Running around like a chicken with your head cut off might seem like a good sign. After all, you are bringing on new customers. The phone is ringing off the hook. You’re skimping on sleep trying to do everything at once. You’re even (kinda, sorta) succeeding!
There’s only one problem with this common scene: contrary to popular belief, busyness itself is not a virtue. What truly takes skill is one’s ability to manage, delegate and execute tasks efficiently – all while staying sane in the process.
If being busy has dominated your life, it’s time to regain control. Use this guide to figure out where you’re losing the most time so you can reduce daily stress and get back to work that matters.
Common Time Zappers
Streamlining your business processes requires you to pinpoint the biggest time wasters in your daily schedule. However, this can be difficult to determine off the top of your head – especially when it feels like you’re spending lots of time on rudimentary tasks.
Let’s examine your day-to-day productivity to see where your business can be more efficient.
Track Your Minutes
Start by keeping track of your time usage throughout a single day. Productivity consultant Daniel Gold suggests writing down all of your daily activities on a piece of paper. Record what you were doing and how long it took (be honest). Look for the work-related activities that you spent the most amount of time on. Was it answering customer phone calls? Was it meeting with your business partner? Take note of these activities.
If writing down your tasks feels like a stressor or a distraction, you can always turn to an automated time tracking tool like Toggl. This time tracker connects to your web browser to show where you’re spending time on the web. Later, you can view an organized chart that breaks your time down into categories.
It’s also a good idea to have partners and employees track their time, as this will provide a comprehensive overview of your workforce efficiency.
Look for patterns in your daily habits. Did you sit down for an hour at 2pm to respond to a customer complaint via email? How about that 30-minute gap where you did nothing but scroll through Instagram? These patterns will help you identify the times of day that you’re most productive. They’ll also shed light on when you should take a break to refuel.
How to Simplify Small Business Processes
Taking an honest look at your personal and professional productivity is an important first step towards a more efficient small business. After you’ve done that, it’s time to target your biggest time wasters with powerful, proven solutions. We’ve put together a list of important tools and strategies guaranteed to help you get more done, faster.
Here are three common areas where new businesses tend to lose the most time:
Struggling to keep track of requests? Can’t respond timely enough? Whether they’re calling you, leaving Yelp reviews or sending an email, customers will reach out at all hours of the day. When you’re responding to these requests by yourself – or with just another person – things can get hectic.
For more efficient customer service:
Speaking one-on-one with all of your customers is a great way to understand pain point from a first person perspective. But if a significant amount of time is being dedicated to these interactions, it might be time to outsource the task. Being there for your customers and creating a personal connection doesn’t mean that they should have your personal phone number.
We’ve talked about the many benefits of an automated phone system such as Grasshopper, which include capturing customer voicemails and sending email transcripts to your phone. To engage in customer conversations further on your website, you might consider implementing a live chat app. For example, Bold360 is a customer intelligence tool equipped with customizable live chat and technical support features.
Marketing is how you share your story with the world, and its a non-negotiable aspect of small business success. But marketing can be an unexpected time killer, especially when you’re managing some or all of it yourself.
For example, consider how long you spend crafting social media posts and responding to comments. What about email marketing? Writing a newsletter? Even experts struggle to complete these tasks efficiently.
To spend less time on marketing:
Social media is the most popular way to market a small business because its easy and free. However, it does take strategy and time to craft an effective social media marketing plan.
If your social media goals are overwhelming you, consider ways you can scale back and make them more realistic. Think about it: you don’t have to post every single day on every single platform. Delivering value is the most important thing. If it feels more manageable to post three high-quality, engaging posts per week – opt for that.
Here’s something else you should know: social media management tools are a small business’ best friend. Queuing up all of your posts at the beginning of the week saves you both time and stress. Buffer is an affordable small business tool that allows you to channel content from your favorite websites directly into your social feed.
If you’re feeling stressed about finding what to publish (aside from your own content) try a tool like Feedly. This site aggregates news from across the web and makes it easy to discover articles based on topic. Pocket is another content discovery app that assists you with finding and saving relevant content.
Meetings and Communication
Meetings are perhaps the largest source of lost time for small businesses. This goes for phone calls and Skype sessions, too. Do you and your business partner call one another ten times a day? This could be a sign that you’re not conducting meetings very efficiently.
To cut down in time on meetings:
Have less meetings. Seriously: having too many meetings can be hugely detrimental to small business success.
Here’s a general rule of thumb: if the meeting doesn’t have a clear agenda, don’t have it. Canceling meetings might feel like you’re slacking off, but you’re actually freeing up time to help everyone get more done.
The key to cutting down on meetings is making the meetings that you do have more efficient. Instead of having three meetings a week, see if you can just have one meeting on Mondays or Fridays. Use this time to share concerns and discuss ideas, but don’t do so without assigning action items. Each person should leave the meeting with a manageable and specific task, with expectations that they’ll deliver a summary at the next meeting.
To further assist your team communication, join.me is a helpful too that replaces the need for lengthy email threads. Many small teams rely on join.me to connect over video or phone chat, no matter where in the world they are.
If you’re ready to complete daily tasks more efficiently while saving yourself time, these strategies and tools for small businesses can help.