December 19, 2014

6 Ways to Be More Productive

You’re busy. I’m busy. As small business owners, we’re all busy and we’re all looking for ways to get more done in less time. And that means doing everything we can to increase our productivity. Below are six ways that I’ve been able to be more productive. I’d love if you could share your own tips.

1. Use the right tools.

One way small business owners kill their productivity is by using the wrong tool for the job. They keep using their pen and notebook when they should be using a tool like Evernote to trap and record their ideas. They waste time manually entering receipts into QuickBooks instead of using something like Shoeboxed that can quickly handle their accounting for them. As a small business owner, it’s worth it to spend some time finding the tools that you need to better run your business. Don’t try to hack a tool to do something it’s not supposed to do. We live in an economy where it’s pretty easy to find free, online productivity tools. Don’t be afraid to use them.

2. Stay up to date.

Read voraciously about your industry; invest in training opportunities; and talk to the experts in your field to get their take on what’s going on, what’s changing and what you need to know. The more information you can collect about your industry, the better you’ll be able to respond to changes and take advantage of new trends. Sometimes we get stuck in seeing things “how they have always been” and miss out on the new opportunities that could really help us. For example, if you’re ignoring social media and tools like blogging because you haven’t invested the time into learning about them, then you may find yourself falling behind your competitors who are hot on the trails of industry trends. If you’re still using yesterday’s keywords, then you may be missing out on potential conversions from new, more popular terms.

3. Automate what you can.

You don’t have to remember to send that invoice the 15th of every month; you can use technology to automate that. You don’t have to remember to tweet your blog post twice a day; you can use technology to do that for you. Part of finding the right tools is also looking for ways to automate the repetitive tasks that suck time from you every day. You don’t want to bog down your mind with little details that you can set and forget. You want to focus on your business. If you can take something off your plate and trust it to a program or application, do it. You want to give the appearance that you’re always in your business. You don’t actually have to be there.

4. Sleep.

You need to sleep. If you’re not sleeping, then your mind isn’t fresh, you’re making sloppy mistakes and you’re hurting your business by working slowly. While it can sometimes be hard to force yourself to stop and go home, sometimes you have to force yourself to stop and go home. Also, listen to your body, when possible. If you’re not naturally a morning person, maybe you can set your schedule so you can sleep in. Science has proven that you can’t force yourself to be a morning person simply by getting up early. You either are one or you’re not. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to decide their own hours, but if you do, it’s something to think about.

5. Experiment.

It may seem counterintuitive that you can actually be more productive by taking yourself out of your business to experiment – but it’s true. By training yourself to chase new experiences and learn new skills, you allow yourself to make mistakes and pick up new approaches to the same old problems. While this experimental approach may not increase productivity right out of the gate, in the long term it will help you grow and save time.

6. Say no.

As small business owners, we want to help everyone. We’ll waste time letting people pick our brain and helping everyone else at the detriment of ourselves (and our sleep). Sometimes it’s OK to say no. Don’t be afraid to. You have a business to run, too.

Those are some quick ways I think small business owners can increase their productivity and squeeze more hours into their day. What tips work for you?

16 Comments ▼

Lisa Barone


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

16 Reactions

  1. Any tips on the sleep Lisa? Short of “cutting out caffiene” which will dent my productivity, I can’t think of anything new!

  2. It’s good to know that it’s perfectly normal to still be tired even after being on a consistent early morning schedule!

  3. Lisa,

    About this “morning person” thing.

    I never used to be a morning person.

    Now, I’m up watching “Way Too Early.”

    Do you know what time that’s on?

    (Only a morning person would know the answer.)

    The Franchise King

  4. Thanks for including Shoeboxed in this great feature, Lisa B.! If stuffing receipts, business cards, and documents into a prepaid envelope so that one can get some sleep instead of staying up doing data entry, then so be it! :-)

  5. Something I suffer, badly, with that dents my productivity is being sidetracked by ‘the web’. It’s all too easy to be sidetracked by: Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, LinkedIn, Ecademy, Flickr, Youtube and so on.

    To (try and) combat this I’ll set aside specific time during the day to engage on sites other than work related sites. I say ‘try’ because I don’t do so well at it – the proof’s in this comment! :)

  6. Lisa,

    Great article. One tool that has helped me for years is using an account management program (I use Act). This program helps me stay focused and allows me to quickly find information.

  7. Lisa, no mention of your famous egg timer?

  8. This is a great list of ways that business owners can increase productivity. Going along with using the right tools is the need to use the right service providers. For example, if you need a loan to finance some new equipment, work with a bank that specializes in those types of loans. Working with professional service organizations that specialize in your industry will make things much easier in the long run.

  9. Do only what you are good at and get the rest of the work done through professionals who are in-turn good at what they do. Outsource, hire assistants or virtual assistants – reduce your workload. This will foster creativity and will help you grow your business.

  10. Joel: When is “Way Too Early”? ;)

    Robert: Egg timer is good. Could you get it as an iPhone app? I have inUse’s Talk Timer app.

    Lisa: I have used Evernote a bit and I will try to integrate it in my own personalized productivity method with the “code name” F.I.X IT!

    If you are interested in this area, I recommend you to check out @DavidStiernholm on Twitter.

  11. Focus your team on first things first. Renewals and cultivating your clients for cross selling and improving your agency retention. While your doing that focus the team on generating new business through client contact and referrals (the best free leads. The last and most expensive client acquisition is the new client. Use your resources wisely to promote and advertise, to attract, and convert new clients.

  12. The sleep advice is so true! When I’m tired, I end up wasting way more time. A quick half an hour nap helps me way more.

    You mentioned technology helping you be more productive. I’ve been using Sage’s Billing Boss for my online invoicing. I hate chasing clients to pay up, so I use this feature where my clients can pay online when I email them the invoice. I have found they pay 1.5 to 2 weeks faster, so money is in the bank account. Most importantly, I don’t have to spend the time to chase them.

    My accountant can gain permissions to access my files so I don’t have to send her the files every month. Plus I can set up recurring invoices. A few tasks off my list each month definitely helps. Plus invoicing is free and I can currently create unlimited invoices for unlimited customers.

    Full Disclosure: This author has been compensated by Sage.

  13. I had two strong cups of coffee this morning and I am so wired, I can’t write or read well. Not only do I need more sleep, I really need Quality Sleep.

    It is a HUGE challenge to stay up on our respective professional fields. Not because there isn’t anything to read or learn, but because there is SO much out there. I think we can all spend, easily, 30 minutes just catching up on what’s happening in our fields.

  14. Great tips. I’m always fighting my schedule and emergencies that pop up on a almost daily basis. Keep it up!

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