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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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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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