Running a small business is all about using your limited resources to the best possible effect. In many cases, small businesses aren't small because they have failed to grow, but rather because the business itself demands small local venues and a tight-knit staff. This means that even if you branch out to new locations, each individual location will be its own small business in a chain. And if there's one thing every small business owner and manager needs, it's more time. Unfortunately, those 24 hours in the day are a sticking point and we won't be seeing a 25th hour any time soon so the only recourse is simply to become more efficient.
We know, it's tough to think about speeding up when you're already doing a million things every day but today we're here to bring you just a few tips that might help you to relax, focus, and get more done within your limited work hours.
1) Check Email At Specific Times During the Day
You might be surprised just how much time can be eaten up by checking your email and thinking of polite little responses to business communications or reading automated articles sent to your inbox. The problem is that you're not stream-lining this time and several more minutes than necessary can pass before you realize that there are other tasks to take care of.
Rather than checking your email every few minutes or being ready to intercept when one lands, set aside two to four times during the day where you check your email. During these times, check efficiently, read quickly, and answer messages without agonizing over the wording. This will keep you up-to-date while also cutting your email time to a fraction of its former time sink.
2) Write Down Priority Tasks Every Day
Many small business owners, managers, and even employees struggle with knowing which tasks to take care of first. Running a small business, there could be a dozen waiting for you each day and getting them all done may seem like a Sisyphean effort. However, with a little focus and prioritization, you should be more than capable of either meeting your goals or defining exactly where your time and ability are lacking in order to find a solution.
Each day when you come in to work, make a complete list of your priorities, then pull the top five most important or urgent from that list to work on. When you complete these, come back to the list and pull the next five. This will keep your mind and agenda focused.
3) Start Time Tracking to Improve Focus
Another way that small businesses tend to lose time is simply to not knowing where the time goes. A few minutes of chit-chat here, a few minutes of surfing the web there and the day can slip away with many tasks left undone. A great way to improve your focus and the focus of your team is to choose a time tracking platform and start tracking tasks duration and completion with timers.
A great approach here is to use the combined free/inexpensive online resources of Toggl and Trello, two very useful small business tools that cost little to nothing to make a business account and manage your employee tasks through them. By timing each task, you and your team won't want to 'stray' so much from the project at hand in order to show a more accurate and complementary time to completion.
4) Optimize Productivity Zones
Finally, it's alright to acknowledge that everyone has their own unique priority zones. These are times and phases of the day where a person is at their most productive, functional, and really getting into their work. This generally lasts between one and five hours for most people and may be at a different point in the day for any given employee. Don't be shy about productivity zones, encourage them, including the night owls who might be able and willing to get some work done at home if you have a remote-friendly collaboration system in place.
If you have a mostly morning-powered crew, make sure there's a good breakfast, the right kind of music, and the right temperature for the team's best work. If you have a mostly after-nooners crew, consider catering lighter lunches to keep everyone fresh and focused during the latter part of the workday.
For more small business strategies, check out Act!Now, the center for empowering SMB growth.