It happens all the time: You plan on a big, productive day, and before you know it, it’s 2:00 in the afternoon.
You have to cram as much as you can into what’s left of the day (or work into the evening when you should be spending time relaxing with family and friends).
As business owners, we all know that time is money. And yet, like everyone else, we often find ourselves wasting time and losing productivity.
How can these bad habits be broken (or, at least, harnessed)? Smart business owners apply productivity hacks.
These hacks are surprisingly simple, but can save you time every day and increase your productivity noticeably.
Try them — your precious leisure time will thank you.
1. Cut Meeting Times in Half
If you normally call for one-hour meetings (and then find yourself discussing things that could just as easily be shared via email or Evernote), cut them back to 30 minutes.
You probably won’t have a hard time covering what you need to cover in that time.
Do you have a client who likes to talk your ear off for 25 minutes when you can get your business done in ten?
Schedule a ten-minute call, and tell them you have another obligation at the end of the ten minutes. It’s not lying, even if you don’t have anything actually scheduled — your day is filled with obligations you have to find time for, so there you go.
Meeting in person over coffee can be a nice break. You don’t have to do away with meeting in cafes and restaurants altogether, but if there is something you can get done by phone or Skype in half the time, consider skipping the coffee, especially if it’s someone you meet with regularly.
2. Straighten Up
Allow yourself five to ten minutes at the end of the day to de-clutter and organize your workspace.
A clutter-free space helps you focus, and it can just make you feel more productive in general, because you’re starting the day organized.
As a bonus, you’ll waste far less time looking for paperwork, business cards, and your favorite pen, because they will all be put in their proper place.
Do this daily, and you probably won’t even need a full five minutes to straighten your workspace.
Let it go for a few days (or weeks — it happens, we know), and your de-cluttering time becomes a whole time-guzzling project.
3. Ban Yourself From Social Media
If you’re the one who handles the social media marketing for your business, you obviously can’t stay away from it — but you can limit it to a set amount of professional social media time only.
What you need to ban yourself from, whether you deal in social media as part of your job or not, is your personal social media.
No checking your personal Facebook and liking baby pictures or sending get well messages to your second cousin.
No reading every response to your favorite celebrities tweets. No sharing funny vines with your team during work hours.
Social media can easily be the biggest time-waster in your day. Don’t allow yourself ten minutes of Instagram between tasks, because most of the time it will turn into 15, 20, or 30 minutes.
If you need a break, take a walk, and leave your phone in your pocket.
4. Go Outside
A big productivity killer is burnout. If you’re stuck on a project, have writer’s block, or if dealing with a high-maintenance client has you stressed, take a break and go outside. And do it several times a day.
A walk around the block, your industrial park, or, if you’re fortunate, a nearby park, for just ten minutes can give you a little reboot and help you get back to work.
In contrast, devoting a break to sitting at your desk checking Facebook can make it more difficult to get going again.
If you take a short 10-minute walk three times a day, you’re getting 30 minutes of exercise a day, the minimum recommended amount.
So, if you’re not otherwise exercising, walk breaks can not only help productivity, they can improve your health and energy, and you might even shed a few pounds.
5. Hold Your Calls
Nothing can derail your momentum like an out-of-the-blue 15-minute phone call. If you’re taking all of your calls as they come in, you’re hurting your own productivity.
If you have an assistant, you have a built-in solution. If your cell phone is your work phone, you can easily get bogged down.
There was a time when the advice was never to give out your cell phone number for business, but that’s hardly viable for many business owners anymore.
So, turn off your ringer and let your calls go to voice mail. Set a couple of times a day to check them, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and allow a set time to do callbacks.
This puts your phone time on your schedule, and does away with interruptions.
If you don’t like the idea of being unreachable by your family or babysitter while you work, you can set certain numbers as Emergency Contacts that will bypass silent mode.
If this isn’t a feature on your phone, you can install an app like Essential Calls to set it up.
6. Turn Off Email Alerts
Just like phone calls can interrupt your productivity, those little popup alerts telling you you have a new email message can be massive distractions.
Turn them off, and check your emails at a set time every day.
Make your email policy clear by setting up an out-of-office notification that tells people when they can expect their emails to be seen. For example:
“Your message to Spring Design has been received. Or emails are reviewed between 1pm and 2pm daily. If you have a more timely concern, please call the office at [phone number]. Thank you!”
Checking business email once (or twice) a day also makes it easier to keep your email account organized. Archive emails once you’ve responded to them, and sort active email threads into relevant folders.
7. Have a Weekly “No-Meeting” Day
Reserve one day a week for focused work only — no meetings, no appointments, no phone chats.
This ensures that at least once a week you will be able to work on your projects uninterrupted for 8 hours.
It’s also a good idea to have this no-meeting day the same day every week, so clients and co-workers know that there are no meetings on Tuesdays, for example.
Keeping it to the same day also makes it a part of your weekly routine.
Of course, there will be times when you will have no choice but to have a meeting on your no-meeting day (a client comes in from out of town, a last-minute meeting is required to meet a deadline, etc.).
When that happens, be sure to designate another no-meeting day that week.
Once you allow yourself a day of no-interruption work every week, with no distractions from social media, email, phone calls or clutter, you’ll realize how productive you can be.
Do you have a favorite productivity hack that has changed the way you work? Share it with us in the comments!
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