If you're a small business owner who would love having the time and energy to grow your business while also having the time and energy for what matters most outside your career - your relationships, hobbies, and passions, the answer is improving your productivity! The internet is full of tips on how to create your own hair mask, lose weight, fix a computer issue, and don’t even get me started on the vortex that is kids birthday party ideas. The internet is also stocked with tips on how to improve your productivity, so many though, that choosing which ones to implement in your small business could be overwhelming.
Knowing that everyone is different when it comes to their best ways of being productive, I came up with my top 10 productivity tips for small business owners that can easily be implemented and tweaked to work for your business and workflow, regardless of your skillsets. Stop surfing the internet for answers to your productivity woes and start implementing these tips as a solid foundation to improve your productivity b and move your business foward by leaps and bounds!
My Top 10 Productivity Tips For Small Business Owners
1. Use A Digital Task List
Creating a task list forces you to get all of the to-dos out of your head and enables you to determine which ones must be completed first. Stress comes from the feeling of not knowing what needs to be done and not being able to complete everything but you don’t need to do everything – at least not right now! You just need to complete your priority tasks and projects. Other tasks can wait and should be prioritized that way. Managing your tasks via a digital task list instead of the old school paper task list enables you to prioritize with ease and most effectively and efficiently manage your abundance of tasks.
Still unconvinced? Here are some other great benefits of using a digital task list:
If you're a one-man or one-woman show, Trello might meet your digital task management needs, but if you have a team, consider a more robust project and task management system like Clickup. You can read my full review on Clickup for small businesses here.
2. Execute Power Hours
What if I told you that repurposing just one hour each week could help you better juggle your tasks, eliminate the Monday blues, and get you back on track every Friday so you can start your following week refreshed and refocused? It can! Executing a weekly power hour can help you clean the slate by clearing your desk and possibly even your task list and inbox, so you can have more focused time for what matters most.
During your weekly power hour, complete as many small tasks on your to-do list as possible. Some may take only two minutes like paying a bill, reviewing a document, or sending an email. Others may take a little longer like making travel arrangements. If you were to do those small tasks throughout the week as they pop up, they would interrupt the flow of the high-value tasks you're working on. Instead, batch those small tasks together into one rapid-fire power hour so you can address and complete them back-to-back with utmost efficiency and not lose focus on your high-value activities. Power hours also prevent low-value tasks from getting pushed back week to week until they become fires too big to put out without consequence.
3. Don't Multitask
When many small business owners get super busy and start feeling overwhelmed, their natural tendency is to start multitasking so they can be efficient and productive. The problem is attempting to multitask risks our most valuable asset, time, because multitasking is a lie. Human beings are incapable of doing two activities at once and doing them both well. When you think you are multitasking you are actually just switchtasking which is alternating back and forth between tasks rapidly, neither of which are receiving your full attention.
When you buy into the lie of multitasking you are condemning yourself to feeling overwhelmed, inaccuracies in your work, and poor communication with others. Being efficient requires you to focus on one activity at a time so all of your effort and brainpower can be concentrated on accomplishing that one activity well. Complete one task then move on to the next for maximum productivity.
4. Create A Supportive Environment
If your workspace is a mess, it’s hard for your mind to not be. For most small business owners, disorganization and visual clutter are very distracting and create a feeling of being overwhelmed. An organized workspace enables you to focus on the task at hand and decrease the amount of time it takes to complete each activity. It also helps you find needed items much more quickly. So, unless you thrive in a disorganized environment and are most efficient when surrounded by clutter, your workspace needs to be organized, free of clutter, and used solely for work.
An added bonus of keeping an organized workspace is that it portrays a high level of professionalism. Why would a client trust you with their important files if you can’t even maintain your own? Organize your workspace to let it best represent you and the highly professional business you are running. Also, consider how else you could design your environment to better support your productivity. Perhaps you could get in and stay in your focused zone more easily if your office were quieter, warmer, or darker. Identify your physical productivity sweet spot and recreate it every time you work.
5. Indulge In Self-Care
Failing to take care of yourself is detrimental to you and your business as it totally sabotages your productivity and your health. It's important to indulge in self-care even when you're overwhelmed and out of time, otherwise you risk burning out or worse, a health scare. Self-care is all about nourishing your mind, body, and soul. Doing so helps you be able to grind in your business when needed and push through hard projects that stretch you to your limits.
Getting enough sleep is a huge factor in self-care, as is eating healthy, personal hygiene, exercising, and taking breaks. Don't stop there though! Make time for other self-care activities such as yoga, meditating, therapy, painting journaling, nature walks, and other activities that relax and rejuvenate you. An hour of self-care can go a long way toward helping you stay focused on important projects when you are working. Self-care is essential to your long-term success both personally and professionally so stop feeling guilty about it and start indulging in self-care.
6. Stop Checking Emails
If this statistic seems a bit shocking, it should... the average number of business emails sent & received per day in 2019 was 126. That's nearly 50,000 emails per year! Like most business owners, you likely lose emails, information, and opportunities as a direct result of receiving so many emails yet not deciding to act upon them. Scanning through emails, many of which are unwanted, and leaving many of them to deal with “later” or perhaps “cherry-picking” which emails to respond to results in greater stress, cluttered inbox, missed emails and opportunities, and overlooked tasks. Checking emails throughout the day is a costly mistake.
Stop checking your emails and start processing them instead. Schedule a block of time each day to process your emails which means taking action on each and every email the first (and only) time you open it. If your lack of effective email management has caused chaos and stress in your business and life, check out my Conquer Your Email Masterclass which will help you process your emails like a pro, organize your hot mess of an inbox, and take back control of it once and for all!
7. Set Business Boundaries
If family and friends are interrupting you throughout your workday and preventing you from moving your business forward, the problem is your lack of boundaries. If clients and employees are interrupting your nights and weekends to discuss work matters, the problem is your lack of boundaries. Either you haven't set them or you're not enforcing them. Setting and enforcing business boundaries is easier than you might think and it actually increases others’ respect and thoughts about you over the long-term, not just in the moment, because they’ll know what they can always expect from you and will appreciate your consistency among other things.
Enforcing business boundaries improves relationships, gets you closer to achieving a work-life balance, enables you to manage your time better so you're less overwhelmed, and decreases stress, among numerous other benefits. One simple boundary you can start enforcing that reaps immediate rewards is saying no. Eliminating is essential to free yourself up to spend your time and energy on your high-value activities that move your business forward. As Warren Buffett wisely said, "The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people, is that really successful people say no to almost everything." Start saying no to activities that don't serve you, as well as communication that tramples your time boundaries like taking late night client calls and going back and forth via text with your friends during your workday.
8. Use Time Blocking
Time blocking is a powerful strategy that involves promoting focus by purposefully allocating chunks of time to completing a specific task or project. Essentially, time blocking means creating smaller, task / project-based goals for your time. If you don’t utilize time blocking, you may never 'find the time' to complete some of your high-priority tasks or projects so they wind up staying on the backburner until they fizzle out or keep begging your attention away from what you are working on. If you want something done, time block it on your calendar!
To effectively time block your high-value activities, identify the best times you have open in which you can get focused work done. That may be mornings when you have the most energy, right before your afternoon workout, or late at night when the kids are in bed. Plan out periods of around 60 – 90 minutes on your calendar and label them as the project or task name, then schedule all of your other, lower-priority tasks around those times. Hold those blocked-out times with yourself sacred because time blocking can only work if you stay committed to actually doing the work. To see the full benefit, you must hold the meeting with yourself as you would a meeting with your client, including following the rules of no phone calls, emails, internet surfing, or other distractions and interruptions.
9. Set Clear, Actionable Goals
If you don’t know where you are heading, every shiny object/project/opportunity/app/program will look like a great thing to spend your time on. You can steer clear of getting sidetracked by setting clear, actionable goals, aligning your activities to match, and staying focused on pursuing them. As Stephen Covey says, “You must begin with the end in mind.” That statement holds true for every project you undertake and every goal you set out to achieve.
Once you've created clearly defined goals for your small business, use the powerful goal setting strategy of taking them from good to better to best, then break them down into smaller, actionable milestones that you can actually wrap your mind around and ultimately achieve. Finally, identify what metrics you can use to track your progress and help you determine if you're being productive and staying on track toward your larger goal.
10. Choose To Be Productive
Being productive all comes down to this… making the choice to consistently invest your best time into your best activities! Many people think they’re either born productive or not, as if being productive is some sort of recessive trait like blue eyes. They think they can’t improve their productivity and they’re wrong. Being productive is a choice and contrary to popular belief, productivity is not about getting everything done! It is about getting done the activities that bring you closer to achieving your goals and vision of success, and anyone can do it! Prioritize your tasks so you can purposefully allocate the majority of your time and energy to your high-priority tasks – those which align with your goals, increase your profitability, and only you can do, then consistently make the choice to show up and complete them. That is true productivity.
When you invest your resources in the right activities, you will be more effective, more efficient, and reap the benefits of being more productive. Implement all of my Top 10 Productivity Tips For Small Business Owners, tweak them to work for your business and workflow, and consistently utilize them to also decrease your stress, grow your business, and free up time for the relationships, hobbies, and passions that make your personal life fulfilling!