Time is precious, Time is money – the cliche list goes on! And while these may be true – what can we, small business owners do, in a practical sense, to improve the use of our time and get the most from our efforts.

This article will discuss ways that small business owners can increase profits by increasing productivity. Let’s dive in!

Common Challenges that Small Businesses Face

  • Information Overload
    • Technology is helpful but it’s also a major distraction in the workplace
  • Dealing with Interruptions
  • Overflowing Inboxes
  • Shifting Priorities
  • Lack of Time

1. Identify Your Business Challenges

Ask yourself some questions to get started

What are you struggling with, in your small business?
What are the possibilities for moving forward?

2. Set your Business Goals

  • Set some time aside to work out your businesses short and long-term goals
  • The end of the financial or calendar year is a great time to do this
  • Once your goals are set – revisit these regularly and keep them front of mind.

3. Identify the Benefits of Adding Structure

  • Ticking off your to-do list
  • Finding things quickly
  • Having an empty inbox
  • Save money
  • Save time

(The REAL Benefits)

  • Take control of your time
  • Achieve your goals and dreams
  • Decrease stress
  • Gain hours in your week
  • Spend that time on what matters most to you

4. Understand why your business is struggling

  • Lack of a strategy for personal productivity
  • Undeveloped or absent positive habits
  • Lack of discipline
  • Absence of systems or not using smart systems

5. Leverage the Keys to Success

  1. Know your Priorities
    • Analyse what you’re currently doing
    • Identify your day to day and higher-level priorities
    • Break down your goal dependant priorities into activities to do on a daily basis
    • Add Structure to your day and your business
  2. Add Systems
  3. Maintain the new status quo with discipline

The ONLY thing we spend is Time

How are you spending your time each day? Time is everybody’s most valuable resource. You can

  • WASTE it
  • SELL it, Or
  • INVEST it

Leverage the Keys to Success

A. Know Your Priorities

  • Take stock of how you are currently spending your time
    • Keep a diary for several days or weeks
    • Work out how much time does it take you to do a task? You can time yourself to work this out (or use a time-tracking app – e’g Harvest, RescueTime, Toggl)
    • Identify your tasks and categorise into
      • Ad hoc / one-off / irregular
      • Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, Yearly
    • Divide your tasks into levels – Low, Medium, High
      • Setting these is like filtering – eg scanning through email
      • It can be useful to use a decision-making matrix to do this (see below)
  • Knowing your commitments goes hand-in-hand with this process
  • Don’t disregard commitments outside of your business!
    • Family
    • Social
    • Self-care
  • QUESTION if these tasks are the best use of your time
    • Do you add value to the task?
    • Could it be outsourced cheaper?
    • Could someone else do it better?
    • Could it be streamlined or eliminated?
    • Could it be automated?
Eisenhower

B. Add Systems and Structure

There are many ways to accomplish this! Some examples are

TIME MANAGEMENT

Set up a structure around your time to maximise efficiency and reduce overwhelm, over-committing yourself and, burnout.

  • Don’t have “unplanned” days
  • Add time for tasks and projects
Batch your time

Plot your tasks onto a calendar – eg Google Calendar

  • Don’t over-schedule yourself!! Only 50% needs to be scheduled
  • Add breaks in – lunch or reminders
  • Use the features of your calendar – repeat etc
  • If tasks are date sensitive – add immediately!!
Use a productivity or planning app

eg Asana, Trello, Evernote

WORKSPACE ORGANISATION

  • Have a designated place for things
  • Remember our workspace is
    • Physical
    • Digital
      • Computer – files, software
      • Communication channels – work coming in

WORKFLOW ORGANISATION

  • Manage all aspects of your work – eg. contacts, onboarding, email, doing your work/client tasks

Basic workflow example

Collect

Identify and manage your collection buckets – this is where you gather things – eg. email, voicemail/SMS, Messaging – Skype, Messenger, Social Media apps

Process

  • What is it?
  • Is it actionable?
    • Yes
      • If it can be done quickly (2 mins) – do it
      • If it will take longer
        • Delegate it
        • Defer it – add to calendar or planning app
    • No
      • Delete/Trash it
      • Defer long-term – “someday”
      • Add as reference material

Plan

  • As above – use of calendar or planning app

Review

This can be done daily, weekly etc. Ask your self – “How did things go?, What went well, what didn’t? “

You can use a simple plus-minus list for this

Ensure that you reward yourself for what you’ve achieved! Celebrate your wins – small and large.

C. Discipline

There are 2 schools of thought

  • Make changes one at a time and sustain the change before adding more
  • Radically change many things all at one time

Maintaining change and creating discipline is related to the creation of HABITS

HABITS

  • Focus on protecting your time – examples
    • Turn off phone and notifications at a certain time each day
    • Say “no” – if you find it difficult to say no immediately – delay so you can make a decision
    • Implement planning and prioritisation daily
  • Simplify
    • Workspace, wardrobe, possessions etc
    • Clean up at the end or beginning of each day
    • Single rather than Multi-tasking
  • Create Systems and Rituals
    • Around common actions, tasks that repeat themselves
    • Mornings
    • Bedtime – Sleep Hygiene
  • Aim to Continuously Improve
    • Healthy eating
    • Weekly review to check and maintain progress

A NOTE ON TO DO LISTS

  • These fall in between planning and doing
  • Choose what works for you (there are many types!)
  • Keep it simple, short – 3 to 5 things per day, concise, use a verb!!
  • Use Action or Doing words
  • Also add context, work out how long it will take you, choose the best time of the day