeah, I know it’s hard). The Pomodoro method is one system many entrepreneurs use to force themselves to take breaks.
  8. Always keep learning. I’m a sucker for any article about productivity hacks, because I always want to learn new ways to maximize my time. If you want a roundup of some popular productivity methods, check out The Productivity Project. The author spent a year testing various theories to see which ones really improved his productivity. It’s fascinating reading for anyone who wants to get more done in less time.

What are your favorite productivity hacks?