Do Fewer Things Better: Optimize Your Workday

Written by Abby Nieten on October 25, 2012

Posted in Human Resources

This post is a guest post by Stephanie Bullis. Stephanie (@srbullis) is the word of mouth marketing manager at Grasshopper, the virtual phone system for entrepreneurs.

man at deskIf every day was 35 hours long, a small business owner could easily be busy every minute and still not reach the end of his or her task list. Small business owners wear many hats and often find themselves pulled in so many different directions, it’s a wonder anything gets done (let alone everything). A little bit of planning and structure, however, can go a long way in getting the most out of every day – even if they are only 24 hours long.

Here are a few ways to prioritize a workday to maximize productivity:

  • Make a task list first
    Each morning should begin by creating a task list of everything that is important for the business to accomplish that day. Include time for online communication, walking the dog or setting personal appointments. If those things are going to happen, which they always do, specific time must be set aside for them. Be sure to leave a few empty time slots, because the minute that inbox is opened, a few more tasks will inevitably be added to the list.
  • Be honest
    There’s nothing that will tear down your morale like feeling disappointed in yourself for not completing your task list. If it’s not possible to finish everything — and it rarely is — make sure to include that reality in the task list. Separate tasks into the categories of “must finish today,” “should finish today,” and “would be great, but tomorrow works too.”
    Prioritization is all about honesty. Even something in the “must finish today” category might be something that is always put off, because humans are great procrastinators. Blogger Leon Ho of LifeHack.org offered some great advice in his post, “5 Ways to Improve Productivity in Your Office.”

“The most vital thing you need to do is to acknowledge that you are guilty of procrastination, and then identify the tasks you tend to put off as long as possible. Once you know which things you are likely to procrastinate about, consider why it is you don’t want to do them … By identifying the reasoning behind your procrastination issues, you can find solutions.”

  • Be flexible
    Some deadlines are hard and fast, some are less so. Creating an organized structure to the workday with a task list and schedule doesn’t mean adjustments can’t be made. On the contrary, when every task is scheduled and prioritized, a surprise priority can easily be swapped out for something less urgent, and the productive workday can continue without major disruption.
  • Use a smartphone and sync it with everything
    Some paperwork shuffling and appointment setting is necessary, but not all of it is. Technology allows business owners to have emails, documents, appointments and more, instantly synchronized across multiple devices. Time saved on tiny, everyday tasks can add up big time.
  • Take the time to train, then delegate
    Delegating tasks doesn’t help at all when the delegator has to spend as much time fixing assigned tasks as it would have taken to do it in the first place. Though training can take time in the beginning, a well-trained employee can save countless hours in the long run by proficiently completing delegated tasks.

Unfortunately, there will never be more hours in the day, but with good prioritization, each hour can be more productive. Better productivity is good news for any small business’ bottom line, and it doesn’t hurt a busy business owner’s general morale either.