With so many things to do, there's no time to waste when you run your own business. Here are some pointers that might help you to get more out of your day
When do you get the most done, first thing in the morning? Early or mid afternoon, perhaps? If you don't get much work done until 'after hours' when you get home, you could have serious issues with daily distractions and time management. Think about why you get more done at certain times and find ways you could recreate those conditions at other times.
Productive people know what they need to achieve each day and they systematically work through tasks. If you don't have a daily to-do list, you risk not tackling important tasks when you need to. At the beginning of each day, itemise – in priority order – everything you need to do. Make the list achievable and put it somewhere you can see it. Cross out each item when completed and move on. If you don't finish every task, simply add them to the next day's list.
This could be paper or computer-based, but scheduling important tasks and setting up effective prompts will help you to ensure you get everything done. Don't try to cram too much into too little time. Computer-based, business-wide diaries can ensure all team members can stay up to speed with other people's commitments and whereabouts.
We all hate some tasks, let's face it, but delaying them for no good reason can mean they play on your mind. Better to get them done and dusted. Don't be tempted to always start your day with the easy stuff. Some people aim to get harder daily tasks out of the way as early as possible. Break bigger/more difficult/less pleasant tasks into smaller chunks and build them into your regular routine.
Don't over-estimate what you can achieve in a day, better to give yourself contingency time to complete jobs. That doesn't mean giving yourself an easy ride, of course. Before you start a task, decide how much time you can/should devote and stick to it.
Make sure jobs and/or meetings in similar locations are scheduled for the same day. It will cut costs and mean smarter working. Agree meeting finishing times in advance (prevent unnecessary run-over) and think about things you can do on the way to and from appointments – particularly if you're on public transport. Where possible, get people to come to you.
There are so many these days. Don't take newspapers or magazines to work. Don't be tempted to listen to your iPod or radio unless you work better as a result. Don't reply to non-emergency social phone calls, emails and texts during work hours, if possible. Leave Facebook for home and Twitter to celebrities with too much time (unless you use it to promote your business). Screen work-related calls, too, and tell others not to copy you in on emails you don't need to read. Similarly, add NNTR (no need to reply) to the bottom of your emails if there's NNTR. Where possible, delegate tasks to others. You need to maximise the value of your time to your business.
Let those you work with know when you are available and when you shouldn't be disturbed (unless absolutely necessary). To get more admin work done, you might occasionally work from home, where you'll be free from the usual workplace distractions. If possible, tactfully discourage contacts and customers from dropping by on spec. And avoid networking events and exhibitions unless there's a good business reason for attending.
Tidy up. It will make you feel better, the happier you are, the more productive you'll be. Get rid of all clutter (OK, maybe leave a family or holiday snap shot, because this can help energise you). Put the things you need in a logical place, and make sure you have everything you need. A more pleasant and orderly workspace makes for a more productive day.
Yep, the good news is, working too hard or too long can be counter-productive – not to mention bad for your health. Take a full hour for lunch (OK, 30 minutes if you're really pushed) and eat some healthy food. Take a couple of 15-minute breaks throughout the day and remove yourself from where you work. Go and speak to people, too. Make yourself a cuppa and take time to refocus. All of the above can help you return to your to-do list with added vigour and a clearer mind.