October 31, 2014

10 Useful Productivity Hacks for Small Business Owners

productivity hacks

Running a small business can take up a lot of your time. If you’re fortunate enough to have some success under your belt, you could have anywhere from 20 – 200 people a day who need a minute or two of your time.

On top of those obligations you still have a dozen or so contracts that need your approval, a staff meeting, a wedding designer (right, you’re getting married okay, just go with it), little Holly’s soccer game (from your first marriage), and then you still need to find time to watch this week’s episode of Castle on TiVo.

Productivity Hacks for Small Business

1. Ritual de lo Habitual

Read the book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. Also read “Daily Rituals” by Mason Curry. Buy them, borrow them, or otherwise acquire them. Just read them.

Habits are the cornerstone of success. Not everyone can be a playboy or heiress; rich at birth, with limitless cash flow and time to ponder the meaning of life indefinitely. Some of us need to work to reach the top of the mountain.

Develop a habit of waking, eating, completing important tasks, eating, fielding inquiries, eating, then going to sleep (oh and drink lots of water too) at specific times.

2. Make a “To Do List” in Order of Importance and/or Difficulty Level

You’re probably sick of hearing about to do lists. Unless you’re a successful artist with fans, studios, publishing houses, etc. – all eagerly awaiting your next big piece. You need a list to accomplish your goals for each day. Put the important and/or difficult stuff first.

You can push the unimportant stuff off to someone else if it doesn’t get done, or leave it til the next day.

3. Never Agree to or Set up a Meeting Without a Clear Agenda

Ask for a specific, unalterable time limit that will not be exceeded. There are so many greats that I’ve heard utter this phrase over the years, and unfortunately I can’t remember a single one right now.

However, this Linkedin post about covers the importance of not wasting your time in meetings and how to avoid their inevitable chit chat, back and forth, and general lack of effectiveness.

4. Doodle While You Work

Yes. Doodle a picture of a stick-figure dog while you work. Seriously, try it. It’s great for relaxing the mind while you’re making phone calls or listening to messages.

5. Schedule Non-Negotiable YOU Time

Cindy Wong, CEO of Vayable says that she schedules three activities every single week that are just for her, with no business interruptions during that time. She’s an ambitious lady and doesn’t have much free time.

You should try to aim for an hour or two a day. Read an interesting book, take MMA lessons, teach someone a skill you’ve mastered, etc.

6. Outsource

This works no matter what kind of business you happen to be in, for the most part. The secret to outsourcing is to first realize that you’re not the only one who can get things done. And that you’re not the best. And that’s that. Lie to yourself if you have to.

There are exceptions (like if you’re the only astronaut who can fly to the space station to fix the ‘orbital spectrograph’), but projects like data entry, transcription, (some) customer service, sales, and many others can be outsourced affordably. This leaves your brain more refreshed to innovate and expand your business.

7. Exercise Daily

Exercise burns up cortisol, the hormone our body releases in excess when we’re stressed. It also releases endorphins, burns up excess blood sugar (so you don’t become a typical diabetic office drone), blah – blah – blah.

You’ve heard this before. You know it’s true, but how could I say I shared productivity hacks with my readers if I didn’t throw this one in?

Seriously though, exercise might seem like something you don’t have time for, until all that sitting around catches up with you, in the form of anxiety, heart attacks, strokes, etc. The ailments caused by inactivity kill productivity. ‘Nuff said.

8. Forgive Those Who Trespass Against You

Anger and holding a grudge can actually make the adrenal glands release more adrenalin and cortisol than day-to-day stress would. These hormones are meant for primitive survival, like running from a Tyrannosaurus. When you’re sitting around not physically working your body very much, they actually become quite toxic in your blood.

Ever felt so angry that you just couldn’t stop thinking about it? Head pounding, heart racing, rage seething inside you – feeling like something is unresolved?

Resolve it by choosing to forgive.

Forgiveness releases Oxytocin, which literally makes you feel orgasmic. Oxytocin halts the release of adrenalin and cortisol too, reducing blood pressure significantly.

Not to mention the person you forgive will receive the same benefit – enabling both of you to be more clear-headed and productive.

9. Use Voicemail

Beth Doane, the beautiful and successful Founder of Raintees advises against answering your phone whenever it rings:

“I tend to return calls at the end of the day, and if someone really needs to reach me I have my assistant’s info on my voicemail and let her decide if it’s really an ‘important’ call.”

Resist the urge to answer every incoming call. Each one will put you a further step behind and eventually it’s 4PM and you’ve got nothing to show for the day.

10. Oxygen

Shallow breathing leads to hypoxia (low oxygen levels) and hypercapnia (high carbon dioxide levels) in your blood. This isn’t good for the brain obviously. How can you be productive when your thinker isn’t getting the oxygen it so desperately needs.

Also, the aforementioned conditions are very “stressful” to our bodies, as too little of one and not enough of the other is a life or death problem; resulting in, you guessed it – more adrenaline and more cortisol. This article contains information on the long-term health complications of improper breathing.

Breathing Photo via Shutterstock

20 Comments ▼

Ivan Widjaya


Ivan Widjaya Ivan Widjaya is the Founder/CEO of online marketing agency Previso Media, small business online magazine Noobpreneur.com and several other business blogs/online magazines. He is a Web publisher, Web property investor, blogger and Web property builder.

20 Reactions

  1. Helpful article, thank you. I have learnt something, more especially the number 3 and 6.

  2. Taking time out for yourself is sooooooo important, and yes, like you said, even an hour. It can make all the difference. It’s self-care.

    • Hi Ebele,

      Yes, I rarely take my time off during the day and it ruined my productivity. I learn to take short breaks during the day and voila! My productivity “strangely” improves!

      • It’s not strange though, that’s the thing :)! There’s often a complete correlation between taking short breaks (or even naps) and productive productivity. It’s like you’re giving you and your brain a great big loving kiss for existing :), which is a lovely act of self-care.

  3. I love #6 and #9. For me, I’m the person who the SMB usually will outsource to, so I’m usually the one convincing them to do it. As for #9, if I don’t know who the caller is I’d prefer to leave a message so that I can prioritize it with my other to-dos.

  4. I don’t suppose playing games on Facebook while listening to your boss or customer drone on over the telephone qualifies as to “Doodling While You Work”?

    I’m not sure if it works to relax my mind but it sure makes it time pass a lot faster!

  5. I have read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens when I was still a teenager. I adopted its concept and that allowed me to easily form habits as an adult. I’m more effective than other employees because of that.

  6. I’m something of a productivity hacktivist myself, but beyond increasing production I think it is equally important to discuss task prioritization. What do you think of something like the link in my profile?

    If a person can adequately pair the right balance of productivity hacking and prioritization, look out!

  7. Love the tips. Another way to organize your to-do list is by energy level. Plan your activities based on when you will be the most productive at those activities. If you tend to be a night owl, don’t expect to get the highly focused stuff done first thing in the morning.

    The other tip I would add is be sure to get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep is the number one contributor to poor productivity and it has an instant effect.

    • I do that, Nicole! I feel the most energetic in the mornings so I sometimes dive straight into my to-do list then. I get things done a lot quicker that way.

  8. I realize two things I really have to fit into each day, no matter how busy, are exercise and some peaceful “me” time. Thanks for a great productivity guide, I needed these reminders.

  9. Besides it’s good for your body and it helps you to be relaxed in the mind and soul it would also help you to be more open-minded on work.

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