If you’re anything like most entrepreneurs, you’re always on the lookout for ways to save time. A few minutes here, a shortcut there. A more efficient way to shave a few seconds off a task. All of this work that we put into time-saving strategies has to amount to something, right?
But maybe we’re looking at it all wrong. If you think about it, increasing your productivity isn’t just about finding ways to save time. Instead, it’s about saving time for a reason: to ensure that it’s put to the best use possible. Otherwise something else will just come up that’ll fill in that gap left by your time-savings. Guaranteed.
The question is: why do you want to save time? What could you be doing instead? How can you ensure that you’re getting the maximum return on your time?
The answer, of course, will depend on your goals, but for most business owners, it should be about finding ways to grow your business, or spending more time on crucial, high-level tasks. Things that will move the needle in some way.
With this in mind, let’s take a deep dive into some scheduling, time management, and productivity tips. In this guide, I’ll share some suggestions for goal-setting, prioritizing, and scheduling. Read on to see how you can set big-picture goals, create efficient systems, and ensure that you’re allocating your resources properly –to ensure you’re getting the most for your time and efforts.
Scheduling Tips to Increase Your Productivity
Ready to get things done? Let’s take a look at some scheduling tips that’ll help you to maximize your productivity.
Okay, first things first. Before you start looking for ways to save time or step up your productivity, you’ll want to get clear on what, exactly, you’re going to be doing with that free time; otherwise it’ll likely just get spent on some other task. So start setting your big-picture goals. What does your one-year plan look like, financially? How can you break that up into monthly, weekly benchmarks? What things do you need to do to reach those goals? These are the areas where you should focus your attention. The other, supporting tasks that don’t require your full attention can be automated or outsourced.
Prioritize Crucial Tasks
Once you have your goals established, you can start prioritizing. Start by identifying smaller tasks that are crucial for your big-picture goals. Then, find ways to allocate resources to them.
Think of the old business process analogy: if you put sand into a jar and then put rocks in the same jar, you limit the number of rocks because they won’t fit in. However, put the rocks in first and the sand flows all around them. So, the bigger, more important tasks should go first, then fit in the smaller things around them.
How do you know which tasks are most important?
One strategy I use is assigning a financial value to tasks. This means giving each task a revenue value based on how much revenue it brings in.
Note: This can include future revenue as well. With some things, like SEO, the returns aren’t immediate, but that doesn’t mean they don’t add value.
You can average these out to $10, $100, $1,000, $10,000, and $10,000+ tasks.
Chances are you’ll find that you spend a great deal of your time on the lower-value tasks, when ideally, you should be focusing on the high-value ones. If you find that the majority of your time is being spent on $10 tasks, these are the areas that you’ll want to address first. Consider eliminating or automating these things. For those $100 or $1,000 tasks, you’ll want to see if these are things that can be outsourced in some way. This allows you to spend your time on the bigger tasks, the ones that will really move the needle.
Reevaluate Your Schedule Regularly
Your goals, and your schedule, can be adjusted as-needed. Remember: your schedule should work for you, not the other way around. If something’s not working, change it. Reevaluate your schedule from time to time to ensure it’s still working.
Identify and Eliminate Time Wasters
If you want to boost your productivity, then be ruthless with time wasters. Either eliminate them, streamline the process in some way, or for some things –like mindless browsing on social media, keep them for downtime only. Firstly, you have to define what a time-waster is. They’re sometimes obvious, but not always.
Just make sure you aren’t eliminating things that others find valuable. One business manager who hated meetings, just eliminated them from his business. He then discovered that the meetings were not designed for him, but for his workgroups. So even though he was trying to run things more efficiently, he was actually wasting his team’s time with poor planning. This type of thing probably happens a lot.
There are many, many things that can often be streamlined in business. Morning routines, inefficient communication of new tasks, identification of problems, change in daily, weekly or monthly work practices, team building events, performance reviews, cleaning and repair, on-boarding new team-members, recruiting, and management scheduling, and more. The bigger your company, the more moving parts there will be, and more room for inefficiencies as well. Likewise, regular tasks should be streamlined. Just ensure the tasks you’re streamlining deserve your time and attention in the first place. For instance, when it comes to one-time or infrequent tasks or events, there’s not much point in spending an hour just to shave five minutes off the task.
Leave a Buffer in Between Tasks
Leave a time buffer in between tasks. This is a simple tip that can make a big difference when it comes your productivity. Cramming too many things in, and not leaving enough space in between different tasks means that you’ll be rushing from task to task. And if one runs over, you’ll struggle to get caught up.
Work in Time Blocks
“A 40 hour time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure.” – Cal Newport, Author of Deep Work
Working in time blocks every day can be a great method for getting things done. With this approach, you divide up your day into different sections of time and dedicate each block for a specific type of task. This approach allows you to really get into the zone when you’re working, rather than having to change from task to task, and risk constantly getting distracted. Also, when you’re single-tasking, instead of multi-tasking, your capacity for deeper work becomes greater as you’ll find it easier to stay focused.
To make this method work, be sure to prioritize your most important tasks, and group them all together into the same slot.
Try Task Batching
Task batching goes hand-in-hand with working in time blocks. With task batching, you group similar tasks together to finish them all at the same time. These tasks can then be allocated to time blocks. Tasks that can be batched easily include things like creating ad campaigns, emailing, invoicing, and meetings. Basic tasks, as well as high-level ones can both be batched, but you’ll want to ensure that you group tasks in a way that makes sense. For example, if you’re creating ads for different campaigns, it wouldn’t necessarily make sense to batch all of those tasks together, instead, you may want to group tasks that are related to each campaign.
Additional Productivity Tips
Of course, scheduling’s not the only way to save time. Here are a few other productivity tips that can help you to boost your productivity as well.
Use Tools That Actually Help
Amazing new technologies and products now appear overnight. But don’t feel as though you have to use each and every new one. Some are better than others and will fit your needs better. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but don’t waste time with tools that don’t actually help that much. If something’s not working, get rid of it.
Get Efficient With Your Communication
When it comes to managing teams, there’s usually a way to make communication more efficient. Allocating a certain section of the day to answer emails and return phone calls can be a great way to batch communication tasks, helping to keep interruptions to a minimum. Likewise, when it comes to team communication, project management tools –like Asana and Trello, can help to keep everyone on the same page with what’s happening, without requiring extensive conversations every time something changes or there’s a new development.
Don’t Forget to Manage Your Energy
We often think that effective time management is all about scheduling things in, but more than having a solid schedule, it’s important to think in terms of energy management as well.
There’s no point in allocating high-level tasks to times of day where you’re going to struggle to get those things done. If you really want to amp up your productivity, then it’s a good idea to focus on assigning the most important, demanding tasks to those hours of the day when you’ll be performing at your best. Think: first thing (if you’re a morning person), post-workout, after lunch, or some other time of day where you tend to be at your best. You can fit in the admin work later, outside of your peak times.
It’s also crucial that you’re getting enough sleep and try to eat right as well. It’s been said a million times, but it’s true. We perform at our best when we’re not feeling run down.
Want to be more productive? Start outsourcing. Outsourcing is a great way to save time, but again, you’ll want to ensure you’re outsourcing tasks that actually add value in some way.
One of the best approaches that I’ve found is to ask the following questions:
Is this something that adds value to my company?
You’ll want to ensure it’s something that adds real value, or is a necessary part of business operations. So tasks like marketing, which adds value, should be prioritized. While necessary operations, like accounting, should as well.
Has the task been simplified?
Check to see if there’s a way to simplify the task, before outsourcing it. This is crucial for repetitive tasks, that your team will be doing on a regular basis and where time-savings can be multiplied. For one-time tasks, this step doesn’t really matter. Simplifying will save you time and money in the long run. Maybe there’s a process for doing the task more efficiently or a program that will automate it. Check first.
Can this task effectively be outsourced?
Or is it something that requires your attention? All extremely high-value tasks should be left to you. Or, broken down into smaller processes and those tasks outsourced.
Then start outsourcing. Consider enlisting the help of a VA for general tasks, like admin, customer support, bookkeeping, payroll, marketing tasks, and more. A good VA can help to make life much easier, and is a great option for outsourcing a number of different tasks. Learn more about WHEN you should be outsourcing.
Get Some Downtime In
Finally, make sure you’re getting some downtime in as well. There’s no point in working around the clock every day, running yourself into the ground. Instead, pencil in some free time to unwind. You’ll find that your best ideas will often come on your days off, so it’s worth taking the time to charge your batteries, and getting some much needed R&R. With this approach, you’ll find you’ll be more focused, energized, and ready to return to work again. Likewise, try to stop to take five or ten-minute breaks throughout the day as well.
At the end of the day, these productivity tips are just that, suggestions. To get the most out of a list like this, just go through and find the ones that work for you, and then ignore the ones that don’t. And if you already have a great routine that’s already working for you, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
Looking to save more time? Hiring a VA is a great way to outsource those time-consuming yet important tasks. A VA will help you get more done and enable your business to operate efficiently. Get started today.