As a small business owner, free time is probably not something you have a whole lot of. What you do have a lot of are tasks to accomplish and deadlines to meet. So how can you better accomplish these tasks in a shorter amount of time?
Below are 50 time-saving tips to help you save time throughout your workday.
50 Time-Saving Tips for Small Businesses
1. Set Goals
Each morning, write out a detailed to-do list of the things you want to accomplish that day.
2. Create a Plan
Figure out when and how you’ll accomplish each item on your daily list – will you need help, supplies, etc.?
3. Prioritize by Importance
It’s inevitable that sometimes you’ll have to cut items off your to-do list, so decide early what the most important items are and prioritize.
4. Prioritize by Urgency
You’ll need to get to those projects that have urgent deadlines so leave the ones that are due next week for later.
5. Break Down Large Tasks
If your list includes some overwhelming items, break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks.
6. Be Realistic
Don’t expect to accomplish everything in an hour. Know your limitations and your abilities.
7. Track Your Time
In order to better understand how you really spend your time, take a few days and write down everything you do and how long it takes. Include breaks, email, social media and everything else, so that you’ll find out what your biggest time wasters are.
8. Set Deadlines
Need some motivation to complete a project? Set a deadline for yourself and tell others about it so they can help hold you accountable.
9. Keep One Eye on the Clock
You don’t want to constantly obsess about time, but you also don’t want to let the day get away from you because you weren’t paying attention. Stay on track.
10. Set Reminders
If you have a deadline or meeting coming up, set a reminder on your phone that will go off shortly before.
11. Schedule Breaks
Everyone needs to take breaks throughout the day, so make sure to account for them when scheduling your tasks for the day.
12. Schedule Time for Email and Social Media
Email and social media can be big time wasters. Don’t respond to every email as it comes in and doesn’t leave Facebook or Twitter open all day. Instead, schedule a short block or two throughout the day to accomplish these tasks.
13. Use a Central Social Media Management System
If you use social media for marketing purposes, you likely have more than one account. Using a central dashboard like HootSuite can help you avoid going back and forth between sites, and even allows you to schedule posts throughout the day so you don’t need to constantly sign back on.
14. Avoid Distractions
Aside from social media and email, there are a number of other distractions that can cause you to waste time throughout the day. If you work at home, turn off the TV. If you work in an office, take a different route to the water cooler to avoid chatty co-workers.
15. Stick to One Task at a Time
Multi-tasking can sound like a time saver, but it isn’t. Focus on one task, complete it and then move on.
16. Batch Tasks
It can be helpful to do similar tasks consecutively. For example, make all your phone calls for the day back-to-back.
17. Incentivize Tasks
When you have a really difficult task to complete, give yourself a reward for completing it. It can be as simple as taking a break.
18. Focus on Results
You should have an idea about why you are doing each task on your list. Ask yourself how each item will impact your company and focus on results.
19. Don’t Stress Over Unimportant Details
If something doesn’t have a big impact on your business, don’t stress about it. Perfectionism can be a big time waster.
20. Create Good Habits
Create a habit of sorting files regularly, responding to emails in a timely manner and quickly accomplishing any other tasks that show up on your to-do list so that it quickly becomes routine.
21. Eliminate the Non-Essential
Remove items that no longer serve a purpose to your mission, both physically and electronically.
22. Use Email Filters and Archives
Use email filters and archives so that you don’t spend hours looking for a particular message. Your email program most likely offers easy tools to keep all your communications organized, so make wise use of those features.
23. Limit Meetings
Meetings can be essential, but they can also turn into time wasters if they go on too long or happen too frequently. Accept and schedule only important meetings.
24. Hire a Virtual Assistant
Virtual assistants can help you with mundane daily tasks like email, bookkeeping, scheduling, and research. Consider getting yourself some help if you need it.
25. Utilize a Project Management Platform
Services like Basecamp offer your team a way to communicate in groups, set deadlines and share and edit files without having to keep up with several different email threads.
26. Keep Projects in One Place
For both completed projects and those still in progress, have one folder or area where you know you can find them.
27. Avoid Rush Hour
If you commute or have to travel for meetings, take traffic and construction into account so as to not waste time en route.
28. Have Virtual Meetings
Avoid traveling when possible and instead consider the use of programs like Skype or GoToMeeting.
29. Automate Payroll
Rather than manually tracking hours and expenses, invest in a payroll system that will do all the work for you.
30. Take Notes
Keep a notebook with you at all times to jot down notes and ideas or use an app such as Evernote to store ideas, images and more so you don’t spend time trying to think of them later.
31. Take Advantage of Technology
There are so many time saving and organizational apps and services available such as Dropbox, which lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere. Find the ones that work for you.
32. Don’t Get Carried Away
Attempting to master and utilize too many productivity applications and services at once can be a time waster. Don’t use so many of them that you spend more time on them than you save.
Ask your team to take on tasks that you don’t have time for or those with which you know they’d do a good job.
34. Invest in Accounting Software
Keeping endless spreadsheets can lead to a lot of headaches and wasted time. Keep all your account information organized in one place.
35. Keep an Organized Workspace
Don’t spend hours rifling through your desk looking for a particular document when you could just implement a filing system and find it in seconds.
36. Back Up Your Files
Whether by an external hard drive, hard copies or online backup, create backups of all your important files in case of a computer meltdown. Consider an online service like Carbonite or Mozy for this purpose.
37. Keep Templates for Commonly-Used Forms
Don’t spend time writing the same paragraphs over and over again when you could have a general template saved. Just go in and make a few updates each time you use it instead of starting from scratch.
38. Utilize Shortcuts
Use keyboard and browser shortcuts and keep all your commonly used programs in an easily accessible location on your desktop.
39. Automate Expenses
Make use of automatic bill pay services whenever possible to avoid late payments and time spent actually paying bills each month.
40. Use a Cloud-Based Calendar
Calendar apps can keep you updated on important meetings and deadlines and don’t take long to update. Consider using Google Calendar for this purpose.
41. Have a Collaboration System
Whether you use a platform like Basecamp or Google Docs or stick to more traditional methods, you should have a set system for collaboration so that your team doesn’t get confused and unorganized.
42. Say “No”
Don’t take on tasks just because someone asks you to. If you don’t have the time and it won’t help your business, don’t do it.
43. Make the Most of Down Time
Time spent in waiting rooms, on the subway or even on long elevator rides could be used to update your calendar, write notes or accomplish other simple tasks.
44. Clean Up Old Files
Ridding your computer of old files can not only keep you from having to wade through them while looking for more relevant files, but it can also speed up your computer and save you from a fate of endless loading pages.
45. Use Mobile Apps
There are mobile productivity apps, mobile calendar apps, mobile list apps – all of which can help you accomplish tasks and save time while not in front of a computer.
46. Know Your Habits
If you’re an early bird, get your most important tasks out of the way early. If you’re a night owl, don’t force yourself to turn in big projects in the morning. Play to your strengths.
47. Shorten Your Workday
In a blog post on Freelance Folder, Lexi Rodrigo explains that cutting time off your workday will force you to accomplish more within the time allotted.
48. Leave Room for the Unexpected
Things you didn’t plan for will come up throughout the day. Take this into account when making your to-do list.
49. Have Quiet Hours
If you work in an office, put a “do not disturb” sign on your door while you’re working on an important task. If you work from home, silence your phone for that time. If distractions come up when you’re in the zone, you can lose your concentration and end up spending way more time than necessary.
50. Don’t Over-Schedule
You might be overly optimistic in the morning about how much you can get done that day. But creating a too-full list is only going to overwhelm you later in the day.
If you implement even just a few of the time-saving tips listed above, you will start to notice a difference in your workday and your productivity – and you may even notice that you have a little more free time.