6 Productivity Hacks for Small Business Owners
As a small business owner, everyday is a struggle to be more productive. This struggle is happens regardless of how many people you have on your staff or team, we all attempt to maximize our productivity. Being a business owner means you have a lot of plates to juggle, and too many top-priority projects.
You try to do it all, business operations, marketing, sales, accounts payable, and more. But balls get dropped and then you get more stressed out because you didn’t get it all done.
Productivity Isn’t Doing it All
The trick is fine tune your schedule so that you can do everything you need to do. Note, I do not mean cram your schedule so full you don’t even have room to breath, have lunch, or worse- no sleep. Because no one can simply do it all. NO ONE You gotta pick what’s really important first.
Here are 6 productivity hacks that helped me to get more done, remove what I don’t want to do, and keep me on track.
1. De-Commit to Non-Essential Obligations
You Know What These Are! These are the groups, volunteer event, meetings, and other obligations that you signed up BUT you don’t want to do these any more. I tell you it is freeing to remove these from your calendar and your mind.
I recently resigned from a board I was a member of, and I’m immensely happy I did it. I decided to step down even though it was a difficult decision, and I felt as if I was letting the group down. But at the end of the day, my heart wasn’t it anymore and it because of my schedule it became a challenge to do my best in the role. Ultimately I was doing the group a disservice by staying in the role, instead of training someone to replace me. Sometimes you have to know when to hold them, and when to fold them. And not let yourself feel like you let yourself down.
The process I used to decide to resign as a board member was simple. I asked myself five key questions.
- Is this inline with my life and/or business goals?
- What would be the repercussions I stepped down from the role? And would they be irreversible?
- Am I doing my best job in the role? If not, why and can I resolve the issue?
- Do I have the time to dedicate to this role?
- Is this an obligation or a joy? And if it has become an obligation, can I correct it or is it a short term thing because of my schedule?
2. Embrace the Pomodoro Technique to Optimize Your Schedule
This is the master focus technique. The Pomodoro Technique is pretty simple technique, and there aren’t any special tools or gadgets required. You can read more in-depth information on Wikipedia and Lifehacker, but I’ll break it down for you. <
Under the Pomodoro technique, you break time into intervals and schedule breaks after each interval. For example, I use 25 min and 5 min intervals, this means I work for 25 minutes on a SINGLE project, and then take a walk, relax, or read for 5 minutes. You choose any interval that works for you, but the breaks are usually 5 minutes; and then a long 15 minute break after 4 x 25 minute intervals.
No special tool is required, you can use a kitchen timer (a tomato timer was the inspiration for the technique), phone timer, stopwatch, or a Pomodoro app on your phone.
I find that the Pomodoro technique helps to keep me focused on the task at hand, and keeps me honest if I get distracted by another task.
3. F.O.C.U.S on Productivity
Too often I have tried to multitask in order to maximize my productivity. But it doesn’t work because I really end up doing is dividing my focus between 2 more things. This means each task or project is getting half or a quarter of my dedicated attention. When you multitask you’re actually switch-tasking, you’re stopping one task to switch to another.
Dividing your focus doesn’t concur anything. Sure you can multitask simple tasks, like calling customer service while paying bills. But I find that I’m not productive juggling multiple projects or tasks if they are more complicated. Which does make sense, complicated tasks need your undivided attention.
Last year I decided to stop multitasking, and I have noticed a significant increase in my productivity, and improvement with the quantity and quality of the work I produce. I get through things a lot faster, and I feel more relaxed by the time I’m done because I’m hopping to the next task.
To F.O.C.U.S, you’ll need to Follow One Course Until Success
Simply, stop juggling more than one task at a time, and work on one until you’re finished. OR work on one task for a dedicated time, and then work on a second task for another dedicated time. The Pomodoro Technique is ideal to help you monitor your times and intervals of work. Plus use the break time to give your mind a little R&R.
4. Know your Rhythm
We all have a natural rhythm. Some of us are night owls and some of us can’t keep our eyes open after 10pm. Lucky ones are ready to go at 5:00 am (I’m working on this, but my snooze button is very attractive at 5:00 am).
We all have a natural rhythm to when we are the most focused, creative, relaxed, and more. In the professional world we get trained to work a certain schedule and do specific tasks at specific times. However, as a business owner, you have more choices.
Firstly, as the owner, you can make your schedule. Start your day at the time that is optimal for you; but don’t start your day (aka wake up) at 12pm because you were watching movies until 3:00am.
Ask yourself what time do you naturally wake up? What time do you want to wake up? Are there times when your mental concentration level plummets faster than an anchor in the ocean? Can you take a brief nap to get refreshed? Or maybe a quick workout or walk?
Dig deeper into what your natural tendencies are. For me, I know that I need 7-8 hours of sleep, otherwise it takes me longer to hit my stride. But regardless of how tired I am in the morning, I get my second wind in the evening. That’s my natural rhythm.
I like to do more detail oriented projects in the morning, and creative projects in the evening, and do easier tasks when I feel my concentration slipping. I’ve perfected this over years of my personal observation.
5. Stop Checking Your Email Every 5 Minutes
Email has become a serious time suck for all of us, and we’ve been trained to think we’re going to miss something extremely life altering important if we don’t check the inbox the nano second a new email comes in. Crazy! Stop doing this for a couple of days and how the earth keeps spinning.
I don’t check my email frequently, I usually limit it to three times in the day. Shocking I know! Try it, you’ll save so much time and be less distracted. If something is urgent, which it usually isn’t, people can call me. Trust me, if you accidently ignore an urgent email you’ll find out very quickly from someone on your team or a direct call from the email sender.
Don’t be concerned that you may offend someone. Setup an auto vacation response email telling people that you check emails at select times, and for urgent requests to call you. The bottom line is you don’t have 36 hours in the day, so guard your time like a pit bull. Or other people will steal your time before you even knew what happened.
6. Plan Your Day, Activities, and Tasks
There is an expression I hear often that touts “if it doesn’t get scheduled, it doesn’t get done.” And as much as your freedom loving self wants to just “get things done”, you’ll probably get more done if you plan to get it done.
I’ve been a little obsessed by the latest planning method and tool for several years, starting when PDA stood for Personal Digital Planner. But the trick is finding the tool and method that works for you.
Today there are many digital and analog solutions to help you plan your day, which may either confuse you or excite you. But you just need to pick whatever is going to help you stay on task. It can be as simple as a pen and paper planner or using an online calendar, like Google Calendar, and syncing to your phone.
You could schedule your day in 30 minute and 1 hour blocks dedicated to a specific project / task, or color-block chunks of time to “marketing”, “customer service”, “business operations”, or some other category; and then complete several tasks that fall under that category.
There is no right or wrong way of planning, so long as whatever method you choose works for you and propels your business forward. You can also find several books and programs by productivity experts with full of insightful ways to maximize your day. I just know what works for me, and that is whatever is so simple that I’m likely to stick with it.
My current planning method is the Bullet Journal, which at it’s heart is a DIY planner that you can tweak to suit your individual needs. You can read more about the Bullet Journal here, and Instagram is full of inspirational pictures from the BUJO (short for Bullet Journal) community.
Productivity hacks are not limited to these five habits, but these are the five that have completely altered how I approach my day and my schedule. Remember all you need to truly do is zero in on your to-do lists, complete those projects, and keep getting things done.