How can we work smarter, not longer? Sinead Hewson gives us 5 productivity hacks for small businesses in a hybrid world.
Pick techniques and tools that are right for you and your business. Consider where you are in your business then list what you are spending your time on. If significant chunks of time do not contribute towards securing, growing or retaining business, ask ‘is this the best use of my time?’ Then examine the option of automating, delegating or deleting the task and pick the appropriate tool/action for the job. Useful tools for automation include: Canva Pro Scheduler for social media, and KEAP for small business client management and engagement. Keep it simple when starting out, a well-designed excel sheet tracking client projects, invoicing and business expenses is enough.
Turn notifications off/switch to silent/unsubscribe and allocate chunks of time to go through emails, eat lunch, stretch and work. Treat technology as a business enabler. This means that you do not have to immediately respond to requests and you can complete your other work first. If it is genuinely urgent, the client will find you. Stop reading for a moment – switch off notifications on your computer and phone that no longer serve you.
In general, our time is spent between work/business/family/caring responsibilities and ourselves. Focus on what you can do each day. Just before you sleep, acknowledge what you have achieved that day. Simplify your actions into what is important vs. urgent. It is easy to focus on what is not working and in fact, small business owners often operate within a Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) paradigm. In recent times a movement focused on the JOY of Missing Out has emerged, where for example, reflecting on a project you did not secure creates space to refine business acquisition tactics and/or better opportunities. Be kind to yourself – small business ownership is a way of life, enjoy the freedom it brings – for example choosing when to work and when to take time off.
Gain productivity by leveraging tools, techniques and resources to aid your work and keep you focused. For example, Focusmate can act as an informal accountability partner. Users book a 25-minute or 50-minute chunk of time via the platform and use the time to start, complete or continue a task. It’s a useful resource to keep on track with projects and complete (rather than simply start) tasks.
Focus on the important thing first. This exercise may help.
1. Get a pen and some blank pages.
2. Write down ALL of the things that you have to do on one or more blank pages.
3. Divide one of the pages into four and allocate one of the headings into each panel. URGENT; IMPORTANT; PLANNED; AD-HOC
4. Review and edit the list of tasks. Decide if the task is urgent, important, planned or ad hoc.
5. Allocate the task under a specific heading.
6. Take a break then review the list again.
7. Consider the following:
a. What do you want to achieve?
b. What’s the purpose of your work?
c. What can you delegate?
d. What can you ignore or dump?
e. What one action will make a huge difference to your level of performance?
Note: On first glance, the list may look chaotic. Review the actions and their purpose, rewrite and chunk the list into smaller, more manageable pieces. When the to-do list flows, you automatically perform at a higher level.
8. Rewrite the list, and allocate space in your diary for urgent, important, planned and ad-hoc tasks. Tip: set the completion date 2 days before the real due date, this takes the pressure off meeting deadlines. Google Tasks is a simple way to capture tasks; it’s free and easy to use.
Sinéad Hewson is a consultant and subject matter expert who is focused on communication, co-opetition, group dynamics and transformative mind-sets. (www.tpebo.com) Based in the Netherlands, she is a long-standing member of WBII and the Dutch Start up Mentor community. She sits on the advisory board of WBII and is a trustee of mental health charity turn2me. Sinead speaks internationally and lectures in Webster University Leiden.