If you work for yourself either as a sole trader or running a small business, you might regularly find that your to-do list is several pages long. You might also find that throughout your days as you cross a job off the list, three more are added as other jobs crop up, emails and calls arrive, and other people’s problems land at your door. It’s all too easy to find that your days are filled with admin, calls, and tedious tasks that you’d rather not be doing. To grow your business and give you greater job satisfaction, however, you need to be doing more. You need to be able to spend your time on more creative tasks. On finding ways to improve your business and on making plans for the future. But, with so much to do, it can feel like you never have enough time to cross everything off your lists, never mind tackle those more challenging assignments.
Most of us go home at the end of these tiring days feeling stressed out. We’re unable to sleep because we are worried about work, and it can start to affect our mood. Over time, you might find that your relationships suffer, you lose interest in the business that you once loved, and you start to flounder.
Believe it or not, the answer to all of these problems is often being able to get more done, in less time. Getting more done with the time that you have available means that you have more time to focus on more important things. But, it also means that you have more free time to spend away from the business, doing the things that you love. If you employ staff, this can also mean that their time is spent more productively, improving morale, reducing staff turnover, and increasing the quality of their work.
It might sound impossible. If you can barely do what you need to know, how are you ever going to manage it in less time? Well, you can. And, really, there’s no secret formula. Just a few things that you can try until you find the methods that suit you and your business.
One problem that many small business owners have is trying to do it all for themselves. They worry about hiring staff that they can’t really afford to pay, and yet they know that to do everything themselves would take too much time and mean that not all areas of their work get the expertise that they need. Outsourcing is a fantastic option. You can outsource work to freelancers when you need an expert or don’t have the time to tackle the task for yourself, without having to worry about paying them permanently. But, you can also outsource the more tedious and less critical tasks like answering phones and replying to emails to a virtual office address which will free up your time for more important things.
Work When it Suits You
We don’t all work at our best between the hours of 9-5. If you’re not a morning person, you might spend the first hour or so at your desk waking up. Sipping coffee, procrastinating and generally building up to your day slowly.
So, don’t. If you are a morning person, get up and start your day a few hours earlier, so that you are at your desk when you are at your most alert and productive. Or, if you hate mornings, sleep in, and start work in the afternoon. Night owls work best at night, and there’s nothing to stop you working into the evening if it suits your lifestyle. Your time will be better spent, and you’ll get a lot more done.
Take Regular Breaks
The idea of taking more breaks to get more done might seem completely absurd, but research shows that regular breaks in an office boost productivity, improve morale, and raise the standard of work. We all lose focus if we are sitting in the same seat, looking at the same computer screen for extended periods. So, don’t.
Don’t just take an hour or so off for lunch. Get up every hour and walk around. Have a chat, check your social media feeds, or get a drink and a snack. You are less likely to procrastinate when you should be working if you give yourself the time to do other things during your day. Your staff are also less likely to waste time chatting when they should be working if there is scheduled time to talk.
Manage Your To-Do List
Adding jobs to your to-do list every time you think of something or something comes up can lead to absolute chaos. Learn how to manage your list properly, and you’ll also be able to manage your time better.
Write your list for the day the night before, or before you leave the desk the day before. Write down everything that you need to do, with the hardest jobs, or those that you aren’t looking forward to at the top, to get them out of the way. Having your list waiting for you when you get to your desk means that you can start your day straight away, without wasting time getting organized.
Then, if something comes up, think about it. Don’t just add it to the bottom of the days’ list. If it can wait until another day, just make a note and leave it. If it’s going to take less than five minutes to complete, do it straight away. If not, add it to the end of your list and worry about it later. Manage your to-do list, don’t let it manage you.
Cut Meeting Times
Most meetings are waste of your most focused brain time. We sit down, say hello to everyone, get up and make a coffee, run through the agenda of briefly chat about what we want to say, before actually getting into the content of the meeting. Cut all of your meetings down to 30 minutes. Send an email with the agenda, stop the pointless chit chat, don’t have a drink and get straight into what you need to say.
Maybe you can be even more drastic and simply cut meetings right out or not allow any more than 3 people in a meeting. Far too often meetings cost thousands of dollars an hour without generating the same amount in value to the business.
If you can do a few of these things then you can be more effective with how you spend your time. That means you’re getting more done without working evenings and weekends.
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