13 Ways Small Business Owners Can Reduce Busy Work and Be Truly Productive

13 Ways Small Business Owners Can Get Rid of Busy Work and Be Truly Productive

Any small business owner can tell you that running a company requires a lot of time, effort and dedication. Some entrepreneurs make the mistake of piling too much “busy work” on their plates, which doesn’t leave them much time to focus on the tasks that only they can do. To find a solution, we asked the experts at Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following question:

“SMB owners have a lot of demands on their attention. What is one way for owners to stay productive, not just busy?”

How to Get Rid of Busy Work

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Focus on One Thing at a Time

“Multitasking results in staying busy. However, when you focus on one thing at a time and put everything into it, you get it done well and can move onto the next. This creates a higher level of productivity.” ~ Angela RuthCalendar

2. Write Out Your Weekly Action List

“Write out a weekly action list on Sunday evening so you can hit the ground running Monday morning. I always start my to-do lists with action words that provide additional motivation. For instance, ‘evaluate options to,’ ‘interview candidates for’ and even ‘go live with.’ ” ~ David Ciccarelli, Voices.com

3. Take a Distraction-Free ‘Time-Out’

“I have an hour or two of the day set aside for my most important tasks. I disable email, turn my phone to silent, and work somewhere no one will disturb me. I’ve never had anything happen during my time-outs that couldn’t wait an hour. Once I sit down in time-out, I grind out the task until it’s done or until my time’s up. I’m always surprised how much I accomplish with no distractions!” ~ Andrew GipsonThe Escape OKC

4. Tackle Your Biggest Challenge First

“It can be so easy to get distracted with to-dos while ignoring one or two big challenges. I try to start my day by tackling the biggest task on my plate — even if it means just doing a small fraction of it. This helps ensure that the most important things don’t fall through the cracks while I’m keeping up with more immediate demands on my time.” ~ Brittany HodakThe Superfan Company

5. Focus on Objectives and Key Results

“I hate spinning my wheels and wasting time. I’ve found that by implementing a system like Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) not only helps me, but also the entire company understands what is the most important thing to be working on, ensures there is alignment across the business, and also sets clear and measurable milestones. Keeping focused on the right things is essential to success.” ~ Kasey KaplanUrban FT

6. Slow Down and Refocus

“When you recognize that multitasking frenzy taking over your day, step away from your desk, focus on your breath and slow down for two to three minutes. We become more productive when we slow down and refocus.” ~ Stephen BeachCraft Impact Marketing

7. Say No to Tasks That Aren’t Productive

“Get into the habit of quickly and effectively turning down or saying no to things that are not productive. The ability to identify and reject an ask that is counter to your productivity is just as important as working as hard as possible. Learn to say no to things that will take up a lot of your attention, but not yield positive outcomes.” ~ Shawn Schulze, HomeArea.com

8. Create a ‘Power List’

“I struggled with a massive to-do list that kept growing and ultimately unproductive. I heard a podcast where they advised coming up with a power list of five key things to get done that day. Each day you put it in writing and you write a ‘W’ if you won the day or an ‘L’ if you lost the day. This has helped me stay productive and feel like the goals were attainable because it’s not a huge list.” ~ Joel Mathew, Fortress Consulting Group

9. Use Visuals

“I couldn’t stay productive without my whiteboard and sticky note wall.  The whiteboard is for daily items, while my sticky note wall prioritizes weekly, monthly and quarterly initiatives. Not only does this method help organize the many items that keep me busy, but it also helps me delegate items that are not as important, so I’m only tackling the most impactful items for the business.” ~ Amber Lowry, Syssero

10. Be Accountable to Someone Else

“One way to make sure you’re staying productive is to let someone else evaluate your productivity. This could be your partner, mentor or coach. Ask them to call your bluff. Have them ask you about action and accomplishments, not just the busywork. By knowing you’re accountable to someone to explain your day, you’ll do a better job staying productive and won’t be satisfied by simply being busy.” ~ Robby Scott Berthume, Bull & Beard

11. Determine Which Tasks Are the Highest and Best Priority

“Ask yourself, ‘What is the highest and best use of my time today?’ It can be tempting to just do work and check it off the list, but that work is often not getting you closer to the goals and outcomes you’re seeking to create. Make a list of one to three things you must accomplish today and do those first.” ~ Darrah Brusteindarrah.co

12. Delegate

“To be an effective small business owner, you must absolutely learn to delegate effectively. Your time is best spent supporting others on smaller projects and tasks to leave you available for the big picture of accomplishing your company’s objective and vision.” ~ Rachel Beider, Massage Greenpoint, Massage Williamsburg, Massage Outpost

13. Cut Meeting Times in Half Whenever Possible

“Meetings get in the way of real work, but are necessary when you lead any organization. When a request for a meeting comes, let your first instinct be to cut the time requested in half. Meetings do not need to take 60 minutes or even 30 minutes to have the same impact and outcomes. By compressing the time, the attendees come prepared and focused, and you benefit with more time for real work.” ~ Eric MathewsStart Co.

Photo via Shutterstock

The Young Entrepreneur Council The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.