Being an entrepreneur isn’t a job for the faint-hearted. No matter whether you’re just starting up, or you’ve been in business for years, staying productive and consistent is one of the hardest skills to learn.
At Connexus, we’ve experienced this ourselves. Some days are a struggle. It’s all too easy to push back the things you don’t enjoy doing (like financials) or devote too much time to small tasks that don’t move the needle (like choosing the design of your business cards).
The good news is: productivity is a skill. It can be learned, and it can be mastered. Start working smarter, not harder, with these five productivity tips.
To have a chance at winning five must-read books to build your business, enter our giveaway now.
1. Question the purpose
This is different to ‘finding your why’. We’re not just talking about your business mission or the reason you started your company (but that is important to keep front of mind too). Instead, it’s about reflecting on the tasks that you’re doing and asking questions like:
Why am I doing this task?
What do I hope to get out of it?
Is this action creating real value for my customer?
How can I do this less often?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing things because you’ve always done them. Questioning the value and impact of each task on your to-do list forces you to be aware of how you’re using your time.
2. Automate and delegate
Time is at a premium when you’re an entrepreneur. Given there’s only one of you, you need to utilise every hour effectively. Free up some of your time by automating repeatable tasks using software.
The 80/20 principle – that 80% of your results come from a mere 20% of your activities – means you need to be devoting as much of your time as possible to your most important activities and automating the ones that aren’t as significant.
Technology can eliminate some of this busywork. For example, if customers are regularly ringing you to check your business hours, consider setting up a robot receptionist (press 1 to hear business hours) and play a recorded message of your open times. Customers get what they want – and you avoid having to answer the same question a million times.
For the tasks you can’t automate, try delegating them elsewhere, either to other staff members in your team or through using external websites that specialise in freelancers (Fiverr, Upwork etc).
3. Nuke distractions. ASAP.
We’re all guilty of the occasional glance at our smartphone or a quick surf of social media when we should be working. While you don’t need to delete your Facebook in order to be more productive, there are changes you can make to limit your distractions.
Only checking emails at certain times of the day, not looking at your phone until lunchtime and installing browser extensions that block particular websites during work hours are all little steps you can take that will help to eliminate distractions.
One of the most common office distractions is phone calls. Luckily technology can help here. Many business phone systems include a ‘do not disturb’ button that instantly diverts calls to voicemail and shows team members that you’re not to be interrupted.
4. Strive to get in the zone
Have you ever been working on a task so intently that by the time you look at the clock, you find that hours have passed? You may have entered into a ‘flow state’, also known as being ‘in the zone’.
The ‘flow state’, popularised by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, says that finding that focus, clarity and control often results in some of your best work, but it’s an elusive mindset to get into. Part of getting into ‘the zone’ is all about creating an optimum environment to work in, but a lot of it also revolves around engaging in activities that you find interesting and purposeful.
Setting out your goals clearly, alongside challenging yourself to get out of your comfort zone, are just two of the many ways that you can try to achieve ‘flow’.
5. Build your network
Many hands (and heads) make light work. Chances are, if you’re hitting productivity roadblocks in your business, someone else has already solved that problem in their business. Find them and learn from them!
What if you don’t have a network? Build one. Connect with industry peers and customers on LinkedIn; attend small business meetups, seminars and other networking events. If you prefer a 1-1 situation, seek out a mentor. You’d be surprised by how willing people are to help.
Network contacts can also evolve into partners for your business. At Connexus, we owe our success to making professional connections and asking them to get involved in what we’re doing. Partnership is a powerful way to expand your business reach and impact – beyond your niche of expertise.
These five tips were adapted from Employee to Entrepreneur by Steve Glaveski, one of five books in our Ultimate Small Business Giveaway.