I’m frequently asked about productivity. My clients are often desperate to be more self-disciplined, less “lazy” (their word, not mine), and want to know how to get more work done in less time. As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you wear so many hats and have so many things to do, it often seems overwhelming. As a result, some just give up, while other work non-stop, perpetually feeling like they’re drowning. Today, I’m offering several strategies that you can easily implement so that you can stop feeling lazy, start getting more accomplished, and, as a result, increase your income.
1. Step away from judgment.
Something I see frequently is that when people finish the day and haven’t accomplished as much as they’d hoped to or planned to, they end up judging themselves. “I’m so lazy!” “How can I be so inefficient?” are common thoughts and statements. Often, we are our own harshest critics, and this kind of thought process can lead to some substantial, mindset-related roadblocks to your success. In fact, judging yourself harshly can impact your confidence and self esteem, which are factors that heavily influence the likelihood that you will succeed in your business. So the first thing I recommend is to stop judging yourself so harshly and give yourself a break.
2. Make a decision.
There’s one decision that is more important than any other. It’s the decision that you are going to make your business work, no matter what. That means you make the decision to put in whatever effort is required to make your business a success. This decision is paramount to taking your business to the next level. Make this decision once and you’ll start thinking differently about your time. Each decision will flow from this one moment. As a result, you’ll start to notice that you handle your time differently and are more productive.
Now let’s get into some “nitty gritty” solutions that are less mindset-oriented and more practical:
3. Examine the current state of affairs.
It’s crucial that you know where you currently stand. Keep a time journal for one week and see where the bulk of your time goes. Track everything you do and how long it takes, and include the time spent checking e-mail, surfing the internet, and watching TV. At the end of the week, examine the current state of affairs. What are you spending the most time on?
Next, ask yourself what things are you spending time on that you don’t need to spend time on, or that you can eliminate? And what things can you do more of? Note that the things you do more of should be income-generating, and you should try to do less of the things that don’t bring in money.
4. Eliminate “time clutter.”
As you examine your time journal, look for time leaks and time clutter. Time leaks are when you spend a little bit of time here and there, not realizing that those little bits of time add up to a big chunk. For example, you may see that you spent a few minutes checking e-mail or the internet several times throughout the day. If that’s the case, add up those minutes and see how much time it accounts for. Say you spent 15 minutes checking your e-mail or surfing the web every hour (this is not uncommon, so don’t be too surprised if you see this in your time journal). That little 15 minutes actually adds up to two hours in the course of a workday. If you just checked your e-mail once in the day, it probably wouldn’t take two hours. Check it twice, and you might only spend a total of 30-45 minutes on e-mail.
Time clutter, on the other hand, is when your time gets cluttered with personal tasks that are irrelevant to your work, and this can suck a lot of productivity out of your work. For example, the internet can be a powerful piece of “time clutter.” When you track your tasks in your time journal, make sure when you record web surfing that you notate what type of surfing you’re doing. If you were, for example, searching for information for a client, that’s “work surfing” versus “personal surfing” (i.e. watching a funny video on YouTube or chatting with a friend on Facebook). Isolate what you’re doing and when and figure out if you’ve got time leaks and/or time clutter, then figure out how to plug the leaks and tidy the clutter, and you’ll be amazed at how much more productive you can be.
5. Incorporate systems and tools.
What systems that are working do you have in place currently? What systems aren’t working? What kinds of tasks trip you up and seem to take the longest? What tasks are you avoiding that really need to get done? This is a good time to start incorporating systems and tools to help increase your productivity.
Research systems of time management to see what works best for you. For some, the Franklin Covey planner system works brilliantly. For me, this is one of the hardest things to manage – I find that I spend more time planning than I do working – but I know many people find it to be a phenomenal program. Tony Robbins’s Rapid Planning Method is another great system people like. For me, it’s as simple as the saying on a little cross-stitch wall hanging that I inherited from my mom: “Eat a toad first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day.” Whenever possible, I do my toughest task first, and then the rest of my day is a breeze. My point, however, is that there are many, many systems, and none is one-size-fits-all. So try out a few and see what works best for you.
Do you spend a lot of time on Twitter, trying to build your web presence? Use TweetLater or HootSuite, tools that allow you to schedule your tweets up to a year in advance. Write all your tweets for the month in an hour and schedule them ahead of time, and you’ll save a lot of time. There are other great social media tools you can use as well to enhance your productivity. Use GizaPage to organize all of your social networking platforms into one location, so you aren’t constantly logging into multiple sites.
6. Outsource wisely.
What kinds of tasks trip you up and seem to take the longest? What tasks are you avoiding that really need to get done? These are often the tasks that are the hardest, the ones you don’t do as well, and the ones that aren’t as interesting. And many of these tasks can be outsourced at a very reasonable rate. As I recently noted in my e-zine, the economics of outsourcing make it a wise, economical choice for many business owners. Let’s look at the math: Say you charge $100/hour to work with your clients. If you worked 40 hours a week, you’d earn $4,000 a week, right? Except that you can’t generate $100/hour for all 40 hours in a week, because you’re doing non-income-generating activities like updating your web site, accounting, marketing, etc. So you’re lucky if you’re working with clients 20 hours a week, which means you’re probably earning $2,000 a week.
What if you could hire someone who could manage most of these tasks, and what if you could hire someone who charged less than you do per hour? If it only took you two hours a week to manage this person (or multiple persons), you actually could work at income-generating activities 38 hours a week, increasing your revenue to $3,800/week. And since you’d hire someone who does these things every day, they could probably do in 5-10 hours what takes you 20 hours to do. Find the right person and you’ll pay far less than your $100/hour rate. So instead of 20 hours of your time and about $2,000 out of your pocket, it would take 2 hours of your time and would cost you about $200.
Going back to the $3,800 you earned in this example week, if it cost you $200 to get that work done, you’d still pocket $3,600, and that’s $1,600 more than if you did all that work on your own. Can you see how outsourcing doesn’t just save you money, it actually helps you earn more money?
Important note: You actually have to spend the time you free up working with clients, or the math doesn’t pan out. If you pay someone $200 to manage your business tasks, but still only work 20 client hours, now you’re making $1,800 per week and you’ve lost money. However, if you outsourced to free up your time so you can spend more time with your family, then you’ve accomplished your goal. Know what your goal is and why you’re outsourcing before you do it!
If you want to increase your productivity, make a decision to do so, stop judging yourself harshly, and start implementing systems, tools, and outsourcing to improve your productivity. Meanwhile, reduce time leaks and time clutter and you won’t believe how much you’ll accomplish!