Many people will have heard the saying, ‘Work ON your business, not IN it’.
In the small business world this can often feel impossible. There is never enough time in the day, is there?
We can tell you, it is at least possible to do more of the ‘ON’ than the ‘IN’.
BUT to do that, you need to make changes to how you operate on a personal level.
Here are 10 top time saving tips to help you carve out some extra time to do the projects and tasks that matter most.
1. Treat your business as your number one client or customer.
If you look after all of your other customers and clients and neglect this one, everyone will suffer.
Devote some time in your diary every week to working on your business. Schedule it early in the week, at a time of day where you have the greatest energy, and stick to it.
Start with a small amount of allocated time, and build up.
2. Plan and gain clarity of mind.
Be sure to spend a small amount of time each day – or even better the day before, just before you wrap up for the day -planning what you want to do.
Studies have shown every minute spent in planning saves ten minutes in execution.
There is also a massive mental benefit to having a clear idea of what to do next, using some of the tips below.
We’d also add, keeping a clear, neat and tidy workspace (digital and physical!) helps too.
3. Consider the 80/20 rule
The ‘Pareto Principle’ states that 20% of your efforts usually generate 80% of your results.
Your job is to work out which 20% of tasks are those special ones, and make sure they get done.
Consider if the task you are doing at any given time feels like one of the 20%!
4. Don’t procrastinate (put things off).
In our office, we love this great saying around dealing with unpleasant or difficult tasks:
Eat your Frog
Your ‘frog’ is the biggest, ugliest, hardest, most challenging (and probably the most important!) task you have to do at any given time.
Do this first and watch the impact it has on your day. Resist the temptation to clear up the larger ‘quantity’ tasks – stick to the ‘quality’ tasks first.
5. Break things into projects, and projects into ‘next actions’.
Sometimes owners will write ‘Launch Service X’ on their job list.
The problem is, to do this there are multiple stages to go through.
So, it can seem overwhelming.
The solution is to break it down into projects and actions.
Ask yourself, “What is the next action?’”
It could be:
- Draft service printed flyer
- Brainstorm ideas for service level options
That is the task to do – focus on next actions and watch as the project moves forward regularly.
There is a great book called ‘Getting things done’ by David Allen that has a few methods for use on this concept.
6. Eliminate interruptions and ‘double handling’.
In an ideal, efficient world, you only pick up a task once and work until it’s done. Anything less than this is inefficient.
In reality often this is not possible, but you can aim for it.
To do this, you need to focus.
- Set aside the required amount of time for the task.
- Put your phone onto DND (do not disturb).
- Close your emails and resolve to only look at these things after your allocated time.
- Tell your team (if you have one) you are available to speak after X time.
Studies show it takes around 25 minutes to really get back ‘in the zone’ after an interruption.
7. Avoid other people dictating your day and task list.
If you allow interruptions all day, whether that’s in person or electronically, you will not achieve what you want. You will be driven by other people’s agendas.
Now it’s obviously important to give your team, clients and other stakeholders your time, but your aim should be to decide when that is.
Email, and other messaging apps (Slack, WhatsApp, etc) can be a massive thief of time. Set times of the day to check them and resolve to only look at them at that point.
If you have team members, also try to avoid loading your job list up with their tasks. This is a hard one to explain, but there is an amazing book called “The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey” . In this short book, author Ken Blanchard explains how to avoid this problem, and spot when it’s occurring.
8. Avoid meetings that don’t need to happen, or that go on too long.
Have a solid agenda before any call or meeting. Consider two key questions:
- What is the outcome we need from this meeting
- What do we need to decide?
Ideally, pick a time for the meeting or call where it can’t overrun. Also remind everyone at the beginning what time is available.
If the meeting could have been an email, or just between a few people in the room – don’t hold it in this way!
There are some great books by Andy Bounds on the subject of having better meetings, and generally communicating better.
9. Get a pad for those ideas that come to you.
If you are practising focused, task-oriented, deep work style time, you are likely to have things pop into your mind as you do this. These might include other jobs, unfinished home tasks, etc.
Have a pad to hand to capture them on and set aside time to assess this latter. You want to keep your focus without starting to devote brain power to other things.
10. Audit your time.
There is a simple and powerful tool to use to track your time daily. Forget expensive tech, all you need is a simple pen/paper grid. Write down roughly what you did every 15 minutes throughout the day. This can really help you understand where you are spending your time.
Do this for a while and look back at it . You ‘ll often start to realise where you are ‘leaking’ time from your day. You may also spot that there are certain tasks you could actually outsource to a member of your team (or a freelancer).
The time to act is now
There we have it – 10 time saving tips to help you carve out more productive time to work on your business!
Good luck with the journey, and let us know if you found any of these tips helped impact on your day.
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