Small business efficiency

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Small Business EfficiencySmall business efficiency may sound over-the-top. If we’re a business of ‘1’ (or a few) it can feel ridiculous to set productivity targets and actively monitor our results. Should I start counting the number of times the dog demands to be let out? Should I count the number of emails I send everyday? Sounds like a giant waste of time on first glance, but, if you think about effectiveness then we start to see something important emerge.

Working hard is great, but working smart is much much better!

What if you could achieve the same results, in less time?

What would you do with the extra minutes, hours, days you manage to regain? I’m pretty sure you’d fill them in no time. It’s just important to fill them with the right stuff!

As small business owners ourselves we understand that it can be hard to switch off.  We always have a few of our brain cells tuned into the business.

We also know that there are never enough hours in the day to do everything you want or imagine! Introducing small business efficiency tricks can help.

How to find more time

Time is one of the highest value commodities for a small business owner.  There’s never enough of it and when you do find some, you can guarantee something (or someone) will steal it away before you’ve put it to good use.

Anything that can help you find just a few minutes everyday to focus on what you need to achieve will add up over time and generate significant results.

Introducing efficiencies (even small ones) will help and collectively they will deliver results.

So how can your small business be more efficient?

Here are some really quick and easy small business efficiency steps.  We’ll be expanding on these throughout January and February, so make sure you sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss a post!

Take control of your emails

Your inbox is just that…

An inbox is for incoming communication.  I recommend not using it as a to-do list.  There are very few tools to assign priority – assign ownership of a task or anything else.  To-do’s belong on a to-do list.

If you leave everything in your inbox it will gradually build to a point where you don’t even look down the list to find the undone to-do’s from last week.

Don’t miss an important task – take control.

Add sub folders to your inbox and most importantly, use them!  If you have a folder named ‘urgent’ make sure it’s cleared everyday (or at least every message checked and progressed).

Other folders for ‘given to Sally’ or ‘actioned’ will give you a quick point of reference without overloading you the minute you switch your pc on.

Small business efficiency requires you to be ruthless!

If someone sends you an email they want your time.  Decide if they deserve it, after all your time is valuable.

How many emails do you receive that you ‘check’ and then delete?  Every time. Repeatedly.

Save yourself some time now – be ruthless and hit that unsubscribe button!

Feeling nervous? Worried you might miss something? Put a note in your diary for 1 month’s time and ask yourself the question – ‘do I miss emails from ABC?’ and a link to the website so you can sign up again if indeed you do miss them.

Take control of your day

Today is your day. Nobody else’s. There are going to be things that you are responsible for doing, some will be time dependent, but how you approach and manage them is entirely up to you. Small business efficiency is as much about the business owner as the business itself.

Would you like to rush around like a lunatic (probably because you’ve been over-optimistic about how much you can do before your 10am appointment) or approach the most important critical tasks with calm determination?

The latter can only be achieved with planning.

Planning

I love planning. I have lists of lists and charts and stickers (yes stickers, no I’m not 5). The best part is that I use them, continuously. They are the sat-nav for my day and they really do make negotiating the route from the morning alarm clock to saying good-night infinitely more serene.

Every day I know what I:

  • Have to do
  • Need to do
  • Would like to do

Have to do’s

These are the really important tasks. They are usually time dependent, either an appointment or deadline.  These go into my planner first, they are my priority. If you want to achieve small business efficiency identifying priority tasks is a must.

Need to do’s

These are also important but not as time critical.  It could be starting a piece of work that’s not due for a week.  (Not everything should be scheduled for the day it’s due).

Would like to do’s

This might be something personal or work related. If I look at my plan and see a spare hour in the middle of the day I plan for what I would like to do with it – that way when the ‘spare hour’ rolls around I’m up and running and making the most of it!

Reality check

Full disclosure – it’s doesn’t always go to plan, there are a few banana skins and spanners thrown in to my days that have to be negotiated, but I’ve planned for those too. Small business efficiency always persists!

I’m realistic about how long things take and rarely schedule more than 6 hours of work a day.  Lucky me! Only working 30 hours a week. Well no, reality is more like 40-50 hours a week. The thing is planning only goes so far.  Things do take longer, there may be unexpected interruptions, the phone will ring or a customer might to chat and if I’ve planned 8 hours of work you can guarantee I’ll still be sat at my desk at 10pm every day.

So be realistic and don’t over burden your to-do list.

Help – my to-do list has more than I can manage!

Very familiar for all business owners, large and small.  There are two things I do in this situation:

  1. Be ruthless with my to-do list, rescheduling anything that doesn’t have to be done immediately.
  2. Delegate.  I review my list and then ask an honest question of ‘am I the only person who can do this?’

Delegating when you’re a team of 1

OK, so the dog isn’t really equipped to do sales calls, but if one of your to-do’s is walk the dog could someone else help you out?

For work related tasks you can always outsource.  There are tons of services online for getting help from a virtual pa to specialists for one off tasks, like fixing a wordpress issue or designing a new logo or taking a specific photograph for your next brochure.

We’ll be writing about some of our favourite outsourcing solutions soon, so make sure you sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss a post!

As a sneak preview, here are two of our favourites!

Finding more time – literally

This is one of my favourites.  Set your alarm just 15 minutes earlier (or earlier than the kids normally wake you up).

The way you start your day normally prescribes how it will go for the whole day. So have a quiet 5 minutes, drink a large glass of water, stand outside and breathe in the morning air, review your to-do list and prioritise your tasks – do whatever will set your day off to a good start.

This is just the start

It’s not how much time you spend on something that determines it’s value, it’s the value you derive from your time that’s important.

There are so many ways you can introduce efficiencies into your business. Look out for our future posts on systems, task managers, i.t. solutions and  more.  All of them will give you ideas on how to save time, money or both in your business.

Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and be the first to receive our latest posts on small business efficiency and many other small business related topics.

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