Your business: 5 tips for being more productive

The more productive you are, the more successful your business will be
and the less time you’ll need to spend in front of your computer. You’ll find these 5 tips for working more productively especially relevant if you run your own business or work alone.

1. Decide on a work schedule

To decide how many hours you need to work each week check out my blog article entitled:  Your business: how many hours do you need to work? (17.11.16)

Once you know how many hours you need to work, draw up a weekly work schedule and stick to it wherever possible. Bear in mind that unexpected things can and do happen; sometimes you’ll have to work extra hours to meet a deadline, or need to take time out for a non-work event. Whenever you have to work outside your scheduled hours, take time off for those extra hours you’ve worked, later in the week. When you lose a few work hours due to family or other commitments, work the same number of extra hours later in the week so you’re meeting your weekly work hours target.

2. During ‘work’ hours, actually ‘work’

Draw a line down the middle of an A4 page. Write ‘work’ on the left and ‘not work’ on the right. List all the things you do in your office that are work in the ‘work’ column, and all the things you do in your office that are not work in the ‘not work’ column.

From now on, don’t do anything listed in the ‘not work’ column during your designated ‘work’ hours.

For example, my ‘work’ list is everything that I need to do to manage my business and do my paid work: editing, proofreading, typing, managing audio transcriptionists, administration, promotional emails and calls, editing my website and writing articles such as this. My ‘not work’ list is anything that isn’t required to manage or promote my business, or provide the services it sells: personal emails or internet research, sorting out personal photos or files, personal social media or telephone communications, and eating lunch. I try to stick to ‘work’ activities during my scheduled work time and leave the ‘not work’ activities for later.

3. Keep your ‘professional’ and ‘personal’ lives separate

As well as making sure that when you are at work, you’re actively working, you need to ensure that during the hours you are not supposed to be at work, you’re not working.

The only way to do this is to keep your ‘professional’ and ‘personal’ lives as separate as possible. When shopping, playing with the children, cooking tea or meeting with friends, switch off your work phone and your professional work brain. Shut that office door when you finish work and don’t go back in until it’s time to start work again; that is, resist the temptation to duck into the office and check your emails outside your scheduled work hours.

Your ‘personal’ leisure and family time will be more enjoyable and relaxing, and your ‘professional’ work time more productive.

4. Use a ‘To do’ list

Using a detailed ‘To do’ list is really helpful when you work for yourself. As well as writing up a ‘To do’ list for the day, if I allocate actual times against each task on the list, I am more organised and my day is far more productive.

Using a detailed ‘To do’ list makes me more productive whether or not I’m busy.

I  rely on the MS Outlook ‘tasks’ tool for diarising tasks days, weeks or months ahead. As soon as I come into work, I check the MS Outlook tasks that pop up then draw up the day’s ‘To do’ list (mentally or in hardcopy). Deadlines allowing, whatever I don’t get done on today’s ‘To do’ list gets shunted to the next day.

5. Minimise interruptions

Some types of work require high concentration for hours at a time (for example, editing), whereas other tasks are fiddly and don’t take long (for example, sending out quotes or invoices). But no matter what you’re working on, if you aren’t interrupted you’ll move through those tasks quicker and be far more productive. You can minimise unnecessary interruptions if you:

  • Shut the office door and making known to anybody outside that door that you’re not to be interrupted.
  • Have a big drink of water, and your coffee or tea fixes, before you start work so you won’t need a drink-break for a while.
  • If the type of work you do allows, shut down email and
    social media alerts and if you need to really concentrate on a task, also turn off the telephone. But don’t forget to check your emails and messages when you take a break or finish the task.
  • Each time you start work, set your alarm for two hours. When the alarm goes off, have a 5 minute break, and stretch your legs and, importantly, your eyes, before returning to the computer refreshed and ready to work again.

Check out my other articles where I discuss different challenges of working from home: Work-life balance when working from home and Managing home-based businesses

Image: Copyright SW Kane.

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