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How to Be More Productive In Your Business

How to Be More Productive In Your Business

productive-dude

    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.

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    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?

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    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.

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    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.

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    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!

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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