8 Time-Saving Tips for Small Business that Actually Work
“There aren’t enough hours in the day.” How many times have you grumbled this phrase after adding yet another item to your to-do list?
This all-too-frequent lamentation is heard ‘round the business world and at smaller businesses in particular. With so much to do, so many hats to wear and so little time, small business owners can feel buried under a mountain of tasks, no matter how hard they work to dig themselves out.
Help has arrived. We’ve gathered some of the best time-saving tips around, including insights from small business experts. Read on to learn eight ways you can manage your time, be more productive and help fight burnout.
1. Pick the right time to prioritize
Creating a to-do list is never a bad idea, but if you’re finding that you’re still not getting to your high-priority tasks, think about changing when you make your list.
“Write down five objectives for the following day the night before—no more than five, though,” advises Barry Enderwick, a consultant and former Director of Marketing at Netflix. “By doing it the night before, your mind is removed from the tactical and you can think more strategically about what are the highest priorities.”
Instead of planning around what’s in front of you (answer emails, create a presentation), this strategy allows you to evaluate what’s going to have the most impact and prioritize accordingly.
2. Prevent burnout before it starts
Burnout has become such a prevalent issue that earlier this year the World Health Organization classified it as an “occupational phenomenon” caused by “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
Small teams that are overburdened with work are susceptible to burnout, so it’s important to realize that you can’t—and shouldn’t—do it all. Delegate and ask for help whenever you can. Foster a workplace culture that supports employees’ entire well-being. Burnout can decrease worker efficacy, so while it may seem counterintuitive, taking healthy breaks from work can actually make you and your team more productive.
3. Find hacks for mundane tasks
If you’re like Nanxi Liu, co-founder and CEO of digital signage software company Enplug, you look forward to mealtime (and honestly, who doesn’t?). But, if like Liu, you find shopping, preparing and cooking meals eats up a lot of your time, then you need a fix. Liu’s solution? Use a modern-day convenience to take these chores off her plate.
“I subscribe to a personalized meal delivery service that sends me freshly prepared meals several days a week,” she says. “On the other days, I use an on-demand delivery service like Postmates.”
Another time-saving hack is to use electronic check deposits if your bank offers them, reducing trips to the ATM. The key is to identify tasks you can offload, no matter how big or small. Shaving off a few minutes here and there—and not having to worry whether something is going to get done—can free you up to focus on more important things.
4. Don’t waste time with time-wasters
Small business owners and executives waste 21.8 hours per week, according to a 2017 study by business coaching firm Maui Mastermind. This includes 6.8 hours on low-value business activities, 3.4 hours on low-value emails and 1.8 hours extinguishing preventable fires.
The first step to getting rid of time-wasters is to identify them, and these can include people. Perhaps there’s a customer who demands an inordinate amount of attention. It may be time to re-evaluate the relationship and decide whether spending your day dealing with this problem customer is worth it.
As for those low-value emails, consider strategies like only checking your email at certain times of the day or filtering messages by urgency.
5. Wear one hat at a time
“When I started our business with a few co-founders, I had to divide tasks and figure out who was good at what and split tasks based on the natural skill sets of each co-founder,” he says. “I was more technically inclined and closer to [customers] using our software, so I handled all of the customer support and all of the development as well as product design.”
Rather than be overwhelmed by his myriad responsibilities, Hendrix found a way to manage each of his duties that he recommends to fellow entrepreneurs.
“Dedicate two-hour chunks of each day to the different hat [you’re] wearing,” he says. “You don’t want to be mixing these things up throughout the day because you’ll spread yourself too thin and not be good at any of them.”
6. Get organized
Raise your hand if you’ve ever scrambled to find an important document when you needed it, like, half an hour ago.
Organizing may seem like a futile endeavor when you have items begging for your attention right now, but the truth is that setting aside a few hours or even a whole day to create and maintain filing systems—both physical and digital—can save countless hours later.
You can sort everything from emails to tax documents, so when you need to pull up that critical correspondence or your CPA comes knocking, you can access these files without taking any more time than you need.
7. Keep it simple
Big ideas go a long way in small businesses, but sometimes the simplest solution is the most elegant. Take, for instance, how Liu decided on Enplug’s office location.
“One of the factors that contributed to the reason I selected our office location was its easy-to-access, free and plentiful parking lot,” she says. “Because the parking lot is right in front of our office, it saves our employees and visitors time and money. We don't have to worry about searching for parking spots or walking long distances between our car and our office.”
Overcomplicating can be enticing, especially if the problem you are trying to solve is in an area you’re not familiar with. But you may find that by looking at issues from every angle and choosing the path of least resistance, you give yourself, your employees and your customers the greatest gift of all: more time.
8. Tap into the right technology
Remember how we said that wearing multiple hats is a given at small businesses? Chances are, you or someone on your team is in charge of technology at your company, whether or not it’s in the job description.
Instead of opting for services that take time and resources to set up, look for solutions that let you access robust yet simple to use features with just a few clicks.
One such solution is 8x8 Express, a powerful phone system that gives small businesses a professional sound. With Express, you can begin making calls, sending messages and holding video conferences in a matter of minutes. Express only costs $12/month, so it’s pocketbook-friendly, too. To learn more about Express and get a free 30-day trial, visit this page.
We hope each of these tips helps you win back time and reach your goals while saving some mental anguish. By following the advice offered here, you can effectively lead your business and keep your to-do list in check.