It's easy for entrepreneurs and business owners to get caught up unending tasks. This brings in the topic of how one can juggle between the essential and non-essential tasks while remaining profitable. It's important for every entrepreneur whether new or established to have mechanisms in place that ensure things run smoothly while he/she focuses on activities that lead to the growth of the business. One of the ways you can do is by proper planning and maintaining organization of your workplace.
We asked entrepreneurs and business owners how they maintain efficiency and here's what they had to say.
#1- Marking the day in 15 minutes blocks
Regardless of how time-consuming it sounds, I still mark my day in 15-minute blocks so I can see what I am spending my time on. It helps me understand what I am focussing on, and what I am wasting time on. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of what you can not change in favor of focussing on what you can change.
Thanks to Troy Hazard, Troy Hazard International!
#2- Use of the D.A.D method
The job roles and responsibilities of the entrepreneur seem to be endless. However, I believe much is missed by not following the D.A.D. method. What is the D.A.D. method? It is merely this: Delete, Automate, Delegate. First, ask yourself is this something that genuinely needs doing? Is that report really required? Challenge that thought and if possible, Delete that task altogether. Secondly, Automate. If that report is a must, is there a system that can carry the weight? Look for ways to build automation into those tasks that consume so much of your time. Let's say that you have determined that it is needed, and there is no way to automate with your current systems. It is now time to Delegate that task. Remember, as the leader of your organization your time is best spent on high-value targets. Take any administrative tasks that you cannot first Delete or Automate and Delegate them as quickly as possible.
Thanks to Chad Conley, Complete Roofing!
#3- Two ways
Let’s be honest about the efficiency of a startup CEO. It’s a nice goal to have, but an elusive one. With a team on three continents and a family, including a two-year old son, I try to optimize for two things. The first is impact. I want to make sure I am always, and ideally only, doing the things that allow me to have maximum impact. For example, I used to spend a lot of time doing accounting, clearly not the best use of my time. So we outsourced that and it freed me up to spend more time with customers. I am constantly reviewing my workload to make sure I am “allocating myself” to the highest impact activities. The second thing I optimize for is maximizing transit time. When I travel to and from work I listen to podcasts. When I walk my dog, I listen to podcasts or talk to our team overseas. It’s idle time, usually outside normal business hours, that can be used very effectively.
Thanks to Omer Molad, Vervoe!
#4- Build the right team and communicate the right way
First, a CEO must have extremely capable people that they can rely on in key roles. Second, regular communication with their direct reports- including written reports (twice monthly)- coupled with brief, weekly phone or face-to-face meetings is critical. The team discussions should be honest, comprehensive, and thorough. It's important to address any concerns and then problem-solve together. Respect is paramount. You must trust that you've curated the right team and allow them to do their jobs.
Thanks to Frank Samson, Senior Care Authority!
#5- Using Google calendar for time blocking
One of the biggest challenges of being an entrepreneur is prioritizing what to do, so that I can be efficient. I use time blocking to keep me focused and not feel like I'm playing whack-a-mole to get through the day. I love time blocking because I know exactly how much I will get done each day. I find that I'm more efficient because I spend less time replying to emails as the roll in and am dedicated to only that task during a block of time. I use Google Calendar to do my time blocking. Every few days I schedule my tasks and their amount of time as an event in my Google Calendar. During each block of time I only work on that task. If I finish early, I usually reward myself with an early lunch break or some quick stretching.
Thanks to Lindsey Nickel, Lovely Day Strategy!
#6- Scheduling tasks
As an entrepreneur/business owner the #1 thing that has helped me stay focused and efficient is scheduling tasks depending on the day. I keep all of my phone calls on Tuesdays & Wednesdays, and in-person meetings on Thursdays. This helps me manage the time I spend on the projects and concepts, and also keeps my meetings streamlined. I used to only put my meetings, calls, and events on the calendar but I have added *design project *slots that give me a quick overview of my daily goals and I have been able to prepare for deadlines more efficiently. I also believe in incorporating time for your passion projects; that helps to motivate to complete client projects on time. Working Sunday nights is also crucial for my week's efficiency. Although most entrepreneur's weeks are 7 days, Mondays always come in hard and by working and preparing on Sunday nights I can wake up feeling fresh and ready to hustle. In everything, we do it's important to just stay positive and carry that through every task you take on.
Thanks to Jessa Black, Livalto!
#7- Be organized
As an entrepreneur for over 15 years the number one efficiency tool for me is organization. Without it, chaos would ensue and my efficiency would be crippled. Most entrepreneurs tend to ware many hats, if not all of them. You are constantly being pulled in different directions with tons of distractions during the day. If you are not organized or don’t use a daily planning system it’s difficult to set goals, stay on task and focus on activities that generate income. I would bounce from project to project leaving many tasks undone and never feel like I was making progress. There are tools and apps available to manage the day, but I use an ‘old school’ method of writing down what needs to be done daily on a small sheet of paper. Completed tasks gets crossed off the list. Each day I rewrite the list with unfinished tasks and new tasks. Being organized and having this tool is something I cannot survive without. Thanks
Thanks to Rick Lite, Stress-Free Book Marketing!
#8- Awareness is the key to efficiency
The key to efficiency today is to be aware of yourself, others and your surroundings – it's about being conscious. Beyond knowing the latest numbers or market research, when you're conscious, you instinctively understand what's happening in your business, where the energy is, what your people are thinking and feeling, how the marketplace is behaving, and the many intangible factors that can be critical to high performance. With a conscious perspective, you can best prioritize what really needs to happen versus what could happen, and translate your awareness into concrete actions have the most impact. That's the best way to ensure your energy is expended efficiently.
Thanks to Bob Rosen, Healthy Companies International!
#9- A number of ways
First, learning from successful businesses in your industry can cut your learning curve in half, saving valuable time. Second, as a leader I always say my job is to point out the obvious, then delegate with a strategic message to an employee so they can take and create a tactical solution. If you don't have the luxury of having employees (or even if you do) then it's vital to prioritize the most critical tasks first, even if they are the most difficult. Organization and planning must become your best friend. You simply cannot be effective if you are bouncing from task to task without a solid scope of work or plan. Lastly, you have to finish what you start. One finished task is far more valueable than 10 half-finished projects.
Thanks to Peter Strack, Alliance Reservations Network!
#10- Develop a trusted confidant
The best way to stay efficient as a small business owner is to develop a trusted confidant to keep you on track. Just like going to the gym, it's easier to take a cheat day when no one is watching. On a weekly basis, share your priorities with someone and put them in charge of making sure you hit your goals and deadlines. The best person to find is another small business owner or a business coach. You can share your struggles, brainstorm ideas, and make a competition out of who gets more done each week. If a task isn't completed, carry it over to the next week. If the list continues to pile up, it will also motivate you to get going!
Thanks to Aaron Pfeifer, Obsidian Solutions!
#11- Never start a new idea until you finish the first
This may seem like the most obvious thing, but it where I see both small business owners and entrepreneurs get tripped up all the time is the lack of proper focus. The majority of entrepreneurs are ideas people. They can be easily distracted by the next new shiny idea. The best advice I give to them is to never start a new idea until they finish the first. For small businesses, it’s critical to determine what’s urgent from what’s an emergency. Not everything can be an emergency so it’s import to know what truly must be done now vs. what can wait. If they treat each issue as a 5 alarm fire, they risk spending too much time or something urgent, and not enough time on what is truly critical to their success.
Thanks to Brian Cairns, ProStrategix Consulting!
#12- Focusing on three empire building tasks
The only way I keep my sanity is by choosing three major tasks to focus on every day. These are empire building tasks. If I don’t finish them then I don’t end the day. If I get them done early then I can move onto other activities. Oh, I don’t answer emails until the end of the workday.
Thanks to Daniel Ndukwu, KyLeads!
#13- Breaking my day into sections
As a business owner who works from home, this can be especially challenging since my bed is in the next room. I was having productivity issues until I started breaking my day into sections and taking proper breaks. I wake up early and spend about half an hour each morning going through my emails and social media pages. This lets me prepare for the day as I know mainly what I will be dealing with that day. It takes me another half an hour to get ready (which I count as a break). Then I sit at my desk and systematically go through the tasks of the day. I know my next break, lunchtime, is just around the corner which gives me the motivation to complete the tasks I assigned for myself by then. During my breaks, I make sure to do something that is completely unrelated to work to give my mind time to relax and process anything that is weighing me down. I try to schedule my meetings to break up working hours after lunch. I also find an active lifestyle helps relieve any stress from the day and helps me reenergize and stay focussed for the following day of work.
Thanks to Kanika Jhunjhnuwala, Eartheries!
#14- Differentiate between income vs. non-income producing activities
The key to juggling different roles as a business owner is to take the time to differentiate between the income vs. non-income producing activities. Most owners spend the bulk of their day working on the wrong activities, as it is easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of paperwork, correspondences, etc. To their detriment, they assign all their activities equal weight. To find success, an owner must time block a significant portion of their day to income producing activities (sales appointments, lead generation, lead followup, etc.) *only after which *they will knock out as many of the non-income producing activities the rest of the day allows for.
Thanks to Katherine Scarim, Agent Strong Real Estate Coaching!
#15- Make an extra time commitment
Allocate time to your business before standard business hours, after work and on the weekend. If you don't want to make this extra time commitment, entrepreneurship likely isn't for you. There are so many small tasks that come up throughout the day that make it hard to be efficient. When you have time before and after work and on the weekend when you aren't confined to meetings, phone calls and emails, you can be much more productive.
Thanks to Stefanie Rosenfield, Cleveland Marketing King!
#16- Have a change and multi-task
To be more efficient I try to find creative ways to multi-task that incorporates work and exercise. When I worked at large companies they had gyms at the office or groups who walked at lunch but when you work from home you have to get creative. Instead of meeting up with your local colleagues at a coffee shop, over a meal or chatting with them on the phone, meet them for a walk so you can catch up while you are getting some exercise too. You'll feel great after, the time will fly & it will be a fun activity to share. It works with customers too, I have clients who play golf so sometimes we meet at a driving range instead of the office to discuss things especially when you are trying to think outside the box. A change in venue is always nice and you feel so much better when you are moving and not trapped behind your desk. The other tips I like to incorporate are taking public transportation when possible, parking at the far end of the lot and walking as well as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, it adds up to a lot of extra steps and movement if you do it every day.
Thanks to Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls!
#17- Take a rest
I believe strategic rest is the most important tool for any leader, business owner, or entrepreneur to sharpen. We need our brains to be crisp, creative, and clear, and they simply are not made to do that without sleep and downtime. My favorite rest is a long mindful walk outside with no electronics and nothing but the power of my own observation to occupy my time. Letting your brain rest lets it recharge and go stronger when you need it most.
Thanks to Jessica Vibberts, Full Potential Ventures!
#18- Focus on what's important
Entrepreneurs are notorious for starting too many projects and giving attention to distraction. The key to being efficient is focusing on the most important tasks for the day and getting them done first thing in the morning. If you can get on a schedule to start your day a few hours before business hours then your chances increase as you don't have the distractions of the day-to-day operations. I use an app called Minimalist that helps me stay organized by only adding important tasks to the list with a goal to get it done before anything else. Stay focused!
Thanks to Mikey Moran, Private Label Extensions!
#19- Delegate more
In the early days of entrepreneurship, I think it's common to think that it's easier to do as much as you can yourself and that no one else can do it as well as you. After all it's your business, your baby, who can do it better than you can? However, taking on too much not only makes balancing your time more challenging, it also means you're more likely to burn out, making you less productive and efficient. Over the years I have built a very strong team of individuals who I trust to manage the day to day operations of my business so I can dip in and out when I need to and place my focus on the strategic growth of the business and tasks where I know I am the best person to handle the job.
Thanks to Steve Thorley, The Changing Workplace!
#20- Three ways
Keep your Data clean and up-to-date: you must use your CRM to discover insignificant programs that can be thrown out. Generally, automation will give you countless resources to keep your CRM looking pristine. Secondly, optimize your document creation process: Take charge of your document process by automating it.The amount of time you'll save on creating documents digitally will amaze you and make you realize what you've been missing out on. Lastly, have the power to control your contacts: Find the point in the process where your contracts normally get stuck. In other words, encourage various employees to take control over their contracts by tracking them on a regular basis. Ultimately, automation coordinates perfectly with your CRM by taking the data you've already discovered and building off it. Now, you can streamline documentation and control the contract process, while staying ahead in the game.
Thanks to Aidan Snee, Inside Sales Solutions!
#21- Manage your energy
Many people suggest you need good time management practices, but I would go further. As a mother of three, wife, and entrepreneur, I believe that what we actually need is energy management. There is nothing wrong with having a full calendar if you know how to balance energy draining tasks and re-energizing activities. For example, I know the client calls need lots of energy from me. Still, I do projects around the world, and since mostly I work remotely I have to do a lot of remote meetings every week. I have two tricks: First, I schedule “no-client” days, when I can work on my creative tasks without the interruption of anything or anyone. However, this also means, I have “client days,” like Tuesdays and Thursdays when I have more calls than the average. This is where my second trick becomes essential: since I know my brain will be exhausted by the end of a meeting day, I usually schedule something relaxing for those afternoons and/or evenings. You can also figure out what works for you. Balancing your entrepreneur life when the days are always too short with family and personal life is never easy. But with your own energy management tricks you can rock it, every day.
Thanks to Agnes Molnar, Search Explained!
#22- Determine key strategic pillars
The best tool that an entrepreneur can use to become more efficient is to determine key strategic pillars – the goals that will ultimately deliver long term value – and applying a focus to their work by judging everything against: does this move us forward towards our goal? And, if so, am I the only one that can do it? Rather than being reactive to the days’ tasks, they can proactively make guides decisions – and stop wasting their limited time on inefficient work that doesn’t move the business forward.
Thanks to Jacquelyn Cyr, JC+CO!
#23- Grouping tasks
As small business owners and entrepreneurs we wear a lot of hats. Those hats can quickly lead to rubber-band syndrome where we feel stretched and pulled in every direction. I fuel my efficiency by grouping my tasks. If I have several admin tasks to accomplish I tackle them all at once. Same with creative, customer service, or employee undertakings. Rather than bouncing back and forth from role to role, I pick and hat and stay with it until those tasks are knocked out. This approach aides my efficiency by making sure my time is managed within each segment of the day!
Thanks to JP Jones, Paige1Media!
#24- Having systems in place
Despite having to fulfill many roles when running a company, you have to be organized and proactive to stay on top of all your priorities. I make sure to schedule face-to-face time with clients and each of my team members, as well as to ensure the office’s kitchen is fully stocked. With various software, apps, and old-school methods for staying organized, there is no excuse for not having a system. In our office, I stay efficient by communicating with my entire team on Slack, delegating tasks on Asana, and regularly checking our team’s Google Calendar. I am always there to help my team and listen to what they have to say, but I am first to acknowledge my priorities and make sure I am getting done what my company needs.
Thanks to Flynn Zaiger, Online Optimism!
#25- Kill the squirrels, make the time, make the move
For me, ‘squirrels’ are distractions that make us stray from the goal at hand. Whether they distract us from our daily tasks, or our overall goals, we need to learn how to stay focused. My favorite scene from the movie “Up” is when Carl and Russell meet “Dug the Talking Dog.” When the dog surprises the humans by talking, he suddenly stops and shouts: “SQUIRREL!” Even in the most important situations, “squirrels” distract Dug, but if you’re a business leader trying to do big things, you must learn to filter out the noise and focus quickly and efficiently on what needs to be addressed. Smart business executives kill the squirrels. It's important for us to be able to keep focus, and that's just something we don't always do. We start going down rat holes of various time wasters—time-consuming kinds of activities. Now, some of them are valid because they get us to a different place, but a lot of times it's just a diversion from our real focus on the things that we've got to be driving, or what I would refer to as our ‘conditions of satisfaction.' Those things that we need to be able to deliver on. I'm not talking about goals or objectives. I'm talking about promises, and I think that's a big difference. You just have to make the time. Like most things in business, it’s always about priorities. It’s always about making the moves you need to do to set the things up that are going to drive what you want as an outcome, because the most dangerous move in business is the failure to make a move.
Thanks to Jeffrey Hayzlett, C-Suite Network!
#26- Turn off the social media notifications
As a business owner, I have often had to get myself out of social media rabbit holes that waste time and efficiency, as well as help clients get out of theirs. I tend to work with fine artists, designers and other creative types as my background is also in the Arts. I can empathize with the temptation to get completely distracted by every notification and every social media ping, every incoming email, etc. My biggest self-discovery is that by turning those notifications off for periods of scheduled time, I can actually focus on one thing at a time and be exponentially more efficient in whatever role I need to play for that moment in my business. Setting boundaries around social media use and notifications has been a game changer for me. I think if that can work for me, it can definitely help others who may be losing more focus than they even realize by letting social media and other digital interruptions rule their day.
Thanks to Maria Brannon, Lightning Flash Creative!