Any business owner can attest to the fact that there are simply not enough hours in the day. While it is always better to work smarter and not harder, there are a number of productivity tips and tools you can use to do just that, but first, you need to know where you are already spending your time.
If you have never before considered how much time you spend on tasks each day, but yet seem to run out of time at the end of the workday, it will be worth grabbing a sheet of paper or a note on your phone and tracking approximately how much time you spend on each task each day. Ideally, you will do this for a full five days, and don’t analyse it until you have completely tracked your time.
When you have your data (or gathered scraps of paper) start to look for:
- Tasks that are taking too much time
- Tasks that you aren’t giving enough time
- Tasks you shouldn’t be doing at all
There are days for us all where we are overtired and spend a little too much time procrastinating or take lunch perhaps a little too early – and come back a little too late. This is part of being human if it happens every once in a while, but if it happens three days a week it is a problem and you need to start being strict with yourself.
You may also find patterns in your schedule where you had the best and most productive days – maybe you started off the day with a meeting, at the gym, or with half an hour of quiet in your office before everyone else gets in – whatever it is, make note and see if you can use this positive pattern more often in your schedule.
Tasks That Take Too Much Time
Ask yourself why these tasks are taking too much time – is it just that they always take that long but you try to allocate them less time than they need? Or is it that there is a particular team member who distracts you (a bit like being back at school) who you need to distance yourself from during this time so you can complete the task on time. When you identify the issue, find a way to deal with it.
Tasks You Don’t Spend Enough Time On
Again, ask yourself why this is happening – is it because you hate doing it, or is it because other, unimportant tasks are impeding on these tasks. It may simply be that an email pops up that you know you need to answer immediately, and suddenly you’ve not only answered that email but you’ve also organised your inbox, cleared out your junk folder, and spent an hour internet shopping.
Tasks You Shouldn’t Do at All
As your company grows there are tasks that were once your responsibility that you should give up to someone else. Often, as business owners and entrepreneurs, we hold onto these tasks for far too long, but when you create systems so that someone else can do it for you, you’ll free up more time for the tasks that are, and should be, your responsibility.
Now You Know: How to Manage Your Time
Now that you understand where your time is spent and where you need to make changes, you need to consider ways you can combat these bad habits and make more positive changes in your schedule. Sometimes, just being aware of the problem is enough, but most of us need a little more help to make permanent changes. Here are a few suggestions.
Set yourself a specific amount of time with the timer on your phone and work solidly until the alarm goes off. You can also use the Pomodoro method for this, and you’ll find apps that will help you utilize this method.
Stop Using Your Phone
If you have gotten into a pattern of working for ten minutes then looking at your phone for five, you’ll have to take some drastic measures to cut down on this procrastination time. You have a couple of options:
- Put it in a drawer so you won’t accidentally pick it up
- Put it on aeroplane mode so you won’t have internet access
- Use an app like Forest that will encourage you to keep your hands off
If to-do lists work for you then start breaking down the tasks into smaller check boxes to help you keep moving through the list at a satisfying pace. If you don’t like to use pen and paper, use an app like To-Doist, or a project management tool. If your team already uses a project management tool it will be easy to create your own project to manage your daily schedule. Asana.com, Monday.com, and a number of others will keep you accountable and on track.