For the entire month of November, we will feature topics on our blog covering a variety of tips and tricks aimed at helping small businesses grow and thrive. In this first post, we provide you with some useful tips for a more productive work day. Ultimately, this can be applied outside of the workplace, too.
“If only I had more time,” is one of the most repeated complaints in the business world. But time isn’t something you can grow or expand. We all get the same 24 hours every day. So, why are some small business owners able to get everything done? What is the secret to their success?
Powerful Small Business Productivity Hacks
Although you can’t create time, you can manage it by prioritizing, eliminating, automating and streamlining all the different tasks you have on your plate.
Below are 10 of the most popular strategies small business owners use to manage their time and boost productivity.
1. Start With the “Most Important Task”
Mark Twain once said:
“If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.”
As a small business owner, you probably have 10+ frogs on your plate on any given day. They might all seem important. However, you already know what the biggest frog is; it’s the one you keep putting off because it’s so unpleasant.
If you tackle the least enjoyable project first — as soon as you get into the office — the rest of your day should be smooth sailing. There will, of course, be other unpleasant duties on your plate, but they’ll all seem easier and smaller by comparison.
2. Break Projects Into Smaller Goals
Some projects are too big to tackle at once, like writing that TPS report or launching a newsletter. Their size creates inertia. And you end up doing nothing.
But if you can break each project into smaller goals, those subtasks become easier to swallow. For example, you might decide to:
- Write page 1 of the TPS report by the end of today
- Draft a bulleted outline of your newsletter by noon
This approach helps you overcome inertia so you start getting things done.
3. Eliminate Pointless Distractions
Social media, gossip sites, news articles — we all waste time on these distractions. We all know that we shouldn’t, but how can you resist the temptation to open a new tab and dive right into your friends’ feeds?
Willpower is one method, but most of us simply don’t have the strength to monitor our own behavior. A better approach is to use browser add-ons, such as StayFocusd or RescueTime, that can block time-wasters on a preset schedule. You’ll be amazed at how much free time you’re able to reclaim with these tools.
4. Batch Process Non-Urgent Tasks
It’s hard to resist that satisfying “ding” when you get a new email. But does that message really need your time and attention right now? The answer is usually no.
Rather than tackle each “non-urgent” message that comes along, it’s better to process your email in batches at set times throughout the day. Just be sure to turn off any and all notifications. Batch processing can also work with invoicing, bookkeeping and other frequently occurring tasks.
5. Reduce (or Eliminate) Meetings
Most meetings are a waste of time, especially when everyone is required to be there. The majority of decisions can be handled on a case-by-case basis via email or face-to-face interaction. You’re often better off avoiding meetings as much as possible.
If you can’t eliminate meetings completely, then consider these time-saving steps:
- Include only essential personnel, and let everyone else “work”
- Have a clear agenda written in advance
- Set a time limit of 30 minutes (or less)
6. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts
From MS Word to Gmail to Salesforce, nearly every software program has native keyboard shortcuts. It takes a while to master these app-specific timesavers, but the long-term benefits really add up.
7. Embrace Telecommuting and Flextime
This tip is a bit counterintuitive, but you should encourage your team to telecommute whenever possible. Working from home has not only , but it can also improve the health and morale of your employees.
The same goes for flextime — i.e., the ability to adjust one’s work schedule earlier or later in the day. Remember, as the boss, you also can take advantage of these perks.
8. Use Payment Integration
Balancing your daily, weekly or monthly books is probably the most time-consuming of all repetitive tasks. With payment integration, you can automatically sync all incoming sales with whatever business software you currently use.
Payment integration completely eliminates the need for manual entry. As an added bonus, this hands-off approach also removes human error from the bookkeeping process.
9. Set Up Recurring Billing
You can further speed up the payment process by automating when and how invoices are sent to your customers. With recurring billing, you essentially transform your business into a subscription service.
Invoices go out and payments come in — all on autopilot. You don’t have to do anything by hand.
10. Leverage Interactive Voice Response
Do you deal with a lot of customer requests about upgrading, downgrading, canceling or paying for services? It’s a pain, isn’t it?
With interactive voice response (IVR), customers can manage their accounts by speaking their choices/options into an automated phone system. You don’t need to hire more staff to field these requests. With IVR technology, you basically have a “virtual” call center that can handle the vast majority of customer questions — even during non-business hours.
More Productivity Tips for Small Business Owners
There are countless ways to make your small business more streamlined and efficient, with the list above representing the tip of the iceberg.
If you’d like to see even more strategies for boosting productivity, let us know. Although we can’t help with social media distractions or managing meetings, we excel at time-saving tactics that can help you get the most out of your payment processing setup.