Our Top 10 Productivity Hacks to Help You Get More Done in Your Small Business
Figuring out how to get "all the things" done might just be our biggest achilles' heel as small business owners.
It's easy to look at our never ending list of todos and feel anxious and overwhelmed at the thought of how we will ever get it all done. Along the way, April and I have learned a few tricks and hacks to getting more done so we can move our business forward towards reaching our goals.
Let me share with you a little secret about doing "all the things" right up front before we even dive in.
You will never get it all done.
I know, I know. Not what you wanted to hear.
Your list will never be completely wiped clean and you will never feel all the way done for the day. It's just part of being a creative business owner.
But what I will tell you is that even though you won't ever really get it all done, you can implement several strategies that will help you not only get more accomplished during your work day but also focus on the most important tasks that will help to make your business profitable and successful.
1. Brain Dump
Most of the time, overwhelm simply means that your brain is a jumbled mess of thoughts, ideas and tasks. The best strategy that I have learned to calm the chaos that seems to be rolling around in my head is to dump it all out on paper (or Evernote if that's your thing).
There's no right or wrong way to do this. Just dump every task, todo, strategy and non-sensical thought that is bouncing around in your head onto the paper.
I always end my work day with a brain dump of what I want to get done the next day (or even for the upcoming week on a Sunday night). I immediately feel better once my cluttered thoughts are down on paper. I can see things more clearly and can make an informed decision about what get's my attention and what has to wait for a later time.
2. Eat That Frog
Now that you have dumped everything that is rolling around in your head onto paper, it's time to decide what to tackle and in what order.
I call this process "eat that frog" based on Brian Tracy's wildly popular book Eat That Frog. Creative, I know. ;) This strategy will help you take all those things off your brain dump and put them into an ordered list that makes sense for your business.
The key to "eat that frog" is it focuse on tackling the hardest, most important tasks first. These are the tasks that are the easiest for us to procrastinate because they are usually the ones that push us outside our comfort zone. But they are almost always the tasks that will move us forward in our business and are the most important.
From your brain dump, place an A, B, C, D, or E next to each item on your list.
- An "A" item is something that is very important, something you must do to move your business ahead
- A "B" item is a task that you should do, but it only has mild consequences either way. Reviewing email would probably be considered a B task, depending on your business.
- A "C" item is something that would be nice to do but there are no consequences to your business success if they they get done or not. Calling or meeting a friend for coffee would fall under the C category.
- A "D" task is something you can delegate to someone else. The rule here is to delegate everything that someone else can do so that you can free up more time for the A tasks that only you can do.
- An "E" task is defined as something you can eliminate all together and it won't make any real difference. These may be tasks that you should have gotten rid of a long time ago but because of habit haven't done so yet.
Now that you have labeled every task on your brain dump, it's time to get to work immediately.
The key to making this method work is for you to discipline yourself to start immediately on your A tasks and then stay on each task until it is complete, not moving on to another task before hand. And...most definitely, not moving on to a B task until all of your A tasks are complete.
In essence, you have "eaten that frog", you have done the hardest, yet most important tasks first. Look at how productivity you are!
3. Batch Your Work
Batching your work simply means that you are clumping together all of the similar tasks and tackling them at the same time. Here are a few examples of business related items that can be batched together.
- Blog writing
- Writing email newsletters and sales funnels
- Social media posts
- Sending out invoices
- Checking email
- Creating products that you sell
Look at your list of tasks and decide what items can be batched together.
For example, instead of checking email each time a notification pops up, set aside a chunk of time in your day twice a day to focus on reading and responding to email.
4. Plan Your Work Day Around Your Energy Levels
Knowing when you are the most creative and have the most energy is crucial to hacking into your productivity. Plan your day around your highest energy levels. When are you the most creative? When are you the most focused and less distracted? When does your energy start to lag?
Knock out your "A" tasks during your highest energy times and leave your "B" level tasks (checking email and returning phone calls) for those times when your energy starts to lag.
5. Have Set Work Hours
Now that you have identified your highest energy times of the day, make it a point to work during those hours. My most productive work time is from 9-12 each morning so those times are blocked out on my calendar as "focused work time". During these high energy hours I am focused on knocking out my "A" level tasks. I also know that after lunch, I am less focused and my energy starts to lesson. That's when I focus on responding to email and hosting client calls to work on projects.
My best hack for sticking with your designated work hours is to put them on your calendar as a non-negotiable. Because you run your own small business, it can be easy to schedule doctor's appointments or lunch dates during your most effective work times. Consider blocking out Monday-Thursday for work and saving Friday afternoons for errands and appointments.
The key to this strategy is to schedule work time and schedule it during your most energetic and creative times of the day and week.
6. Have One Meeting Free Day Each Week
Interruptions and a lack of focus can be the biggest downfalls of controlling our time spent working on our business. What would it mean for your productivity if you have one day a week that you keep free of meetings and appointments.
My designated day of the week is Monday. I try my very best to protect Monday and keep it free of meetings and appointments. It is my day to crank out a ton of work projects and set myself up for success for the rest of the week. I know that if I am able to #crushMonday and mark a ton of tasks off my list on this first day of the week, I am high energy the rest of the week.
7. Create White Space on Your Calendar
Because you run your own business and are your own boss, it can be easy to let obligations and commitments sneak into your work time. If we aren't careful, we can say yes to too many things and find ourselves bogged down with commitments and our available focused work time is cut in half (or more).
White space is the available space on your calendar or schedule where you don't have other obligations. If you feel overwhelmed just by looking at your calendar, take some time to reflect on how you are spending your time, what you have said yes to that is adding overwhelm and stress to your life, and how much focused time you have saved to work on your business.
It might be time to say no to some things so you can say yes to your business more often.
8. Eliminate Distractions
One of the biggest challenges for small business owners is distractions. There is a misconception that as creative business owners, women in particular, we should be great at multitasking.
Think about the last time you sat down to tackle an important task for your business. Usually, like I talked about earlier, the hardest tasks are often the most important and the ones that we can want to put off until later. Did you find yourself checking Facebook, email and watching a stream of Instagram stories while you were "working" on that important business task?
In order to be the most productive and tackle the most important tasks in your business, it is important to head off the temptation to procrastinate by eliminating distractions.
Shut down Facebook, turn off email and hide your cell phone in the other room. Whatever is distracting you the most and allowing you to procrastinate, shut it off for the duration of the project you are working on. We love the Pomodoro Technique, which allows for some break time and helps us to stay focused on the task at hand, with a little bit of down (reward) time throughout.
9. Create an Inviting Workspace
Where you work is as important to your productivity as all the other hacks we have talked about so far. Your workspace should be designed to help you get work done. It should be a place that you are drawn to, a place you find inspiration and enjoy being in.
The environment in which you work is as important as the space itself. Choose colors, furniture, and decor that speak to your soul. Considering adding a house plant or two to bring life to your office. Your productivity will thank you!
10. Make Your Health A Priority
As a creative business owner, your health is usually the last thing on your todo list. But the right foods and exercise is key to your productivity. You might think otherwise, that you don't have time for a run or taking your favorite Zumba class at the gym. But even going for a brisk walk (up and down your long driveway like April does each day) makes a huge difference in your mindset, energy level and overall productivity.
The key to this hack is to actually value the time you spend with your own self care. What helps you recharge, gives you energy and keeps you healthy? Exercise, eating your fruits and veggies, reading a good book, etc.?
Whatever it is for you, make it a priority.
What are some productivity hacks that you use to up your game and get more done in your small business? Will you add some of our hacks to your list to tackle your todo list? Comment below and let us know what you think.
Rebecca Renfrow and April Williams are a collaborative team with 15 years of combined experience in growing their own brands through online marketing strategies. They now work with creative small business owners, taking pride in providing a very unique tailored approach to web site design, copywriting services, and branding needs of each business owner they work with.