CEO, director, head of personnel, switchboard operator … self-employed persons have to perform many different roles. When time is short, try our suggestions.
Plan the week ahead
Planning the week is a basic principle of time management for freelancers, home workers and growing start-ups. By creating a schedule for the week, you can plan and structure your time in advance to prioritize various activities.
Deadlines and urgent work should be the staples of organizing your week. For example, if you have a large delivery on Thursday, dedicate the days leading up to production, leaving non-urgent but important tasks, such as administration and filing, for Friday. You also need to be ready to rearrange the agenda if priorities suddenly change. Consider it Plan A or an ongoing project rather than something definitive.
1. Group activities by type or project
It can also be useful to combine similar or related activities into a single day to not jump from one thing to another and make better use of the time available.
For example, you could spend an entire day on marketing tasks, such as social media and newsletters, as the two tasks are linked, and you can apply your creative flow to multiple things at once.
This approach is also effective for the most practical and methodical jobs. For example, you could spend an afternoon preparing invoices, thus speeding up the time because if you do several, you will have to repeat the same procedure, and you will get faster as you do them.
2. Make a daily schedule
The weekly program must be properly structured, and for this purpose, many ready-made templates are available online to download and fill in to divide the days. They are suitable for individual or team use. A good model should give equal importance to each day and have enough space to write a few words about each task or goal, but don’t overdo it. Otherwise, it gets messy.
Freelancers and those who do not like software can use a notebook to keep track of the week and always have the program at hand.
3. Be aware of possible distractions
It is unrealistic to plan to be productive every hour of every day, so we advise you not to set impossible goals. Instead, expect distractions and interruptions, as well as unexpected problems and opportunities. When planning for the coming week, enter “break time” – a part of the day when you may not be able to work.
So even if the working hours are 9 to 17 with an hour for lunch, you can really take an hour off the total. However, please don’t consider it a waste of time because sometimes, a moment of pause can give space for inspiration.
4. Throw yourself into the deep work
The concept of deep work involves consciously focusing on a task, distracting attention from any distractions. To do this, you have to carve out time off from other conflicting commitments to fully dedicate yourself to a task, for example, updating your spreadsheet with accounting or processing a proposal for a customer.
Include time for deep work on your weekly agenda, and make sure you support your intentions by eliminating any distractions and interruptions during this time frame. For example, you can use a “do not disturb” sign or an auto-reply email.
Plan your workday
What is a typical working day like for small business owners? Usually, a typical day doesn’t exist, and entrepreneurs have a life full of varied and exciting activities.
This does not mean, however, that you cannot organize your time. A daily plan is useful even if it changes as it helps keep track of priorities, deadlines and progress made on longer-term projects. As with the weekly programs, the secret is to have a flexible schedule that adapts to the news and is not too rigid.
1. Keep priorities in check with a to-do list
The to-do list is a classic time management tool and consists of a list of the things you intend to complete during the day, organized in order of precedence. The most important and urgent things go to the top of the list, while the less important and deferrable ones go to the bottom. Please don’t make a list that is too long, or it will seem impossible to complete. Some experts recommend including a maximum of 6 items in the daily list, while for others, the ideal number is 3.
To track your progress throughout the day, use a checklist and tick off what you’ve completed as you go.
2. Focus your efforts on time blocking
Time blocking is a technique that many small businesses find useful. It consists of dividing the work to be done into blocks of dedicated time. It is the opposite of multitasking, where the attention is spread over several jobs at the same time in an inefficient way. The idea is that by focusing on one thing at a time, you can devote your energy to each task and complete it faster and in a better quality manner.
To chunk the time, you need to program the available hours and assign them to items on the to-do list. You don’t necessarily have to do the most important thing on the list in the morning. Instead, you could assign the main task to the part of the day when you are most productive. If you are a morning person, you can do it in the morning, while if you are more efficient in the evening, schedule it for the late afternoon.
If you tend to feel drowsy after lunch, as many of us do, do things that don’t require a lot of effort during that time, like administration or schedules.
3. Separate the daily agenda from the weekly one
It is important to differentiate the daily schedule from the weekly one, as they are handy for your business. The daily schedule includes standard activities such as answering emails and phone calls, attending short team meetings and other routine tasks. They take your time and need to be considered, but you don’t need to put them on the weekly agenda.
The weekly schedule gives you a broader view of your workload, allowing you to change priorities during the week if needed. What happens in the daily schedule can affect the weekly schedule; for example, if you have to extend a task from one day to another, it takes longer than expected.
There are always days when we look at the clock and think: “But where did the time go? I’m at the top of the list! ‘ To keep these moments to a minimum, here are some tips to be more productive at work.
1. Recognize distractions
We all tend to get distracted and in today’s world of digital communication and multiple devices vying for our attention, staying focused is more difficult than ever.
Notice what things catch your attention most often. Maybe you have too many browser pages open on your screen that distract you from what you are doing and prompt you to read a blog or the news. Or maybe your cell phone distracts you by flashing or vibrating every time a message comes in in a group chat.
Once you’ve spotted the things distracting you repeatedly, you can delete them until the job is done. Put your cell phone in the drawer, close tabs except those you need for work, or put on headphones to resist the temptation to chat with colleagues. Over time, these good habits will become automatic.
2. Don’t try to do too much
If the elements that reduce productivity aren’t so many distractions but interruptions, maybe it’s because you try to do too much. It is common for people at the head of expanding companies to have a lot to do. Being super busy is good, but you have to realize that it could get to the point of getting very tired without achieving the desired results.
Try to notice the difference between being stressed and busy and being highly productive. Look at the results you have achieved and how hard you have worked, and make sure you get the positive results you deserve for your efforts. If you decide to work smarter instead of harder, you will feel more control over things and stay motivated.
3. Take some time to recharge
Staying on the subject, it is also true that production requires rest and a strong commitment. So if your schedule includes a few hours of work and some rest intervals, you are in the company of many of the most talented people in history. Charles Darwin, for example, took an afternoon nap and enjoyed taking walks outside on workdays.
If you’re working in front of a screen, it’s recommended that you take a five to ten-minute break every hour, according to the UK government’s health and safety department. It is best to take short and frequent breaks, which will make you feel more rested.
A few rest intervals during the work schedule will give you time and space to reflect on your work, develop ideas, and allow your brain to make new connections between the things you have learned or observed. Don’t be afraid to take your foot off the accelerator because, on days when you thought you were relaxing and doing nothing, you could make big progress.
Does efficiency coincide with productivity? In reality, they are very different things, and at times they can be at odds. Put: productivity refers to the volume of work done, while efficiency refers to its quality.
So, if your business makes cookies, productivity is the number of products you bake each day. Simultaneously, your efficiency depends on how delicious they are to customers, how much energy you used for baking them and how much you spent on ingredients to get an excellent result.
It is obvious that productivity and efficiency are essential to any activity and can have a strong impact on each other.
Some companies use the concept of production efficiency, which means that the two are measured simultaneously. In these cases, managers measure the total number of products completed in a certain amount of time and subtract the inefficient products. Thus, products that do not reach a certain quality standard are not counted.
This concept is clearer when applied to a production context, where the company has physical assets that pass or fail the standards, but it can also be used with companies that provide services rather than products. The key to measuring efficiency is defining the quality standard you want to maintain: customer satisfaction, on-time delivery, reviews, and scores. If the work units (projects, products or others) do not reach the standard, they are not considered.
How can efficiency be improved?
Improving efficiency is a strategic activity that often requires that we slow down and step away from our work. If you want to increase your efficiency, you will need to analyze your way of doing things to understand where you can improve your methodologies, habits, and behaviours to obtain more satisfying results.
An example that applies to all entrepreneurs is sleep. Sleeping 8 or 9 hours helps focus, motivation, mood and learning ability. If you work alone, prioritizing sleep means optimizing your most precious resource – yourself. In fact, getting enough sleep makes the brain more efficient, and consequently, the work we do is of better quality and takes less time, leaving more space for projects that we are passionate about.
From the point of view of time management, the goal is to do the best possible quality work in the available time and, possibly, increase productivity.
Here are some ways to boost efficiency in small businesses.
1. Avoid multitasking
Even if it seems necessary, try to avoid jumping from one task to another during the workday. It takes time to regain focus on a task if you give up all the time, so try as much as possible to put the jobs in organized blocks. Time blocking proves to be a winner once again!
2. Optimize your environment
Make sure your work environment is conducive to efficiency by minimizing distractions, noise and interruptions. Ensure that your workstation is comfortable and allows you to assume a correct posture with freedom of movement. Organize the people, tools, and materials in your environment so it’s easy to complete tasks without rearranging everything. The aim is to save time and effort.
3. Delegate some tasks to others
If you have a team on hand, use it wisely; consider your and team members’ strengths and weaknesses to assign tasks that take too much time to who can complete them faster. This also applies to specialization and experience. If you have a person who knows about statistics, entrust them with web analytics so you can dedicate your time to leadership strategy or creative development. Staff productivity is highly dependent on assigning the right tasks to the right people.
4. Automate with technology
The automation of routine tasks is one of the great achievements of the 21st century. That may be an exaggeration, but there’s no denying that using chatbots to answer customer questions or booking and sales management software is a great way to save busy humans time.
Have you prepared your weekly schedule? Treat yourself to a beautiful new Notebook for creative projects and daily to-dos.