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Staying productive in your small business can seem a little daunting to figure out. In the beginning stages of building my web design business, my way of staying productive was keeping a never-ending to-do list in my planner and basically winging it each day. I soon found out that my way of staying productive was NOT the way. Not only did my daily to-do list seem unfinishable (is that a word, lol!) but I also worked random hours and said YES to each and every project that came my way. It was unhealthy and pretty scary…
I finally took a huge step back to see how I could ramp up my productivity efforts. I basically wanted to go from relying on a mismanaged planner every day to using systems, workflows, automation, and several easy-to-do hacks to properly organize my daily tasks. Using the below hacks resulted in saving me some serious time to focus on other fun things to help grow my business and ultimately kept my energy in protection mode.
1. Start Off Your Day Right
When it comes to getting ready for another day of client work, I believe in the power of the morning routine. This could be different for everyone. I see folks implementing the following to bring clarity and focus into their day:
- Working Out
- Avoiding screens until after breakfast
- Putting on your favorite music or podcast
- Reading a book
- Setting intention and goals for the day
I’m probably missing a few, but you get the point. Kicking off the day with a simple routine is refreshing. Here’s my current AM routine:
- I get up early (around 4:50am), and will get started with a hobby. No work. It’s either knitting, reading a book, or playing a calming video game (Animal Crossing New Horizons or Stardew Valley is my jam).
- At 7am, I get breakfast ready and enjoy it while watching some YouTube videos that I saved to my library. Some days, I’ll bike to the gym to hit up a 8am CrossFit class but I typically save that for midday for most of the week. It really depends on how I feel that day.
- Then at 9am sharp, I’m at my computer getting through work. I kick work off by going over my to-do list and answering emails that came through the night before.
2. Prioritize Your To-dos The Right Way
My day of work starts off by checking in with my to-do list. Following through on your to-dos can be relieving and it’s awesome to them fly off your list one by one! That keeps me motivated to keep on keepin’ on with crushing tasks. If I don’t finish everything, it’s all good because I normally prioritize must-dos before any less important tasks. Handling tasks that are time-sensitive or more challenging get’s my mind right for the rest of the day!
To further keep on top of tasks, or even random ideas that pop into my head for my business, I use the Todoist app on all of my devices.
3. Batch Create Content
Building a bank of content that’s prescheduled out for your business is a HUGE time saver. I struggled with this often. Because I didn’t block out a dedicated day each week to build content for my brand, I found myself just posting to my social media accounts with no intention.
Now, I block out a day each week for content creation. On this day, I do no client work and focus on building blog content and creating social media posts for the following week. It’s a less stressful way to handle this task for your business. By dedicating a day or a large set of hours to create content for your brand each week, you’ll find that your content become more rich, intentional and even fun to create!
4. Don’t Let Your Emails Take Over Your Energy
When I started my business, I didn’t realize how crazy my inbox would get. You see, I’m one of those people who hate seeing unread emails in my inbox; it seriously bugs me! So because of this, I found myself answering every email that came in… as soon as they hit my inbox. This was a constant interruption when working on projects. For some reason, I felt that my clients needed to hear back from me right away on each and every email that they sent.
I realized over time that both I and my clients are business owners. That means that we most likely have a packed day. There’s no need to email anyone right away after they send out a message to you as they may be busy handling their own daily tasks. Just make sure that your reply is sent out in a timely manner. To keep my energy protected each day and over the weekend, I implemented the following email hacks:
- Creating an auto-responder that I turn on and off each day. This sends out a friendly message to anyone who emails me after my office hours. I set an alarm on my phone for the turn-off and turn-on times each day. In this auto-responder message, I layout when I’ll reply back to back to the sender and it also includes by office hours for the week and what days I don’t respond to emails. This lets your client know right away when they should expect a reply back to their message.
- Scheduling Emails. Sometimes I find that folks email me literally minutes after my office hours. And at night or on the weekends, I may want to send an email out right away so I don’t forget about it. For Gmail users, you can schedule your emails to send out on custom days and times. I love this feature because it allows me to keep emails answered in a timely manner along with not being the person who sends out emails at random hours just to get it out of the way.
- Check your inbox just 2-3 times a day. This hack was where I gained back a load of time each day. By sticking to just checking my inbox 2-3 times per day, I stopped obsessing over getting emails answered right away and shifted my focus on the more important tasks I planned.
5. Block Out Interruptions
Good ol’ distractions. There’s so many that we deal with each day and sometimes they can even be a bit random depending on your office/household environment. Here are a few tips on blocking out interruptions throughout your day so your focus stays where it needs to be:
- Find a quiet place to get work done in your home. If home life gets distracting, try going to a local coffee shop or even finding a nice spot outside where you can focus on your work.
- Keep your phone away from your work area. For social media engagement, set aside a block of time to focus on answering comments and DMs. Stay away from scrolling endless posts for extended periods of time.
- Answers texts (just like emails) later on in the day. That meme or gif your bestie just sent will still be there after your work hours… 🙂
6. Create Office Hours and Stick To Them
Speaking of work hours, setting official office hours for your business is a game-changer. Especially if you are a fellow service-based business owner! Setting strict office hours lets your clients and others know that you ONLY get work done during a set amount of hours. These hours are totally up to you but my biggest piece of advice here would be to set aside 2-3 days away from work to focus on spending time with family, your hobbies, etc… aka living your life.
7. Use a Timer App As You Work
Using a timer while getting work done is handier then it seems. Not only does it help you stay on task when working through your daily todos but using the right timer app can help you discover the following:
- Knowing your peak working hours
- See what tasks are actually distractions aka time suckers
- Honing in on your daily habits and routine which can help you build better ones overtime
- Kick burnout to the curb by pacing out your tasks in a smart way
My favorite app for clocking my time would be Timely. It comes with a bunch of useful features including effectively tracking time for billing purposes.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No”
Let’s talk about protecting our energy. You know, REALLY protecting it by say the not-so-scary two-letter word that humans can’t stand to hear in most cases. NO.
Building up the courage to say it can be hard… but it must be done. Saying no is the most efficient way of keeping your energy and productivity in check. It helps others to value your time along with allowing you to keep the room open in your schedule to complete the important things.
Get used to saying no a little more and saying yes less often. For some, is a highly unused productivity hack that proves to be game changing for both life and business.
9. Template Your Processes Using a CRM
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software is a very valuable investment for your business. Before using a CRM, I juggled tasks, projects, client documents, and more in too many random directions. I wasn’t as organized as I thought I was, lol!
Luckily, I started using a CRM early on in my business to keep up with all of the tasks linked to a single project. CRMs allow you too:
- Create reusable templates for emails, documents, proposals, contracts, and brochures
- Helps with bookkeeping tasks
- Create and manage project workflows for a smooth collaboration process with your client
- Build contact forms to embed on your website to automatically collect inquiry information
- Cool calendar features to show you what tasks are coming up based on the projects you created
A CRM can do so much more for your business based on which software option you decide to go with. I use HoneyBook and absolutely love it! They have a lot of features to help you get your client management set up RIGHT plus awesome customer support. You can get started with a 50% off discount for your first year of being a HoneyBook member. Easy day… 🙂
10. Take Breaks
This hack may seem like an obvious one but when you get in a steady groove of work, you may forget to take a break or two. On some days, not taking a break caused me to skip lunchtime. No good…
Getting your break on is a necessity. It allows you to avoid what I like to call busy-bee burnout and helps you to refresh your focus for when it’s time to jump back into a working session. Plus, you need your lunch break, lol!