Are you working really long hours in your small business? Do you have a long to-do list that just keeps getting longer? Does 5pm come you find yourself thinking, "Where did the day go? What did I even accomplish today?"
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you are not alone as a small business owner. It can be tough juggling everything that needs to get done in your business. If you analyze what you are actually working on in your small business, you may find that you are working on all of the wrong things. Instead of focusing on working as many hours as possible, you should be focusing on working more efficiently and effectively.
As a small business owner, you have to get good at handling an unlimited workload. Let's be honest; if it were humanly possible, we could all pretty much work endlessly on our small businesses. There is always something to do in a business.
Everyone is out there busy being busy, as I like to say, oftentimes working on all of the wrong things. A common venting tactic is to tell someone how busy you are. You just want to unload some of the stress you are under and you do so by telling everyone how busy you are. While not always the case, most people are just focused and working on the wrong tasks.
Focus On Effectiveness, Not Hours
Stop measuring yourself in the number of hours you work per week. Instead, focus on what you are accomplishing. Whether you worked 6 hours or 67 hours last week really doesn't matter; all that matters is what you got done. I would rather be on-task for 20 completely effective hours instead of reaching exhaustion while spinning my wheels for 60.
Prioritize Your Day
Every day, take a look at your to-do list and re-prioritize it. If you can only get three tasks done today, what are they? Now put those tasks on your calendar and get them done.
The main reason that people don't work effectively is because they get distracted by things that don't matter. Phone calls, emails, social media, and unscheduled meetings are all distractions that are keeping you from actually getting things done. Turning off those distractions and focusing on your prioritized to-do list will keep you on task.
Let me steal a piece of advice from Tim Ferriss here and give you a hot tip. The next time someone asks you for a meeting, invites you to lunch, or tries to drag you along to any other event that is probably going to be a complete waste of time, all you have to do is ask for an agenda. The simple request for an agenda will save you so much time. A lot of the time, people will realize they have no clear agenda and just want to waste your time. This tip alone will minimize your wasted time and keep you on task for getting things done.
Much like everything else in business, measuring your results is what allows you to determine if you were successful or not. Your time should be no different; what gets measured, gets done.
So, at the end of the week, stop looking at your total hours worked and instead look at your accomplishments. Did you get all of the important things done that were on your to-do list for the week?
When I'm helping a small business owner grow through our mentoring services, one of the exercises I have them do is to diligently track their time for the week. Then we analyze it together to see where they are spending their time and make the necessary adjustments so that they only focus on tasks they should be doing. In general, I like for business owners to focus on obligations, income-producing tasks, and those tasks that can't be delegated or outsourced. Not to toot Tim Ferriss' horn again, but this workflow can be extremely effective when you are considering a task. Try it out the next time you are presented with an activity.
It's OK To Walk Away
Don't be afraid to walk away and stop working at some point. For some reason yesterday, I was able to work 12 hours effectively, but that is very rare. Sometimes, you just hit a wall after a certain number of hours and you can feel your productivity slipping. If you are tired, unfocused, or just working for the sake of working, then stop. You need to set boundaries for yourself and only work when you are actually being productive. After all, we could work endlessly, but who wants to do that?
What tips do you have for business owners to work more efficiently and effectively?