Whenever we ask small business owners what they need help with most, they always say: I wish there was more time in the day.
We totally get it. But here’s the paradox: Making more time in the day requires time spent on building new habits and planning sessions.
So, instead of giving you a bunch of time-sucking strategies, we came up with 5 tiny tips that are super quick. Plus, they provide big time-savings gains.
Click to enlarge the infographic, and scroll down for more details and resources.
1. Go WWE on Busywork
Bogged down by little tasks that never seem to end? The truth is: They. Don’t. Ever. End. So here’s an easy way to ensure they don’t take over your entire day: Identify which busywork really gets you down, and wrestle it to the ground by setting time limits.
For instance, set aside two one-hour sessions for answer emails — maybe noon and 3 p.m. — and don’t go back to emails any other time of day. Maybe choose one day a week for a major task, like making bank deposits or entering payroll. It belongs to that day, and that day alone. And it doesn’t always have to be unpleasant. Maybe set aside Tuesdays for research and continued learning.
Once you’ve got your schedule set, let others know these are your rules, so they abide by them, too.
2. Do the #1 Thing First
According to Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog, 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, you must identify and focus on the one major thing that will have the most impact on your business. And finish this task first.
If there is more than one thing, eat the ugliest frog first. Do it quickly, before anything else. Don’t get sidetracked. Don’t stare at it. Don’t have another meeting, don’t talk about it, don’t make plans. Don’t worry about what the frog is gonna taste like. Just get to work.
Tracy suggests that you work for 90-minutes straight, then take a 15-minute break. Then start up another 90 minutes of work. Do this three times and then allow yourself to check email or voicemail. You’ll double your productivity, and probably won’t have missed anything.
3. Tech Is Not Your Master
Speaking of email and voicemail … and social media … and Slack messages. All these tools help you stay connected and in the loop. However, they do not run your day. According to the 2019 “Adobe Email Usage Study,” Americans check their work email three-plus hours a day and personal email two-plus hours a day. This comes out to around five hours per day checking emails. WHAT? No wonder time seems to slip away.
Show your smartphone, IM app and email who’s boss by simply turning them off while you complete your major tasks. Then take a few minutes for deep breathing or a quick walk in nature. Your mental health will thank you.
4. Just a Lil’ Daily Planning
OK, we promised no major strategy planning, but a little really will go a long way. At the end of every day, spend just 12 minutes creating a to-do list for tomorrow. Simple write down a list of everything you have to do. Every minute used on planning will save you 10 minutes when you’re actually completing the task. When you work from a list of tasks this way, you’ll gain 2 hours back per day, because you are not wasting time wondering what to do next.
Here’s a bonus from Tracy: Write down your goals first, then write down the tasks that will help you achieve those goals. A little bit of strategy and focus will ensure you’re not eating someone else’s frog.
5. Build on Tiny Habits
Stanford professor and author BJ Fogg, PhD really gets how the brain works … and overworks. So he mapped out how to use daily activities to create a mini reward system that builds great habits — and time savings. His book, Tiny Habits, The Small Changes that Change Everything, goes in-depth on how and why this works.
To break the concept down: Pick a daily activity, add a new activity to it (that takes less than 30 seconds), and give yourself a little celebration.
Fogg explained how he did this for a physical gain. Every time he used the restroom, he would do two push-ups, and then tell himself: You’re awesome! Over time, he added more and more push-ups and gained a lot of strength and felt really great about it. His books has hundreds of other examples.
So how could this apply to business life? Try this: After you finish a phone call, turn your phone off for 15 minutes, and give yourself a thumbs up. (And use that 15 minutes to accomplish a task from your to-do list.) Or try this: Whenever you open a webpage that you know you’ll need to revisit, bookmark it, and say, “Sweet!” You’ve saved yourself time later when you need to find it again. Over time, you’re training yourself to be more efficient and your new habits will become automatic.
How Thryv can help: We built our end-to-end client experience platform with busy small business owners in mind. The software helps you streamline time-consuming tasks like sending client emails, processing invoices, getting paid, requesting reviews, posting to social media and much more. Plus, many of these tasks can be automated, so you can set it, forget it, and focus on your big tasks for the day. Want to learn more? Request a demo today.