As a business owner time is your greatest asset. To make the most of your days, here are five strategies:
1. Schedule and time your priorities
Setting priorities is critical but isn’t synonymous with productivity. Ideally, add them to your calendar, but also add the time it will take to address them. Schedule your priorities first thing in the morning, that way, if there are “fires” to put out, you will already have accomplished the most important things.
Monitor the time it takes to complete each task. A good idea is to have a timer while you work. Business consultant Francesco Cirillo called this the Pomodoro Technique.
With this technique, you dedicate 25 minutes to each task and take five minutes off before repeating the cycle. For example: set aside 25 minutes to enter next week’s supplier’s orders. Set a timer to let you know when the time is up. Once you finish, walk or rest for five minutes before starting another 25-minute task.
The general recommendation is to tackle four short tasks before taking a long break. There are many free apps that you can download to assist you. Just search for “Pomodoro Technique” on your app store.
2. Practice the 80/20 Pareto Principle
It’s likely that in your business, 20% of the salespeople produce 80% of the sales, and 20% of the customers generate 80% of the profits. This an example of the Pareto Principle, which states that 20% of the effort will produce 80% of the results.
The challenge is to identify who or what represents your 20%. To achieve this, here are some questions you should answer:
- Who are my main customers?
- Who are my most productive employees?
- Which products sell the most?
Focus on the top 20% of your customer base, team, and inventory. Delegate the rest or take care of it once priorities are taken care of.
3. Learn to say NO
We often use “no” to react to an attack or to avoid something. However, saying “no” is a way to protect your priorities. It should be a proactive exercise, not a reactive one. For example, you can say, “I’ll be available to meet from Tuesday on, but not at this moment.”
The “no” should be directed at the request rather than the person. You will sound more empathetic if you say, “Thank you for considering my business for this job! We’re fully booked right now but hopefully we can work together in a near future.”
Giving a positive “no” will keep communication open and will help you give a “yes” to what needs your immediate attention.
4. Assign days to specific tasks
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey says his strategy for being more productive is to assign a purpose to each day of the week. An example of how to do this is: Monday is for administrative tasks, Tuesday is for marketing, Wednesday is for answering emails, Thursday is for feedback, and Friday is for planning.
Remember to include a day for yourself and your family. A common denominator among successful people is that they’re faithful to their self-care routine. Include exercising, watching the basketball game or your favorite series in your to-do list.
5. Conquer procrastination
Start small but start! Break your tasks into chunks and get the ones that take less than five minutes out of the way. Small tasks like organizing your desk, checking your calendar, or calling someone back can be done quickly instead of putting them off.
In addition, identify distractions and block them until you’ve finished the job. Email and social media are common distractions. You can use resources like unroll.me to unsubscribe from certain subscriptions and Freedom to block pages. Use your distractors as a reward when you’ve finished your chores.
Another effective way to avoid procrastination is to imagine how bad you’ll feel if you don’t follow through. Picture how’d you feel if you miss that job opportunity because you didn’t get your work done on time; or how your confidence will be affected if you miss your workouts.
Finally, get an accountability partner; someone who holds you accountable for the priorities you set.
Time flies but it’s up to you to be its pilot. Lao Tse, an ancient Chinese philosopher, said “time is something created; saying ‘I don’t have time’ is like saying ‘I don’t want to.”