Have you ever stopped to consider the number of hats you wear as a small business owner?
You’re not just the CEO, you’re also the marketing team, your own finance department, HR, customer service, product development, social media manager, accountant, supply chain and logistics team… I mean, whew! I get exhausted just thinking about it, let alone doing all of it.
It makes it hard to maintain normal productivity levels as an individual worker because you’re technically doing the jobs of fifty different people. From emailing clients and leads to invoicing for services or products, there always seems to be a constant demand for your time. And it’s kind of unavoidable if you want to keep the lights on in your business.
But being a business owner who also happens to have a family and some semblance of a life has forced me to get creative when it comes to using my time productively.
In this post I’m breaking down some of my best productivity tips for small business owners that will have you managing your work flow and becoming the most productive entrepreneur you can be!
1. Remember more isn’t always better
You know what they say about “jack of all trades and master of none,” right?
Nowhere is this more true than in running your own business.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a control freak, so I totally appreciate the feeling of needing to keep your hand in all parts of your business. There’s this belief that no one can do it better than we can, right?
But while that’s true of some parts of your business, it can’t be true of all of them.
If you want to be an effective business owner, it’s better to invest your time in those parts that you truly do best than half-assing every part of the process because you’re spread too thin trying to do it all.
So identify those places where your time is most valuable in your business, those areas where you shine. Then evaluate the areas where you spend a lot of time, but it’s not immediately delivering returns. Like managing your social media, pulling together a marketing plan, or tracking outstanding invoices.
Ask yourself if they’re necessary to the growth or operation of your business. If they’re not, stop doing them. If they are, find a way to get them off your plate, either by outsourcing them to an app or to an individual. It’ll likely cost money, but it’ll enable you to work where you’re most valuable in your business, which will end up making you more money in the long run.
2. Silence your notifications
Between the constant Instagram notifications, texts messages on your friends group chain, and the calls from your mom asking you what you’re up to (because you couldn’t possibly be working at 2 PM on a Tuesday afternoon, right?), your phone is nothing more than a giant distraction.
I don’t know about you, but every time my phone buzzes during the day, any state of flow I’ve been working in completely dissolves. And it takes time to get it back.
I’m not advocating never checking your phone, but create some boundaries! Try turning off the sounds and keeping it in another room when you’re working. Then check it periodically on breaks.
Little tip: this approach works great for checking email too.
3. Close any programs or browser tabs that aren’t necessary to the work you’re doing right now
Tell me if this sounds familiar…
You’re cruising along on a project, making good progress. But then you see a browser tab that reminds you of another project that you’re working on, and you just feel compelled to switch over to it.
Then you see another tab, and another. Before long, you’re bouncing from one thing to the next without actually getting anything substantial done on any of them.
It might seem like a small distraction, but they start to add up. Until suddenly an hour has gone by and you’re left wondering what exactly you’ve accomplished in the last sixty minutes.
It’s maddening! Especially when I know I do it to myself.
The best way I’ve found to avoid this? Closing any tabs and programs that aren’t necessary to the project I’m currently working on. It seems like a small thing, but it helps keep your focus on the job at hand.
4. Write smarter to do lists
It’s better for your brain and, ultimately, better for your business if you don’t take on too much at one time. But if your to do lists are anything like mine, they seem to take on a life of their own and grow rather unruly pretty quickly.
I recently started using a Full Focus Planner, and one of the things I love about it is that it encourages writing more intentional to-do lists.
In addition to writing a list for the week that I can then break down into specific tasks for each individual workday, it also encourages writing out your top three most important tasks for the day.
I’ve noticed when I follow this process, my list is less-likely to get thrown off when things come up during the day. No matter how long the rest of my list gets, I know those three most important tasks are the things I need to prioritize.
That one tiny adjustment has done so much for me in terms of how I approach my day and budget out my time. It’s definitely worth giving a try!
5. Use tools that track your work flow
There are so many project and time-tracking apps out there now that you’d be plum crazy not to put them to use in your business.
If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know I’m a big fan of ClickUp, which is a project management app that’s great for organizing projects and streamlining workflows. I also use it with several of my clients to track project to-do lists and deliverables.
The reason this has been such a lifesaver is because it enables me to see at a glance what needs to get done and where I’m at in the process for each of my projects.
Plus, with it’s native Docs feature and countless app integrations, it allows me to organize all of my project details in a single place so I’m not digging through files on my laptop or trying to find notes from a call I had ages ago.
I also use a program called Toggl to track my time and, like ClickUp, it’s free with a paid plan that I’ve yet to need to upgrade to. It lets you track time on specific projects and then export the report to show what tasks took how much of your time so you can easily see where you need to adjust your work flow for maximum efficiency.
You should also read: 10 Must-Have Apps for Growing Your Small Business
6. Batch your work
There are certain tasks in your business that you have to do consistently to keep up with them, like invoicing clients, responding to email, or creating marketing content.
Instead of hopping around from one thing to the next, try batching similar tasks together so you can knock them all out in one go. The more repetition in your work flow, the more efficient it becomes and the less time you spend doing it.
I’ve found this especially helpful when it comes to writing blog posts or social media content, things that require you to get into a certain headspace before you sit down to do them.
Try batching them into certain points of your day or certain days of the week. For instance, I tend to block off time in the morning to answer emails because that’s when I’m the most focused. Or I’ll set aside half the day on Friday to knock out two months worth of blog posts.
7. Set timers to keep you honest
There are certain tasks that, if I’m not careful, I can trip down a rabbit hole and suddenly emerge hours later wondering where my time has gone.
Social media is one. Finding answers to something on Google is another.
With both, I know how easy it is to get sucked in and then suddenly I’ve been at it for an hour. And nine times out of ten, the time I just spent was more wasted than not.
For those types of tasks, it can be helpful to set a timer so you can’t go on autopilot and be lulled into wasting time. Eventually an alarm will go off and the proverbial spell will be broken and you can move on to the next project.
8. Stop multi-tasking
This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve found it to be one of the most difficult things in terms of reworking my work flow. I love trying to multi-task because it makes me feel more productive. But in reality, the exact opposite is true.
Multi tasking isn’t really effective, and in fact, many studies have found that it not only makes us less productive, but it kills creativity.
You have more mental clarity if you dedicate fully to the specific task at hand.
So instead of checking your email, scrolling through Instagram, responding to a client on Slack, and listening to that latest marketing podcast episode all at the same time, try to focus solely on one thing. Do it fully and completely before you move on to the next task.
You’ll be surprised at the progress you can make. And, bonus: You’ll actually get your work done faster than if you’d tried to multi task!
9. Use templates for repetitive tasks and documents
Nothing sucks more time in your business than reinventing the wheel every single time you go to do something.
Whether it’s responding to a new outreach email from your website or pulling together a client proposal, templatize it! Then the next time you go to do that task, it’s more plug-and-chug versus starting from scratch.
I have several templates I use in my business, from creating client proposals to templates for client deliverables. (You can even buy them and use the exact ones I’ve created!) They save me so much time because they standardize how I do things so it’s done the same way every time, which means less thinking on my part when it actually comes time to do the work.
You can templatize just about anything – from documents and projects, to responses to customer service questions, to different workflows that you do often in your business.
10. Automate, automate, automate
Ok, I am a total geek for automation.
I love finding ways to save more time and effort in my business, plus there’s something oddly satisfying about knowing that things are being done without me having to lift a finger!
In fact, a lot of the examples above are things you can automate – from tracking time on your phone or desktop, to templating documents and projects, or even using Zapier to pull certain types of information from one app into another.
You can even use automation tools with social media posting or content marketing (which I’ve talked about before).
If you want to really feel like a small business wizard, start using automation apps in your business.
So there you have it: 10 proven productivity tips for small business owners that are guaranteed to save you time. Just putting one or two of these ideas into practice will have you working smarter, not harder in no time.
But don’t stop here! Continue to experiment to find what works best for you! Because the more productive you can be in your business, the more growth and success you’ll see.
What are some of your favorite tips for increasing productivity? Share them with us in the comments below!