Despite what The Rolling Stones say, time is not on your side. At least that’s how it feels for many entrepreneurs. According to a recent survey from The Alternative Board (TAB), the average business owner says they only have 1.5 hours of uninterrupted, highly productive time on any given day. No wonder that same survey discovered that 10 percent report feeling continuously overwhelmed by their workload.
Even if you aren’t bogged down with work, improved productivity can be a boon to your business. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cited by The Motley Fool, shows that 20 percent of businesses close in their first year. That number jumps to nearly 50 percent after five years. But if you can get more done, you might just beat those odds. Here are five simple tips to make the most of your workday.
1. Stay Focused
Many small-business owners pride themselves on being multitaskers. But according to the scientists who wrote “Why Multitasking Is Bad for You,” trying to do more than one thing at a time seriously limits our ability to perform either task well. Moreover, they say focusing on one job at a time may improve your ability to:
- Filter out irrelevant information.
- Learn new information.
- Make decisions.
Technology has a habit of pulling our attention in different directions, but it can also help us concentrate. For instance, the Chrome browser extension StayFocusd sets restrictions on certain websites (Twitter, anyone?). Once you hit your time limit on a site for the day, it restricts your access.
Bonus tip: Drink water during the day. Bloomberg cites a number of studies that show mild dehydration can impact productivity.
2. Limit Your Email
What happens when an email notification pops up on your screen? If you’re like most people, you turn from what you’re doing, open the app, and respond. Unfortunately, that’s probably the number one example of multitasking we warned you about.
Instead of breaking your concentration to reply to or delete email, you may want to:
- Turn off your notifications.
- Schedule a daily appointment for emails.
- Unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t need.
You can also use IFTTT to set up applets that organize your email. For instance, IFTTT can automatically…
- Save attachments to Google Drive.
- Send a notification for emails from a specific person.
- Sync emails with receipts, orders, and invoices to a spreadsheet.
3. Take Breaks
The headline on Science Daily says it all: “Brief Diversions Vastly Improve Focus, Researchers Find.” Taking breaks boosts concentration, and the Pomodoro Technique can help you reap the benefits. Developed by productivity company Cirillo Consulting, the system requires you to:
- Pick a project.
- Work on it (and only it!) for 25 minutes.
- Take a five minute break.
Once you’ve gone through these steps four times, you can do something else for 20 to 30 minutes. The key is to do something non-work related when it’s time for a break. That way you come back ready to tackle the next 25-minute block.
4. Delegate Responsibilities
You’re only one person. Expecting to do it all is simply unrealistic. So while relinquishing control might be a struggle, it’s definitely one way you can free up some time.
Granted, this isn’t exactly free, but the gig economy has made outsourcing non-essential tasks easier. Start by identifying the routine tasks that are either below your pay grade or outside of your skillset. Then head to a platform like Upwork to find a freelancer who can take it over. Chances are they can do it quicker than you, plus you’ll have more free time to do big-picture planning for your business.
Bonus tip: Make sure the freelancers have their own General Liability Insurance and Professional Liability Insurance policies. That way they can pay for physical damage they cause others and professional mistakes they make – not your business.
5. Control Meetings
Meetings can be very productive or a waste of time – it all depends on how they are structured. According to the TAB survey, 96 percent business owners think their meetings are more of the latter.
While it’s great that your employees get along, make sure everyone understands meetings are work, not social hour. Time is money, so establish a clear purpose for each meeting. Create an agenda and stick to it. And most importantly, redirect attendees’ attention when they stray off topic.
Even the most efficient businesses can get derailed when something goes wrong. Make sure you have small business insurance to help you efficiently handle whatever the future has in store.
About the Author
Virginia Hamill is a content writer for Insureon, an online small business insurance agency. She lives in Chicago, Illinois, with her pug Bogey.