As a small business owner you wear many hats: salesperson, accountant, marketer, administrator, designer, networker to name but a few. It can be exhilarating, but equally exhausting at times, so anything you can do to lighten the load should be welcomed.
By working smarter not harder, you’ll improve productivity, giving you a better work life balance, reducing the time spent on tasks you hate and giving you more time to spend on driving the business forward.
How to improve productivity in your small business
1. Delegate, delegate, delegate
If you run a small business it can be difficult finding people to take on some of your work. Indeed, you might feel reluctant to hand things over because you’re not convinced your staff will do the job as well as you. But here’s the thing – you can’t do everything. If you wish to grow your business at some point you’ll need to start trusting others with the work. And you might be pleasantly surprised when you do. Staff often feel more empowered when given greater responsibility and you get to manage your workload better.
If you don’t have staff, consider outsourcing some of the tasks you don’t like to third parties such as accounts or web design and management.
2. Set deadlines
It’s all too easy to avoid doing something if you know you have plenty of time, so set your own deadlines to encourage you to get it done. If you know the clock is ticking you’re far more likely to get on and finish the task in hand rather than putting it off until another day.
3. Organise your workflow
Creating lists and tracking how much time you spend on tasks can really start to give you an idea of where your time is going. You could start by creating a table divided into four with Important, Not Important across the top and Urgent, Not Urgent down the side – you then fill in your different tasks according to priority. Naturally, ones that fall into the important and urgent box need tackling first but ones that are in not important and not urgent can be left for a another day.
Workflow systems can also help you to organise projects, communicate with your staff and allow everyone to take ownership of what they’re working on. You can allocate time to different tasks, set reminders and keep everything on track in one place.
4. Say no to meetings
This can seem counterproductive, but consider whether you need to have a face to face meeting or whether a phone call or email would suffice. If a meeting is necessary, consider a standing meeting – it means people don’t get too comfortable, the points of discussion are dealt with much faster and people can get back to work more quickly.
5. Make the most of your commute
If you have a long commute on a train, use the time to update social media, prepare notes for a meeting or write a report – whatever needs doing. If you’re in the car and staring at a screen isn’t an option, then listen to business books while you drive or make some phone calls if you need to, hands free of course.
It’s not just the commute where you can utilise more time – this article is actually being written while my daughter has her swimming lesson! Remember, it’s amazing what you can achieve in an hour if you knuckle down and get on with it.
6. Automate your processes
Loads of time is wasted filling out forms or manually inputting data, but there is software out there which can rapidly cut down on your time spent on such tasks. HR management software can help you deal more rapidly with employee sick leave, holiday requests and staff rotas while accountancy software can streamline your invoicing and reconciliation processes. There are also systems for automating newsletters and managing your customer database.
7. Stop multitasking
You may think you’re a whizz at multitasking, answering the phone while tapping out an email and making notes on an upcoming project, but stop right there - it could be counterproductive. If you’re constantly trying to do six things at once you can’t devote your full attention to each task. Remember the saying, “Jack of all trades and master of none”? If you want to make sure you’re doing stuff properly, then concentrate on one task at a time, finish it properly and then move onto the next one.
8. Take a break
As a small business owner you may feel you need to be working all the time but sometimes this can lead to burn out and the you start to loathe the very thing you once loved. A break can do you the power of good, allowing you to return to work refreshed and ready to take on the challenge. Even if it’s only for an hour or two every so often, shut down the computer, switch off your phone and go and do something that you enjoy whether that’s taking a walk, reading a good book or enjoying some sport.