Working for yourself is incredibly tough. You are responsible for every aspect of the company. From sales to marketing, invoicing to accounting. Unless you have a large team of people working for you, then the buck stops at you on everything.
You need to have a lot of self-motivation and be incredibly organised to manage all the elements that make your business a success. While you may be doing this right now, the chances are that some parts of your business are suffering.
There are so many tools you can use to increase your productivity, save time and help you focus on growing your turnover. They can also help you improve your work-life balance too.
Improve your communication
Emails are a vital part of communication in business. However, a poorly worded email can confuse and delay any action needed from the receiver. This can be frustrating at both ends, especially if you wait a day for someone to reply, and they have misunderstood the whole concept. Using a service like Grammarly – you can ensure your emails are clear and concise every time. You won’t need to clarify your emails or waste time explaining what you meant.
List your primary objectives.
As simple as it sounds, many of us head into the day with a long list of jobs that need to be done; however, few of us highlight the critical tasks. You should make the last 30 minutes of your working day, an organising space for tomorrow. Write your list of essential tasks in priority order, then add some notes on how much time you need to dedicate to each one.
Time blocking is an excellent way of increasing productivity, particularly if you have a large team working on multiple projects. However, it also works brilliantly if you are working on your own.
A time block is a more comprehensive To-Do list. You will take your critical tasks and place them into a calendar, with dedicated times slotted for each. Your most important tasks should be placed in the hours you are most productive. Then you fill the hours around this with work that isn’t as high priority. You also should block out periods of the day for rest, toilet breaks and lunch.
By blocking out hours in your day, you will remain focussed on that task. This can help prevent all the distractions that can cause a 2-hour job to take all day. It will focus your mind. It’s a good idea to turn off all notifications on your phone and email during your critical task lists, and this will help you focus even more on the job in hand.
Hire a virtual assistant
Have you ever thought about hiring a personal assistant? Someone that could do all the little jobs, answer the phone, respond to emails and look after the basics for you? While a virtual assistant can’t bring you a cup of tea – they can manage your communications.
Up to a third of a business owners day is taken up with reading or responding to emails. This is around 12 hours per week. A virtual assistant can manage your inbox, sorting out all your incoming and outgoing communications into groups, sections or tags. This means you can see the status of your communications on specific jobs and know when its time for a follow-up. Your VA will also work with you to create a template reply to any incoming emails such as new sales leads or project enquiries. This can help you focus on other elements of your business instead of responding to emails, and it will also help ensure you don’t miss any important communication. You VA will make sure you only receive the most important emails of the day. You can ask them to send you weekly or daily reports, so you always know where you are.
When you first went into business, you had a selection of specialist skills. This may not have included marketing, invoice processing or SEO. Multiple companies can do this for you and free up your time to focus on the stuff you get passionate about.
Working with an accountancy team is easy using software such as Xero or Quickbooks. You and your accountant can have access to this. They can take on bookkeeping for you too. This means all you have to do is keep your receipts in order, and you don’t need to input them. You can even use your phone app to take photos of your receipts and automatically upload them to your accountancy software.
SEO is an integral part of your online business. Some companies will help you to improve this, which will lead to a drive in traffic and a potential increase in sales. A company that understands SEO usually works on all types of content and offers blog services too. This means someone else could take care of writing company news and prevent your website from becoming static.
Marketing is key to sales. Running smart marketing campaigns across social media is essential if we want our brand to stand out from the competition. If design isn’t your strong point, working with a marketing team will ensure you have well designed, well-voiced marketing campaigns all year round.
The early bird
Successful people tend to get up early. You are starting your day with enough time to eat a good breakfast and make time for yourself. This will help you focus your mind and can clear any distractions which might take your eye off the ball when you get to the office. Most people find they are most productive a couple of hours after waking up in the morning. So if you are one of these people that hit snooze on your alarm, rolls out of bed and runs into the office you might be losing precious time during the day.
By waking up earlier, you give yourself time to procrastinate a little. You can check through your social media, read the news and you won’t be distracted through the day.
You don’t have to hit the gym for hours. A 25-minute walk in the fresh air is all it takes to refocus the mind. If you have been focussed on a job all morning, you could get brain fog. This will reduce your productivity in the afternoon. Knowing when to stop, get outside and take a walk can help refresh and refocus your mind, ensuring you aren’t going stale on longer tasks.
Schedule shorter deadlines
When working on important tasks, if you give yourself less time than you need, then you will work harder and faster to finish your jobs. Setting deadlines provides us with a focus, and if we know, it’s going to be a tight turnaround we have a sharper mind and can get more done.
Think about those jobs that you know don’t need to be completed until next week. How many of us put them off to the last minute? The process of setting yourself a shorter deadline and bringing completion of the task forward a few days allows us time to reflect afterwards, and we could even revisit and make edits if needed.
Delegate like a pro
If you have a team of people in your office, then delegating tasks will ease up your day and allow you to focus on increasing your turnover.
Get to know your team’s strengths and weaknesses, then ask them for help in those areas. This extra responsibility will inspire your team and cut your workload. This may not work if you give the wrong person the wrong task – if they are brilliant and sales but not keen on accountancy, don’t ask them to run numbers for you. Creatives are usually fantastic at meeting tight deadlines and thinking out the box, but not as strong at the organisation or financial matters.
Know your team and delegate accordingly. It will bring you closer to your employees, and they will want to support you more and work harder for you too.
Think less, do more
Although you may have an enormous task ahead of you, try not to overthink about it before diving in. Perhaps you are writing a pitch for a new client, and you are nervous about wording it. You want to win the job, and if you get this wrong, it could have a substantial financial impact on the business. You spend a lot of time procrastinating before you get started.
Dive straight in. Start planning, typing and researching. Do anything but don’t put it off. By getting to grips with something straight away, we often find we get into a flow. Once you have started, you can always go back and make tweaks. This way, you will have more time to edit and improve your pitch. If you overthink and delay the start, you will end up rushing and have less time to work on your ideas.