13 Productivity Hacks For Small Business Owners
As a small business owner, you have limited resources compared to your larger counterparts. And this can make it challenging to run your business in the way that you want to. Especially when you have tight deadlines to meet and lots of targets to achieve. This is why it is important to make sure that you are using productivity hacks wherever you can.
Productivity hacks for small businesses
Whether it’s a team of 2, 5, or 10, or a solo operation, maintaining productivity is the best way to ensure that your small business’ bottom line is met. So to help you keep your productivity up all throughout this year, we’ve put together some productivity hacks for you to try out.
#1 – Set goals that are SMART and process based
The SMART system allows you to set up goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timeframe-based. These are exactly the kind of goals that will help you improve your productivity.
That’s because process-based goals motivate people to take steps to achieve them on a daily basis. When you just have outcome-based goals, it’s much easier to get discouraged because you’re not recognizing and celebrating the steps along the way. And the outcome seems so far away and unattainable.
When you base the aspirations that you have on these ideas, you will have a much better chance of achieving your goals. And remember, if your goals are only in your head, that’s just not enough. It is important that you physically write them down and then discuss them with trusted advisors and/or colleagues who can also add in objective perspectives. Writing goals down makes you 42% more likely to actually achieve them.
#2 – Remove tedious tasks from your daily to-dos
There are undoubtedly many tasks that you want to complete on a daily and a weekly basis that you don’t get around to. In some cases, it’s because the tasks are so tough or tedious that you procrastinate. And in the cases of the tasks that you get done without delay, it’s often because you truly enjoy getting into them. But no matter what, if a task is tedious and isn’t getting you results that justify the use of your time, you are better off finding other ways to get it done.
First, make a list of all the tasks that you want to complete in a week. Then go through each one and consider if they are all essential and time sensitive. For those which are essential and time sensitive, look at delegating them. For those which are not time sensitive, but still essential, add them to a list to consider the following week. And for those which are ultimately not essential or time-sensitive, you’re better off eliminating them.
Don’t have enough capacity within your team to delegate? You can consider hiring an assistant, or even signing up for a virtual assistant service to help you out. If you do happen to have employees you can delegate to, make sure that you are delegating tasks based on who can complete them most effectively. For instance, you don’t want to be asking your marketing superstar to get bogged down with admin or operations work if you can help it.
#3 – Prioritize tasks every single day
Building on your weekly planning, you’ll want to create daily task lists as well. This will help you stay on top of shifting priorities. Before you start working each day, write out your to-dos. If possible, put pen to paper or if you prefer to go digital that works too. Keeping in mind the amount of time you have available, create a list of all the different tasks that you need to get done.
Now even though you’re creating this list with time constraints in mind, chances are you’ll overestimate what you can get done. So, take a few minutes to consider how long each task will take. And to rank your tasks in order of priority. Sure they’re all important but there are some tasks that you have to get done first. And by taking this step, to rank the items on your list, you’ll be able to feel good about what you can get through each day. Because you know you’ve dealt with your most pressing matters.
Here’s the order in which you’ll want to prioritize your tasks:
- Important and time-sensitive tasks
- Tasks that are time-sensitive but not important
- Important tasks that are not time-sensitive
- Tasks that are not important or time-sensitive
#4 – Build up a network of advisors and resources
If you have a small business, you’ve likely got a very lean team. Building up a strong network of individuals and organizations that you can turn to for advice, and assistance will be the gift that keeps on giving.
At the same time, it also allows you to support other business owners and strengthen your relationships with them in the process. This kind of mutually supportive network has practical benefits and psychological ones too. Being an entrepreneur is gruelling work. And knowing that you’re not going it alone can go a long way.
If you’re not an extrovert, it can seem a little unnerving to reach out. But in doing so you’ll come to see that there’s a ton of people navigating the same challenges as you are. And that there’s valuable opportunities to learn from their experiences and to share your own.
Try searching for professional organizations related to your niche, LinkedIn and Facebook groups, that you can participate in and learn from. And it can also go a long way to follow industry experts on their various social media profiles and to sign up for their webinars or email lists. With these various tools at your disposal, you’ll be able to more easily find the solution or services you need each time you find yourself in a pinch.
#5 – Time management apps can increase efficiency
Don’t want to download another app? Hear us out. Time management apps can be very effective at helping you plan out your days. And also get a sense of what went according to plan and what did not, so that you can course correct and adjust going forward.
As a small business owner, there’s a ton of different things competing for your attention. It’s all too easy to get distracted by all the notifications you receive. And before you know it, you’ve lost an hour.
Or consider how your time can get mismanaged when dealing with a new challenge or opportunity. It’s often when people aren’t familiar with a task that they underestimate how much time they’ll need to allocate to it.
By measuring your time you can become well-versed in how long different tasks take you. And you’ll be able to set aside the appropriate amount of time, including buffers. The same goes for managing staff. When you have a sense of how long it takes them to get through different tasks, you can delegate to them more effectively.
#6 – Batch your tasks
One of the things that can eat up a lot of your time is going back and forth between the tasks that you have to get done. It may make you feel like you’re covering more ground but you’re really not. It can actually cost you as much as 40% of your productivity. By focusing on one task at a time, whenever possible, you will be able to set up a consistent rhythm and flow and also finish the tasks that you have allocated for the day faster.
This is why batching tasks is a very effective approach. For instance, let’s say that on an average day you have to deal with handling emails from your customers, packaging and shipping out products that have been ordered, and organizing and implementing your social media marketing. You could very well just prepare each item for shipment as sales come through. Or answer each and every email as they land in your inbox. Or even check your social media once every hour to post more content. But why would you when there’s a better way?
Just batch these to-dos out. Allocate dedicated chunks of time to each throughout your day so that you’re regularly getting through batches of them. Choose the particular time of day based on what makes the most sense, and creates the biggest impact. For instance, responding to emails early in the day, midway through, and then at the end, can be a helpful way to stay on top of communications with your customers. Meanwhile, your social media posts could be planned and scheduled in advance.
#7 – Try hiring a virtual receptionist
Even if you don’t already realize it, tasks like taking calls and speaking with your customers on a daily basis, can actually take up a lot of your time. Yes it’s valuable to connect with customers firsthand, but it’s also a task that can keep you from many other priorities.
A virtual assistant not only saves you time, but can also make a great impression on your customers, making your business seem professional and credible. And the use of a virtual receptionist can actually increase the efficiency of staff by 21%. Since they’ll be freed up to tackle other tasks without interruptions, your team members can start really playing to their strengths.
Another plus is that virtual assistants can be a very cost-effective solution for small businesses as well, as they typically are much more affordable than hiring a full-time staff member. All in all, a virtual assistant can help increase your teams’ capacity so that you can scale your operations successfully.
#8 – Being healthier & happier makes you more productive
We all know this, and yet it seems like such a difficult thing to tackle. Prioritizing your health and happiness is incredibly important to the success of your business.
Highly successful entrepreneurs maintain their physical and mental health at an optimum level. They get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and work out. They also make sure that they are managing their stress levels and allocating time to spend with their family and friends.
Now this may sound impossible to achieve all in one go. And it is. But you can break down the processes involved into small, realistic steps that you can take daily, weekly or monthly. And over time, as you build momentum, you’ll be able to make bigger strides. So don’t go signing up for a marathon just yet if you’ve been thinking about running. Start off by jogging for 5 minutes each day for a week. Then add a bit more time as you feel up for it.
Alongside crossing off the to-dos for your business, it’s important that your self-care is non-negotiable as well. Preventing burnout is a lot easier than going through it. So do your best to invest in yourself, especially when you can feel your physical or mental health declining.
#9 – Holding yourself accountable – for the good and bad
As the owner of a business, you’re probably hardest on yourself about how effectively you’re reaching your goals or completing tasks. And chances are you’ve already got a system in place for tracking all of this. But it can get really easy to simply check off boxes and not dig a little deeper.
Try doing regular evaluations (weekly, monthly, and/or quarterly) to recognize and celebrate your successes. And to look for areas that need to be improved so that you can invest in the relevant resources. If you’re working with a team, be sure to put in a process like this for your team as well. A portion of this can be delegated to them, to monitor their own progress. And a portion of this could involve regular 1:1s to make sure that things are progressing as you need them to.
Recognizing wins, big and small, and opportunities to learn and improve will keep you and your team feeling productive and motivated. If you simply jump from one task or project to the next, and keep setting your sights higher without acknowledging how far you’ve come, your morale can really take a hit.
#10 – Start the day with something that makes you smile
Now we did say that you should start your working day with your to-do list to help you prioritize. But right now we’re talking about how you start your day overall, before you jump into everything you need to get to.
It’s important to set the tone early, as there are days when you can wake up feeling like the weight of the world is on our shoulders. If you go from that straight into a tedious task, your motivation will likely be a lot lower than it could be. For you to give your best to your business, try to start your day with something that makes you smile and makes you feel purposeful.
This can be listening to a great podcast, reading a few pages of an inspiring book, dancing it out to some great music, getting a workout in, or doing a morning meditation for a few minutes. It doesn’t have to take a substantial amount of time, and you probably don’t have that option. It’s just got to help you shake off the day before so that you can move forward with clarity.
# 11 – Set up a solid workspace
Your workspace has a huge role to play in the levels of your energy and your productivity throughout the day. This is why working sprawled out on the bed or the couch is a bad idea even if you work from home as many of us do these days.
Setting up a positive and clean workspace is important to make sure that you can stay focused and effective. And ergonomic furniture is important to consider as well. A desk and a chair that give you enough support to work comfortably throughout your day are valuable investments to make. With the long hours that you put in for your business you run the risk of getting repetitive stress injuries otherwise. And when you consider the cost and time required to get yourself back to feeling 100%, being proactive becomes the clear choice.
A few other things to consider:
- Make sure that your space isn’t too hot nor cold, or look for workarounds if possible (e.g. space heaters for cold spaces, or fans or ACs for hot ones).
- Proper ventilation and natural light can also help you keep energized throughout your day. In the event that natural light isn’t possible to get an abundance of, try adding additional lighting. During the winter months this is especially helpful.
- Keep everything that you need to work easily accessible. And file things away that you don’t need often, but still need access too. Everything else is clutter and needs to go.
- Try to use different spaces for different purposes. If your workspace is also your break space, and eating space, getting focused when you need to can be tough. A few workarounds are possible though if you don’t have a choice. For instance, changing up the lighting and throwing on some music when taking a break or having lunch. And be sure to close your laptop and put away your phone for a better break.
#12 – Monitor, measure, adapt, repeat
To see the profitability and efficiency in everything that you do, it’s important to monitor, measure, adapt and repeat. When you monitor and analyze what you do on an ongoing basis, you will be able to clearly see if your actions are profitable and effective. Or if there are changes that need to be made. Here are some examples of this:
- By using Google Analytics, you can figure out which of your digital marketing strategies are actually driving traffic. And then you’ll be able to throw more resources behind those that are, and wind down those that aren’t.
- Try including unique coupon codes in your email marketing campaigns. This in turn will help you figure out how effective your email marketing is relative to your other campaigns.
- Retool your to-do lists and delegating process by assigning a value to each task that needs to be completed. By this we mean considering how much it costs vs how much it generates to complete a given task. This will allow you to see if it is worth it to delegate or outsource a process, or perhaps hire an additional team member.
#13 – Outsource your graphic design to Kimp
Sometimes, to stay productive, you’ve got to bring on additional resources to help you with your task lists. But for many small businesses, investing in specialized help is just too expensive. Hiring additional staff may not be possible. And constantly vetting and onboarding freelancers can be a frustrating, time consuming process as well.
This is where a subscription-based graphic design service like Kimp can help you out. You get to work with a dedicated team, pay flat monthly fees, and cancel any time your workload doesn’t require the additional support. With services that include graphic design, video design, or a combination of both, you can get all of the creatives that you need for your marketing campaigns in one place, from one team. To try us out and see if we’re right the fit for you, you can sign up for a 7 day free trial at www.kimp.io/
Keep hacking your productivity
Even with the best-laid plans and the clearest intentions, when it comes to execution everything can go off the rails. New challenges arise, old processes stop working, and maybe you’ve got to go through another learning curve. With so much to navigate as a small business owner, it’s important that you keep looking for productivity hacks to help you along. When all is said and done, it’s the business owners that work smarter, not necessarily harder, that crush the most goals.