If you’re like many business owners, you have an ever-growing list of tasks you’d like to accomplish. You might often feel like you could grow your business exponentially faster — if you only had more time. While you can’t literally stretch time, you can get more done. In some cases, it helps to add certain tools to your collection. Even more important, though, is the ability to shift your mindset and daily habits. Here are four productivity and time management tips to help you fit more into your busy schedule.
Find The Right Planning System
There are many apps and tools to help you manage time, track your progress and remove distractions. The key is to find a system that works for you. If you find it easier to write your to-do list down in a notebook, don’t invest in fancy apps. On the other hand, if you’re frequently on your laptop or smartphone, it might be useful to use an app such as Workflow, Clear or Microsoft Outlook’s Tasks.
One principle to keep in mind when it comes to productivity tools is not to overcomplicate matters. Some apps, for example, are made for teams and collaboration. If you’re a solo business owner, you don’t need these. Similarly, if you’ve always had success with a pen and notebook, don’t feel obligated to upgrade to a high-tech tool just because it’s available. There’s also plenty of middle ground. A simple notes-style app on a smartphone, for example, is sufficient for to-do lists. On the other hand, you may find that certain apps really do make you more productive. StayFocused, for example, helps you avoid distractions such as social media sites when you’re trying to work.
Prioritising is one of the most critical time management skills you can master. If you’re working off of a to-do list that’s not arranged in any particular order, it can do more harm than good. You can start out with such a list but always take the time to rearrange it based on the urgency and time needed for each task. Otherwise, you can go down your to-do list checking off trivial tasks while leaving critical ones undone. When setting priorities, it’s usually best to start out with the one that takes the longest or is the most urgent.
Keep Parkinson’s Law In Mind
Parkinson’s Law states that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” These words date back to 1955 when they appeared in The Economist. It’s just as relevant today as ever before, though. The point is that how long something takes is largely a matter of perception. If you schedule a meeting for an hour, that’s how long it will take. If you made it 30 minutes instead, you’d most likely get the same amount accomplished in half the time.
Parkinson’s Law covers many situations, but it doesn’t apply to everything. Complex or labor-intensive tasks can only be stripped down so much. Similarly, if it takes you 40 minutes to drive from home to your place of business in normal traffic, that’s about how long it takes — period. However, many items on your task list probably can be adjusted. For example, meetings, phone calls, answering emails and many writing tasks (ads, emails, blog posts, etc.). In many cases, the idea that something takes a certain number of minutes or hours is merely a habit. Look at everything you do and see where you can get more efficient by simply giving yourself less time to do it.
Gain More Time By Doing Less
The amount of time you and everyone else has is fixed. The only way to create more time is to stop doing certain things. If you take an honest look at how you actually spend time, you can almost certainly find ways to clear at least a few hours each week from your schedule. How much time do you spend browsing social media, streaming Netflix or watching YouTube videos? Everyone needs some relaxation and entertainment. But if you spend hours every day watching reality TV or cat videos, (or whatever your weakness happens to be), you could probably shave a couple of hours per week here and use the time more productively.
Another way to free up time is to think carefully before committing to tasks and appointments. Before saying yes, consider how much time it’s likely to take, what the benefit is and if you really want or need to do it. Saying “yes” out of obligation or because you underestimated how long it will take can consume many hours of your time. Nowadays, you have to be extra wary about online requests such as courses, webinars, training sessions and other time-consuming tasks that are supposedly necessary for your business but can divert you from more urgent tasks. Try not to commit to anything without carefully considering whether it serves a genuine need or is just another distraction.
Getting more productive helps you build a more successful business. It helps you feel more positive about your entire life and helps you reduce stress. It also makes it easier to set priorities. When you’re organised and don’t overcommit yourself, you can develop a laser-like focus and give your full attention to the task at hand.