Starting a business can sometimes feel like running the wrong way up an escalator – you're putting in loads of effort but the 'to do' list just keeps growing, and you're still nowhere near the top!
Sound familiar? Then it might be time to look at how you can supercharge your productivity, to squeeze as much juice as possible out of your day. You'd be surprised by what a few slight changes to how you plan and manage your time can do for your output – and your business!
Here's our top productivity hacks to get you started:
Getting up early is one of the best ways to pack the most into your day, whether you use that time to exercise, catch up on emails or get some writing done. For many people, morning is when their brain is the sharpest so it pays to use this time wisely. Also make sure you factor in time for a nutritious breakfast, so mind and body are set for the challenges ahead.
Plan your day
As a great man once said 'failing to plan is planning to fail', so work out what you want to achieve every day you're working on your business. Sit down the evening before and outline your priorities for the following day, mapping out how long you need and even block out time in your diary to help you stick to it. Your daily schedule should be an extension of a larger weekly and monthly plan, which should ultimately reflect your business objectives. That way each day, you're sure to be making progress towards your goals.
Prioritising is key to your daily plan and you need to be ruthless! Take a look through your 'to do' list and identify the tasks that are actually going to move your business forward or, if you like, actually help make you money. These are the tasks you should focus the majority of your efforts on. Those necessary but non-business critical admin tasks can be pushed further down the list, delegated to another team member, or potentially outsourced. Anything else you might want to question why it's on your list at all. Also, think about your tasks in terms of effort and impact – those activities that will have the most impact for the least amount of effort are obviously no-brainers, so do them first!
Block out distractions
Recent research found that the average worker is distracted every three minutes, with alerts from our phones, emails, instant messaging services, social media, not to mention interruptions from actual real-life people! Over the course of the day, these little interruptions can add up to a big chunk of time and seriously impact your brain's ability to focus on the task at hand. So, to keep your brain where it should be, try scheduling in a couple of slots each day when you can check your messages, but otherwise keep them switched off. One tool you can try is a Chrome extension called Block Site, as well as using the airplane setting on your phone.
Take a break
It can be tempting to think the best way to get lots done is to slave away without a break, from dawn until dusk. But in reality this could be negatively impacting your productivity levels, as well as the quality of your work. All of us naturally need a break from time to time, so make a point of taking time away from your task every couple of hours, or whenever your mind starts to wander. Allow yourself a few minutes to focus on something else, whether that's going for a walk or chatting to a friend. Staring mindlessly at your computer screen will only make you miserable - and make your head hurt!
Maximise your peaks and minimise your troughs
Most of us know whether we're larks or night owls, so use this to your advantage. If you know you're most motivated in the morning, then do your most important tasks first thing; vice versa if you know you can't focus until later in the day. This means you can leave your easier, or less important, activities for when you're naturally feeling slightly less focused.
Group similar tasks together
A great way to save time is to 'kill birds with one stone', as they say, bunching various similar tasks together for greater efficiency. So if you need to make some phone calls, why not do them while in the car (hands free of course!), catch up on emails on the train, or if you have some errands to run, fit them in on the way back from a meeting. Again, this all comes down to planning, so think about when you might be able to double-up on activities when scheduling your day.
Cut out the meetings
Meetings can be a big time sucker, from the scheduling, rescheduling, postponing and rearranging of them in the first place, to waiting for attendees to arrive, and then managing any number of unnecessary tangents within the meeting itself. So try to reduce these down to the bear minimum, instead opting for a quick conversation or telephone call to agree activities as you need to. It means faster decisions and less time down the plughole.
Entrepreneurs can be control freaks but you also need to consider what you actually have to do yourself and what you can delegate or outsource to somebody else. You should be focused on the mission critical tasks of the day-to-day, as well as keeping one eye firmly fixed on the future strategy of your business and challenges just around the corner. So don't be scared to hand work over if you're getting bogged down. Your brain and your business will thank you for it!
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