No matter what type of business your run, getting things done as efficiently as possible is essential to smooth functioning and your ability to grow. It can also be a seemingly-unmanageable challenge as you find yourself continually with more tasks to accomplish than you have hours in a day. Fortunately, there are quite a few tips and tricks you can integrate into your routines to dramatically reduce the amount of time you have to spend on certain tasks.
Regardless of the size of your business, you likely spend a lot of your time reading and responding to emails. These may come from customers, employees or vendors, but all of them have the ability to suck up massive quantities of your workday. While there’s no way to eliminate email as a vital communication tool for your business, you can control how much of your schedule it dominates by taking advantage of some or all of the following strategies and techniques.
- Limited Checking – While it can be tempting to keep your inbox open in front of you all day, that’s one of the best ways to ensure you won’t get much else done. Scheduling times to check and respond to emails, either once or twice a day, is the best way to ensure that all messages are handled appropriately but that the process doesn’t take away from your ability to focus on other aspects of your job.
- Canned Responses and FAQs – Many of your emails, particularly those from customers, likely fall into a few predictable categories. For these, it’s helpful to have some in-depth canned responses saved somewhere that you can simply insert into a personalized email. You can also try adding a link to your FAQs page before the contact form on your website to head off some of those emails before they’re even sent.
- Boomerang – Utilizing Boomerang for both incoming and outgoing emails is extremely helpful in mitigating the amount of time you have to devote to these tasks. This service allows you to schedule when emails are sent, so you can work on them when it’s convenient for you and then have them sent out when you want your recipients to receive them. This has the added benefit of not initiating an influx of new mail as you respond to existing messages.
- Pre-screening – If you’re still struggling with managing the sheer volume of emails you receive on a daily basis, you may want to take advantage of the services of a virtual assistant. This individual can take a cursory pass through your inbox, eliminating junk and prioritizing certain categories of messages before you log on each day.
- Separate Accounts – In order to keep yourself focused during your workday, it’s essential to separate your business and personal email accounts. While it may seem convenient to keep everything in one place, the level of distraction this introduces into your schedule will dramatically limit your productivity.
Social Media Consolidation
Social media is another area that can quickly suck you in and consume too much of your time. Just as with emails, it’s helpful to limit all of your social media activity to a particular time each day. You can use this time to schedule posts, and you can use the same post on multiple platforms to save even more time. You can also use this time to interact with followers and respond to comments, ensuring that this gets done regularly without interfering with the other work you have to do.
Along those same lines, it’s a good idea to shut off notifications from social media on your computer as well as on your mobile devices. As long as you know this task is part of your daily routine, there’s no reason to worry about responding to any new contact immediately in real time.
Whether they take place in-person or over the phone, meetings are another vital part of your job that can quickly suck up a disproportionate amount of your time. In order to curb that tendency, you can take a few steps ahead of time, including:
- Preparing ahead of time
- Creating an agenda
- Including an end time on the schedule
Taking these steps helps to ensure that your meetings actually accomplish what they were meant to, which is a boost to the productivity of everyone involved.
General Time Management
While some of the tasks above are notorious for taking up outsized portions of your workday, it’s possible for anything to throw a wrench into your schedule if you let it. Of course, you can employ a few tricks to limit the potential for that as well. They include:
- Grouping Tasks – Taking a moment to look over your to-do list to see which tasks can be naturally accomplished together is a great way to save yourself from redundant or repetitive work. Taking care of all errands that take you out of the office at once is a great example of this, but there are likely many other ways you can apply this to your schedule as well.
- Worst First – Another important habit it’s good to form is that of getting the things you don’t enjoy out of the way first. Letting yourself do what you like first only makes it more likely you’ll procrastinate later to avoid doing those that you don’t enjoy as much.
- Delegating – Even though it may be difficult to give up control over certain aspects of your business, the fact is that there are certain tasks that just aren’t worth your time, and those are the ones you should delegate. This list may change as your business grows, so it’s important to reevaluate your responsibilities periodically to make sure you’re still doing only what’s necessary and not filling up your schedule with work that can easily be done by others.
- Templates – Whether you’re using them for blogs, business cards, social media posts, or emails, templates can save you a ton of time. There are plenty out there, and many are available for free, so there’s no reason not to take advantage of them.
- Limit Your Workday – Just like meetings without a set end time can drag on, so will your workday if you let it, and that can quickly lead to a burn-out for you. That’s why it’s important to set limits on the number of hours you plan on regularly working in a day. Of course, extenuating circumstances will sometimes throw a wrench into these plans, but the manufactured pressure created by instituting a deadline on yourself can often help you stay focused and work more efficiently.
An Ongoing Process
While there will always be a period of adjustment when you’re integrating new techniques into your routine, the benefits of adding some of these time-saving hacks can be huge. Your business doesn’t stay the same for long, though, and as it grows, you will periodically have to reevaluate what you’re doing and how you’re doing it in order to maximize efficiency. This is especially true in terms of the types of tasks you delegate, but it also means that some of the tips above that are not relevant to your situation now may come in handy in the future.