Productivity Tips & Tools for Busy Small Business Owners
As a busy business owner, your time is valuable. Improving productivity is an ongoing task. Prioritizing tasks and managing your time is essential to give each job the focus it needs.
How do you maximize your work hours to get it all done with time left over? Here are 7 tips to help you work at your smartest.
1. Create Your Own Schedule
When you work for yourself, you may not have a set schedule. This doesn’t mean you should only work when you feel like it, but that you should create a plan that best suits you.
Each of us has our own rhythms. Some of us get the most done early in the morning, while some come alive at night. Certain times of day are best for certain tasks; for example, late morning may be best for strategy and analysis, while the afternoon is better for routine daily tasks. Personally, I find the morning best for any writing tasks as I tend to run out of steam later in the day.
The key to making your schedule is to identify the types of tasks you need to perform each day and the best time to get them done.
2. Stop Multitasking and Prioritize
With so many things to do, some productivity experts have touted the benefits of multitasking. While it sounds like a good idea on paper, multitasking is often a productivity killer. Preventing you from giving each task the focus it needs, it also takes time to shift from task to task.
Instead, you should make a prioritized to-do list. This will give you a structure and plan to ensure the most critical work gets done. You can then go through this list one at a time, giving each task the attention it deserves.
A good way to prioritize is to pick today’s top 3 tasks. If you were to complete only 3 things today, what should they be? Put these at the top of your list and then repeat the exercise. Add the next 3 items to your to-do list until they are all scheduled.
3. Work in Time Blocks
An excellent time management strategy is to work in time blocks. These are specific intervals of time scheduled throughout the day where you focus on one task from your list of things to do.
For each task, you choose a certain amount of time. For example, you might choose 30 minutes to check emails before working on an ongoing project that takes one hour daily.
One way to use time blocks is to choose 30-minute intervals for work. You can then assign tasks to these intervals. You can use 2 or 3 intervals for more involved tasks.
4. Take Breaks Throughout the Day
One way to stay productive is to schedule short breaks throughout the day. You’ll handle stress better, but, more importantly, give your mind a chance to stop and refocus.
Sitting at the computer for long stretches at a time may cause burnout. However, if you take quick breaks at regular intervals, you’ll stop before you feel stressed. It’ll be much easier to regain focus when you sit back down.
For example, you might set a timer and work no more than one hour at a time. Then, limit your breaks to 15 minutes so you don’t lose too much working time.
An even better method is to take no-tech breaks. Instead of staring at your smartphone and scrolling through your social media feed, read a book or take a short walk.
5. Learn to Take Great Notes
Taking notes is the best method for remembering key details and keeping vital information at the front of your mind. Note-taking allows you to get the most out of meetings, events, and seminars. After informal conversations, you can jot down notes and write ideas when they strike.
You can use several methods to take notes in a more organized way than just jotting things down. These include Cornell notes, mind mapping, and Rapid Logging.
6. Outsource, Automate, and Delegate
One trick to boosting productivity is remembering you don’t have to do everything yourself. It’s natural for new entrepreneurs passionate about their work to undertake everything.
As your business grows, you can move tasks off your to-do list by outsourcing to virtual help, automating with computer programs, and delegating to other team members.
7. Tools to Boost Your Productivity
If you want to be even more productive, some tools can help you make your daily tasks even simpler to manage. These apps and software programs can help you do even more in less time. I’ve linked to the ones I use personally and recommend.
Project Management Tools
Project management tools can help you plan projects, track progress, and work collaboratively. Popular project tools include Write, Basecamp, and Monday.com. Asana is my project management tool of choice and I find it incredibly useful for keeping on track.
Time Tracking Apps
You can use a time-tracking app to help you manage your time blocks. It’s also great for auditing your time to see how you’re spending it so you can make improvements. Good trackers include Toggl Track, HourStack, and Timely. I use Toggl Track and find it invaluable in understanding where I am spending my time and how long specific tasks take.
Note-taking apps can help you take accurate notes quickly. They offer a variety of ways to take notes and organize them so they are accessible later. Microsoft OneNote, Evernote, and Notion are a few to try.
Cloud storage tools allow storing, accessing, and organizing files anywhere. Google Drive, Dropbox, Sync, and IDrive are good options. I use both Dropbox and Google Drive as many clients prefer one over the other though with my team I use Google Drive.
Writing is a time-consuming task. There are writing tools that can boost productivity by helping you structure and edit your work on time. Good programs include Grammarly, Scrivener, and Trello. Of course, there is a whole range of AI tools now to help you write. You can use Docs in Canva or ChatGPT if you want to try one. There is a lot of controversy currently about bias, privacy and intellectual property rights but they can be helpful if used correctly.
Social Media Dashboard
Managing multiple social media accounts and campaigns can take a lot of time. A social media dashboard puts it all in one place. Some tools include Contenive-Postoplan (the one I use and very reasonably priced), HubSpot, Sprout Social, and SocialBee.
Password managers are designed to lock up your passwords with encryption to make them secure. They can also boost productivity by putting your passwords all in one place. Popular managers include Bitwarden, 1Password, and Dashlane (my favourite).
Keep Measuring Your Productivity
Once you’ve set up your scheduling, time management, and productivity tools, take some time to reflect on how well they’re working.
Use this reflection and feedback to make changes. Refine the methods you use and abandon those that aren’t working so you find techniques that do.