Every home business owner knows all too well that 24 hours never quite seems to be enough time in a day. While you may start out with lofty goals, by the time that the clock strikes 6pm, you’ve only scratched off a handful of tasks.
And most home business owners have almost certainly perused their fair share of articles about how to be more productive, from cutting out distractions, reducing multitasking, and, dare we say it, waking up earlier.
The common denominator in those articles is, of course, creating more time. But many of these popular articles fail to mention how to get things done faster.
Home business owners don’t have a powerhouse team driving the business behind the scenes. You may be responsible for nearly everything, save for a couple of employees. In fact, you may not have additional staff at all.
Time is always a valuable commodity, but that is especially true for those who run businesses from home where time/output equals money.
In the end, we all only have 24 hours in a day. Once you have mastered those classic productivity tips, the trick becomes figuring out how to get things done faster.
So, without further adieu: how can you get faster so that by the time the clock strikes 6pm, crossed out lines are covering your to-do list?
Structuring Your Day
The first time-saving tip is all about structuring your day in such a way that establishes a solid foundation for efficiency to better prepare you for the day ahead.
1. Set Deadlines
Also called time blocking, many people fail to take advantage of setting deadlines for themselves. They may start out with a classic to-do list and chip away at it over the course of the day. But, by the end of the day, they’ve barely crossed anything off.
The reason is that they are usually taking too casual of an approach to getting things done.
This is how it should work, instead. Let’s say you begin your day at 9am (or whatever time your work day begins – you’re a home business owner, after all). Hypothetically, you may have 10 tasks that you need to accomplish. So, what you want to do is set up deadlines for each task.
For example, you will complete your first task between 9:30a.m and 11:30a.m, your second task between noon and 1pm and so on and so forth. If you’re not sure how long a particular task will take, estimate.
Even if you’re not quite right, it’s better to have smaller goals you are working toward.
The reason why setting deadlines for yourself is so effective is because it sets your brain up for periods of intense focus.
You will avoid distractions and be able to focus on the task at hand, allowing you to become more efficient, instead of having a long, unmanageable list that lasts an entire day.
While it may seem intense for some, this process delivers results and, over time, the act of setting deadlines becomes a habit. Additionally, it also gives you an idea of how much time you’re sinking into a given task or project, information that you can use to reevaluate, as we will see shortly.
2. Time Your Tasks
Putting deadlines in place for each task provides a solid foundation for getting things done more quickly than you may have completed them otherwise.
However, to take it up to the next level, set an actual actual timer for the allotted time.
Have you heard of the famous Pomodoro technique for mastering productivity by setting a timer for 25 minutes and then working hard for the allotted time? After working hard for those 25 minutes, you take a 5 minute break.
Then, repeat until you’ve had four 25 minute power sessions, after which point you can take a longer break of around 15 minutes.
The point is that when you are working under the pressure of the clock, you are much more likely to really focus, eliminate any part of the task that isn’t 100% essential, and get things done.
3. Analyze Your Typical Day
The last part of structuring your day in a way that allows you to save time is to identify your most common tasks in a given day. Whether that’s meetings, managing the books or selling, you should take some time to identify your major tasks and assess how they can be done more efficiently.
If you are serious about wanting to save more time, it is important to examine how, exactly, you’re spending your time.
Do you spend a lot of time travelling for meetings? Perhaps you could look into virtual meetings – the technology is certainly available – therein giving you that time back.
Business owners spend a lot of time on email and therefore this is one area that has to be completed with maximum efficiency.
One major study on the topic found that a ¼ of the average person’s work week is spent on emails. That alone certainly makes the subject worth a discussion.
1. Use Templates For Commonly Sent E-mails
One way to save time when it comes to emailing is to use templates for emails that you tend to commonly send.
Instead of typing the same response over and over again, you can just copy and paste your template. This is great if you happen to have customers who tend to ask similar questions.
2. Set a Timer
Another way to get through emails faster is to, again, set a timer.
You likely already know that you should avoid checking your email randomly throughout the day. Setting specific times to tackle your inbox is best, as it is simply inefficient to do otherwise, but setting a timer can give you that push you need to be even more efficient.
Eliminate the Non-Essential
Another tip for saving time that all home business owners need to know is the idea of eliminating the non-essential. This is more of a mindset or skill than anything else, and it is something that can be honed over time.
The great thing about this tip is that it can be applied to virtually any task at hand. Ask yourself, is that extra time you’re spending on a given task actually adding anything of value?
Is spending time writing the perfect Facebook update for your business truly adding value to your business (indeed, social media is one of many large time wasters for small business owners).
It can get easy to get caught up in the details, but it is about training your mind – and also creating habits – to cut corners and eliminate everything that isn’t essential.
Automate and Outsource
Sometimes, even after you have read every productivity tip out there, and even if you haven’t, it is simply the wisest decision to automate and outsource – that is, using technology or hiring an independent contractor to take on additional tasks for you outside of your company.
There are a lot of ways that small business are using automation, including in the area of payroll. The point is that it’s smart to let technology take over as much of your workload as it can so you can focus on high value tasks – you really don’t need to give it much thought.
Outsourcing is also an option. If you are having trouble managing the daily tasks of your business while maintaining a decent level of business, this is a sign that it may be time to outsource.
The most successful people know when their time would be better spent passing the task to someone else. Sometimes it’s more profitable to pay someone to accomplish tasks for you so your time is freed up to focus on other things to further improve your business.
Of course, outsourcing looks different for every business. In general, small businesses can benefit from outsourcing bookkeeping and administrative tasks to a virtual assistant, as well as content marketing.
A good rule of thumb is to outsource the weak points of your business, not necessarily tasks that you don’t want to do, unless, of course, you believe outsourcing would be the better idea.
Here is a more in-depth look at how to know when to outsource.
In wrapping all of this up, here is what you want to keep in mind if you want to maximize your time as much as possible. Use a timer to be able to tap into a high level focus that is difficult to otherwise come by.
Work on eliminating the non-essential from every task you work on – this is a skill that needs developing. Use technology to your advantage, know when to outsource and, lastly, set your alarm for your usual waking hour.