Want to make 2017 your best year yet? January is a natural time to eliminate old habits that aren’t working for you and replace them with new ones that will power up your effectiveness. Here are 8 productivity tips guaranteed to turbocharge your business this year.
1. Figure out when you’re most productive. As a small business owner, you have more leeway than most to work when your energy levels are highest. Sometimes that’s obvious—for instance, maybe you’ve been an early riser your whole life. Other times, you may need to track your energy levels to pinpoint your most productive times of day. Try checking in every few hours and jotting down how you feel for a week or so. Once you see a pattern, you can plan your day to do intense work, like meeting with prospects or writing proposals, when you’re most energetic and less important tasks, like replying to email or monitoring social media, during your down hours.
2. Mix it up. No one is at their most productive sitting at a computer for hours on end, but that’s how many of us spend our days. Mix it up (and get blood flowing to your brain) by adding physical activity. Try getting up and stretching or walking around to chat with your team every 45 minutes to an hour. Or combine exercise with work by holding standing or walking meetings, using an adjustable or standing desk, or incorporating regular “stretch breaks” into your staff’s workday. The opposite applies, too: If you spend most of your day on your feet rushing around, take regular short breaks to sit down and chill out for a few minutes.
3. Carve out uninterrupted time to work. Constant meetings, questions from employees and interactions with others eat into every small business owner’s productivity. If you want uninterrupted time to focus, get creative. Some business owners work at home for the first hour or two of the day before heading in to the office. Others arrive early while the office is still empty and before the phones start ringing. If you’re a night owl, staying late can work, too.
4. Break it down. Big projects can be productivity killers. If something seems overwhelming, it's natural to procrastinate. Start small by breaking massive projects or tasks into tiny, incremental steps. For instance, you can start as small as "Identify one person who might be able to help with this" or "Find out which city office to contact about permits." Do one step a day. The further into it you get, the less intimidating the project will seem--in fact, you may even get excited about it.
5. Kick the email addiction. Yes, we all need email, but we don’t need to respond to every “ding” that comes in like Pavlov’s dog. Try setting regular times to check email, like every 2 hours, or in the morning, after lunch and at 5 p.m. If you need to be more responsive than that, use filters to sort out important emails (such as those from clients or prospects) and respond to those right away, leaving others for later. You can also save a lot of time by reducing your staff’s reliance on internal email. Can something be resolved faster by picking up the phone or walking down the hall than by starting a chain of “reply all” emails? The fewer internal emails there are, the more productive you’ll be.
6. Forcibly eliminate distractions. Multitasking is part of modern life, but it creates a lot of distractions—and sometimes you have to get tough on yourself. When your willpower is weak, enlist apps like Rescue Time and Freedom, which let you block distracting apps or sites for times you specify so you can focus. You’ll be surprised at how much time gain when you get rid of temptation.
7. Delegate. Most small business owners are reluctant to relinquish control, so they end up trying to do everything themselves. To be more productive, start small by delegating simple administrative tasks to employees or outsourced assistants. Think of your time as money: If paying someone $20 an hour to handle administrative chores frees you up to bring in $200 an hour on your core business, it’s well worth the cost.
8. Try a change of venue. Doing the same old, same old every day saps your motivation and creativity. At least once a week, mix things up by working from a different place—at home, the local Starbucks or taking your laptop to the greenbelt of your office park. New settings stimulate your senses and your brain, and you’ll find yourself re-energized and more productive.