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.
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.
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?