Did you know that writing down your goals increases your likelihood of success? A list of must-do tasks guides your everyday activities like a GPS system navigating you on a road trip. Without them, it's easy to get lost.
Here are 7 tasks to jumpstart your daily list of to-dos. They'll anchor your work as a small business owner, ensuring that you can coast forward instead of bumbling on back roads without a clear direction.
1. Plan Your Day
Do you take a moment each morning to plan your day? Leo Babauta, entrepreneur and writer of Zen Habits, suggests that you sit down first thing and identify your three MITs or most important tasks.
Chances are you have a lot more than three important tasks you need to complete by the end of a workday. Taking the time to identify which tasks are most urgent and fundamental to your progress will help you maximize your day. Connect at least one of these MIT to a larger, weekly goal for your company. Babauta recommends getting them done first thing in the morning, to ensure that you build momentum before distractions kick in.
2. Reply To Customers ASAP
Replying to customers may seem like a no brainer, but it’s a BIG no brainer. Every day, communicate with your clients and customers, both on your own initiative and in reaction to queries. If you receive an email or phone call from a client, respond as soon as possible, even if you don’t have a solid answer. Best practices suggest getting back to service-related emails within one workday. Following up immediately builds trust, letting your clients know that you value them and their business.
Here’s a helpful response to a complaint:
3. Take Breaks
You guessed it — breaks are an essential part of a productive day. You may be tempted to work through lunch and dinner, into the wee hours of the night, but studies suggest you do otherwise.
After 90 minutes of work, your brain needs 20 minutes of rest to get back up to speed. If you don’t give yourself time to catch up, accumulated exertion will wear on you over time, contributing to entrepreneurial burnout. Do you struggle with stepping away from work? Utilize a method like the Pomodoro Technique or Time Out to hold you accountable to breaks. And try one of these ideas for a productivity boost:
Step away from your computer. Sitting in front of a screen all day can strain your eyes and constant typing contributes to carpal tunnel. Turn away from your computer and brainstorm with a pad and paper.
Go for a short, brisk walk. Research suggests that moving for two minutes an hour will boost your health. Walking also reduces stress, increases confidence, and activates different parts of your brain to encourage creative thinking.
Take a nap. Daytime napping is common in China, Spain, and India. Even ten to fifteen minutes can improve your performance and reaction times.
Meet with another entrepreneur. Collaboration is the lifeblood of the startup world. Break through your tendency to overwork with a social gathering or coffee date in a different setting.
Image Source: Fast Company
4. Clear Your Space
Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is one of this year’s runaway bestsellers. Her principles hold true for your work and personal life — throw out what you don’t need, organize what you would like to keep, and enjoy a more productive lifestyle.
Unlike leaders at large corporations, small business owners rarely have an assistant devoted to organizing their correspondence, schedules, and paperwork. Every day, clear your desk, desktop, and email box, trashing unnecessary information and filing essentials with online tools.
You can keep records in cloud storage such as Dropbox or Google Drive, import tasks into project management software like Asana, and organize ideas in Evernote. Leaving your office space clean and clear at the end of the day will allow you to start fresh every morning.
5. Say Thank You
Fostering gratitude for your community promotes a culture of appreciation and a positive work environment. Here are some easy ways to say thank you every day:
Add “thank you” to the bottom of an email
Write a simple thank you note to a client or customer
Show gratitude to your staff, contractors, and suppliers
Give out company swag on a daily basis
Acknowledge your own hard work with a have-done list
6. Get Social
Maximize your marketing efforts by selecting a few platforms that can help you reach your ideal audience. Follow the suggested guidelines for social media activity, posting to Twitter 5 times a day and to Facebook 3 times a week
Don’t let that social account fall to the wayside for weeks or months — if you want an active audience, you have to be an active marketer. Pick short blocks of time throughout the day to devote to drafting social media copy. As little as 15 minutes engaging with your network can help to build a following. Because customers are moving to social media channels to report service issues and praise companies, it’s increasingly important to keep an eagle eye on any open accounts.
Do you run a team of employees? Enlist one person to manage your accounts rather than spreading your social marketing across the group. It builds consistency in voice and tone.
Expert Tip: 70% of customer support complaints on Twitter never receive a response. Let’s change that statistic.
7. Go Above and Beyond
As a small business owner, you are accountable to those around you: your customers, your co workers, and external collaborators. Meeting the high standards you set for yourself builds your brand identity and nurtures mutual accountability. But try taking your business to the next level by going above and beyond even your highest standards every day.
Just look at Trader Joe’s. They build outstanding relationships with their customer base by going above and beyond. When a woman called their store after a heavy snow storm, frantic to get her snowed-in, elderly father some food, Trader Joe’s told her that they didn’t deliver. But because of the severity of the situation, their manager broke precedent and drove over bags of food within 30 minutes of receiving the call. Not only does going above and beyond build loyalty, it brings meaning to your work.
What are your essential, everyday tasks as a small business owner?