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As a small business owner, you probably have a long list of tips and tricks to help you save time and increase efficiency. If you’re a solopreneur, your list may be especially long!
We’ve compiled a list of life hacks that work for everyone but are especially helpful for busy small business owners.
Learn the difference between clock time and real time
This is a crucial lesson to learn before you try to map out your day. We live in real time, not in clock time, and need to plan accordingly. Clock time says that you have eight hours in a regular workday to get things done, but real time says that the number of actual productive hours is closer to six when you count breaks, distractions, trips to the bathroom or snack room, etc. Learning to be realistic about how much time you really have to get your tasks done will help you set reasonable expectations and deadlines for projects.
Set yourself up for success
Filling your technology arsenal with tools to help you succeed is the first step to a more productive life. Time you spend researching and selecting the right apps and products for your business now will save you more time later down the road. Don’t hesitate to browse around until you find the perfect accounting solution, mobile bookkeeper or online marketing tool.
A marathon of sprints
Breaking up large projects into smaller, more manageable chunks can make you more productive. Before you try to tackle a large project all at once, make a list of each moving piece the project entails. Then, when you make your daily (or weekly) to-do list, include the smaller tasks as independent, doable projects. Instead of being overwhelmed with a single hulking project, you’ll knock out several 30 minute to one hour tasks. Afterwards, take a step back and congratulate yourself on all the progress you’ve made towards the end goal!
Master your calendar
It can be hard to strike the right balance between keeping track of your meetings, events and deadlines, and not turning your calendar into a behemoth that requires micromanagement. The key here is finding an app that can do the heavy lifting for you when it comes to organizing your calendar, while also ensuring that your schedule stays on track.
Everyone has their favorite calendar app, but the best ones allow you to sync your calendar across multiple devices (most importantly, between your computer and your mobile device). For Apple people, we like Fantastical. At $4 it may seem a bit pricey (especially when you have the free Calendar app pre-loaded on your iPhone), but features like plain English entry and support for iCloud, Google Calendar and Exchange, set it a step above the others. For Android users, check out CalenGoo ($5.99) if you’re looking for something simple and no-nonsense, or try Pocket Informant($9.99) if you’re looking for a richer set of features.
Freelancers are your friend
Many small business owners are nervous to hire freelancers. After all, how do you know if they’re reliable, or truly as talented as they claim to be?
Just as important as the freelancer(s) you hire, is the work you give them. The best way to decide which tasks to outsource is to ask yourself two questions: what is the best use of my time, and what tasks could someone else do better? By delegating administrative work like managing receipts (not the best use of your time) or creating a marketing video for your website (a task better left to a professional videographer), you maximize the effectiveness of your time and your freelancer’s.
Most people see productivity as the number of projects you complete in a set amount of time — how many emails you respond to, how many deliverables you complete, how many meetings you attend, etc. But we all know that a real workday doesn’t involve you in an endless state of get-it-done-ness.
Scheduling time for non-activities, like brainstorming, impromptu conversations with colleagues and catching up on the latest news in your industry, has several benefits. First, you’ll be more realistic about the actual number of to-dos you can check off in a day, and second, you’ll be less likely to see these regular interruptions as distractions, and instead as mental breaks or time to be creative.