We’ve all heard it said that time is money, and when you’re starting up or running a small business this certainly rings true. Using your time, people and resources efficiently will go a long way towards keeping your business healthy, profitable and sustainable, as well as lowering your stress levels and making it all seem more manageable! It’s not rocket science, it’s about simple, practical things you can do to keep yourself and your team on track, but it does take intentionality, organization and commitment to integrate them into your workflow. Here are our top tips for tightening up your time management and boosting your productivity – and you can get started today:
1. Calendar Blocking
Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can make all the difference: plan out your time in advance. Obviously there will be some things that are out of your control, or tasks that crop up unexpectedly and need your attention, but as far as possible you should block out time in your calendar for each of your tasks and commitments, in order of priority, and protect this time. This takes practice and discipline, but there’s no doubt that it pays off.
Calendar blocking helps to keep you calm and focused, rather than feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount that needs to get done. It shows, visually, that there really is enough time in the day, week or month to do the things that need doing, or flags up the need to delegate or push back those tasks that are a lower priority, long before you reach crisis point.
2. Avoid Multitasking
One of the key benefits of blocking out your calendar is that it encourages you to focus on a single task at a time. While multitasking might sound like a shortcut to getting lots of things done in a short amount of time, it’s actually a far less productive and rewarding way to work.
Trying to do multiple things at once distracts you from getting individual jobs done, and done well. It’s also much more satisfying and encouraging to be able to check completed tasks off your list, and keeps you motivated. The problem with a day full of multitasking is that you might have very little to show for it when it comes to reviewing your to-do list at the end of it all, and apart from anything else that can be seriously demoralizing.
3. Know Yourself
When planning your schedule and blocking out your time, it’s crucial to be realistic. You might start out feeling super ambitious about how much you can get done in the coming days, but if you try and squeeze too much in or don’t allow enough time for each commitment, it’s only going to catch up with your tired, stressed and over-burdened self later in the week. It might look good on Monday morning, but you’re only short-changing yourself!
It also pays to think about your own, personal way of working. Some of us hit the ground running in the morning, while others take a bit more time to warm up. What times of day are you most productive and focused, and which time slots would be better suited to less engaging admin tasks? When would be the best time for meetings, discussions, collaboration and creativity? Plan your days around this to make best use of your time and your energy.
4. Check E-mails in Batches
Again, it’s a simple and elegant solution, but it’s also a real test of discipline. Rather than being permanently logged into your e-mails, set blocks of time aside for checking your mail in clusters. This way, you can update your to-do list and schedule in any new tasks in an organized way, in your own time, instead of fire-fighting your e-mails as and when they come in. Managing your e-mails in batches keeps you in control and helps to avoid that feel of rising panic every time you see a new notification, constantly diverting you from the task in hand. The same goes for following up on phone calls.
At the End of the Day…
The bottom line is that you can boost your productivity with just a handful of small changes, as long as you’re prepared to be intentional and disciplined. It also pays to take a few minutes at the end of each day to assess how things have gone, and what you can do better tomorrow. Do you need to re-organize your tasks to capitalize on your most productive times of day? What more can you do to minimize distractions? Evaluate, optimize and stick to the plan, and you’ll reap the rewards in no time.