Business owners have talent, drive and vision…but they could always use a few more hours in the day. Since we can’t control the rotation of the earth, we’re offering the next best thing: expert insight on how to double your output in half the time.
Yes, it can be tough to break old habits and reimagine processes, but that’s no reason to hold your own productivity back.
“Investing time to make time is one of the best ways to work smarter rather than harder,” says Nicole Bandes, CEO of The Productivity Expert.
Bandes suggests allocating at least 30 minutes to one hour each week to find new ways to save time next week or the week after. “During this time,” she says, “I might be implementing automation, determining what to delegate, or evaluating what it is time to eliminate.”
Read on for some great tips on how to get more done in less time. From new tools and technology to helpful habits, these experts will help you ramp up your output and reduce your stress levels.
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Refine Your Routines
Peak performers undertake their most important tasks when they are most refreshed, and less important tasks when they may be more fatigued.
“I direct a research lab at the University of Georgia where we study the characteristics of experts and peak performers,” writes Dr. Paul G. Schempp, president of Performance Matters, Inc., in an email to Business.com.
“A few traits we find help them achieve more in less time are: highly refined and efficient routines, setting priorities and focusing the attention and actions on them, avoiding and ignoring distractions, and scheduling activities to conform to peak efficiency times.”
Schempp has found that most people do best with cognitive tasks like reading contracts, making important decisions, or preparing an important presentation in the mid to late morning. Email and meetings should come later in the day when attention span and efficiency are not as high.
Adopting this strategy can help anyone get more out of the natural flow of their day.
Delegate and Outsource
It can be difficult to pay for outsourcing or give up control of the details when you are a business owner, particularly if you are just starting out. But reluctance to do these two things is costing you, and may be the very thing holding your business back.
“I want to be involved in every aspect of my business,” says Janice Omadeke, a design manager and founder of The Mentor Method in Washington, DC. “That being said, I recognized quickly that I have limits and there are people out there who can accomplish tasks that'll take me eight hours in two.”
By focusing your time and attention and stopping the crazy cycle of trying to do it all, you’ll see gains in productivity.
Use the Newest Resources
Regularly touch base with others in your field to find out which online tools and software platforms are working for them. You may be surprised how quickly things can change from year to year.
“I am an avid early adopter of new technology,” says David Mercer, founder of SME Pals, a blog dedicated to helping small business owners and entrepreneurs thrive online. “Online services and productivity tools can really reduce the amount of time it takes to get through your workload.”
Here are two examples:
- Pitchbox can help find influencers and reach out to them quickly and efficiently.
- RankTracer Enterprise can monitor the sales performance of your competitors in real time. This allows you to keep tabs on marketing and promotions they do that bring results, allowing you to add those to your own playbook.
Another great but under-utilized tool? Speech-to-text software for your email.
“Unless you type really fast, software such as Dragon Software will easily double your output in half the time,” says executive consultant Patrick van der Valk, M.Sc. “Since I started using it about a year ago, I think I save myself, on average, six hours a week.”
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Use a Timer
Just as it can be startling to realize how much money we spend on coffee in a month, or on dinners out in a year, it can be difficult to face how we’re really spending our time. By carefully tracking where the minutes and hours are being wasted, you’ll juice your productivity.
“My breakthrough began in November 2015,” says Omadeke. “I did a time audit, measuring how much time I spent in a week doing different tasks. It was a big wakeup call when I realized I was spending too much time in areas that were less impactful for my business than other areas.”
Taking a look at how you actually spend your time will allow you to find ways to automate, simplify to-do lists and prioritize.
“We use a productivity hack we've dubbed ‘Daily Sprints,’” says Daniel DiGriz, CEO of MadPipe.com, a marketing strategy company. “By trying to accomplish an hour of specific work in only 50 minutes, and racing against a timer, I usually accomplish far more than an hour's work in an hour's time, even with breaks.”
If you’re regularly trying to do more than one thing at a time, you’re halving your output, not doubling it.
"The difference between accomplishing five tasks in an hour or 15 tasks in an hour is the ability to focus on one thing,” says Joe Riviello, CEO of Zen Design Firm, a web design and advertising agency based in Old Forge, Pennsylvania.
“I had a major breakthrough in productivity when I finally realized that I need to drop the juggling act and knock out tasks one at a time,” Riviello adds. “Multitasking is an illusion."
Maintain Inbox Zero
More and more productivity experts are counseling the importance of controlling your email.
“We subscribe to an ‘inbox zero’ mentality,” says Brandon Hoffman, the Director of Internet Marketing at KEA Advertising. “It either needs to be deleted, responded to or made into a to-do for later, but it has to be handled and moved out of the inbox.”
For email, Hoffman’s firm uses Gmail Apps for your Domain, and for To-Do's they use Todoist, which integrates into Gmail.
“The more I study productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness, the more I am convinced that the secret to defending against the constant demands on your time is learning control, and the most important place for you to exert control is over your own attention,” says Maura Thomas, a speaker, trainer and founder of RegainYourTime.
Thomas says email interruptions zap your productivity. “Shut off automatic download of messages and start fetching emails only when you’re ready to deal with them,” she adds. “Doing this on your phone, too, will save your battery life.”
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Batch Your Tasks and Use Checklists
Spencer Smith is a former VP of Sales at a Fortune 100 company and current digital marketing entrepreneur based in Madison, Wisconsin. He also teaches business planning and Internet marketing classes at the University of Wisconsin.
“Combine things you need to do with things you like to do - batching,” says Smith. “I do this in the office with content-creation activities. I combine the work I need to do with a great music playlist that I enjoy. When the playlist is over, I can either stop or keep at it. Either way, I feel good.”
Another easy way to cut down on stress? Use checklists to eliminate double-checking.
“Humans forget details, not because we are inept, but simply because our brains aren't built to remember so many details,” says Marvin Russell, the Chicago-based founder of Checkli.com. “That's why we forget milk at the grocery store.”
By using a checklist, you’re giving your brain the assist it needs to avoid mistakes that could cost your business time and money.
As you consider ways to increase your output, try one or two new tactics at a time. Good luck!