Whether you’ve been in business for yourself for a while now, or if you are beginning to make the difficult transition from “9 to 5” to being your own boss, you have no doubt discovered how difficult it is to manage productivity and your time. The ability to use time wisely can make or break a business, and it is one of the most valuable skills that can be mastered on the way to the top.
Too often, entrepreneurs get caught up in minute details of a typical day, and they find themselves getting distracted from bigger matters at hand. We all fall into patterns of doing what is easy and predictable, rather than tackling some of the more important things that can move us forward in more significant ways.
Let’s rip the band aid off right now; in order to succeed in business, you are going to have to master, or at least improve, your time management skills. How do we do that?
Part of time management is just breaking bad habits that make you unproductive, and learning to create new habits that move you in a forward direction. Here are some simple strategies that you can employ to make yourself---and your business---more productive:
Dump that brain on a regular basis. When you have a flurry of brain activity, be it new ideas, things to do, or conversations you want to have, you can quickly freeze up; it becomes too overwhelming, and you find yourself shutting down rather than crossing things off of your “to do” list. Get those ideas down on paper or in an application that lets you circle back around to organize and accomplish them, and you free up mental capacity to do some creative thinking for your business.
Practice the Ivy Lee method. Ivy Lee revolutionized business productivity by breaking it down into bite-sized action steps that virtually anyone can accomplish.
At the conclusion of every workday, write down ONLY six things that you want to accomplish the following day.
● Prioritize these six items in order of their true importance.
● The following day, systematically go through your list in order, only moving on to subsequent tasks when the first ones are finished.
● If tasks are left unfinished, move them to the following day’s list.
● Repeat this process every single day for increased productivity.
The philosophy behind writing down six tasks is that there is psychological research that suggests writing down more puts you in information overload, and this can lead to “productivity freeze.” Six tasks are achievable by most, and considered reasonable by all. Practicing the Ivy Lee method has revolutionized many businesses with regard to their productivity and management processes.
Incorporate the Eisenhower method. All these methods…are they really worth it? Yes, they are! Dwight D. Eisenhower was noted for classifying tasks into two categories---urgent and not urgent.
People have taken his method a step farther by classifying their “to do” lists into four possible action steps, which include:
● Urgent matters--get taken care of immediately and personally
● Not urgent--tasks have a scheduled end date and you follow through to completion
● Not important---these tasks can be delegated to someone else for completion
● Non-essential--these are things that are counterproductive, and should be dropped
When putting the principles of the Eisenhower method into place, it becomes clear what your causes of unproductive behavior are, and work takes on a whole new meaning as you decide what is truly important and essential.
Define your roles as CEO and Worker Bee
To make progress, you must know when to wear the CEO hat and when to take it off and join the ranks of worker bees to get the job done. If you are unclear about either one of these roles, it can be difficult to use time productively. In CEO mode, you are not always aware of what tasks are being completed, while in worker bee mode, you might get so lost in the minutia of work that you fail to keep your vision of the big picture. Know both of these roles intimately, and know when to switch back and forth between them to get the job done.
Break up bigger projects into little tasks
Big tasks seem daunting and unachievable, while little tasks that can be accomplished and crossed off give you a sense of productivity that drives you forward to the next goal. The process of breaking down work into smaller tasks that can be accomplished might take you a bit to master, but it will be worth it as you see the fruits of your labor in completing those big projects that fuel your business success.
When in doubt, look for products and services that help increase productivity
Even the most seasoned business expert has industry trade secrets that he uses to boost productivity and maximize growth. Do some research into apps and services that can help you with scheduling, project management, and customer follow up. The more you can automate some of these smaller aspects of running a business, the more time you will have free to work on your big dreams and an even bigger vision. Keep your nose to the grindstone, establish a firm resolve, and stay positive as you work toward building your dream business!