There’s a number I want you to focus on for a moment. 1971. One thousand, nine-hundred and seventy-one…
Assuming a 9-hour work day (as well as deducting public holidays, weekends, personal days etc) that’s how many hours you have available to invest in your small business this year. Just let that sink in for a bit… I know, right? That’s all you get.
If all you had was just under $2,000 to invest in your small business, you’d be doing some pretty careful calculations to work out how you could best leverage that asset. Your time is no different. You need to work out how to make the most out of every single one of those 1,971 hours. Protect them and invest them wisely and by next December you’ll be celebrating achievements that you can really be proud of.
Pssst… I am going to let you in on seven tips to get more out of less time that I am giving my Tenfold coaching clients this month to make 2019 really count:
Hot tip #1: Watch Faster
The benefits of video as a tool for learning are well documented: studies show that us humans retain only 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear and 30% of what we see. Join those elements together in video form and you’ll retain a whopping 50% of the information (more if there’s some interactivity thrown into the mix). But what if you could download all that expertise into your brain even faster? Well… you can!
Here’s how: Next time you’re watching a video online (eg on YouTube) simply increase the speed. click the little cog icon in the bottom right of the screen to show the Settings options. Go to ‘Speed’ and bump it up to x1.25 (or faster, if you think you can handle it!). Enjoy all that video-learning goodness in less time!
Hot tip #2: Learn faster
Reading and/or listening to books is still a great way to learn and there are some serious must-read business-related tomes on the market. But as a small business owner trying to ‘do all the things’, finding time to read (or even listen to) a whole book can be a real challenge.
Remember in high-school when you could grab the CliffsNotes study guide for that Shakespeare play and breeze right through your English essay without even cracking the cover? Blinkist is the grownup version: an online service that provides the key takeaways from the world’s best non-fiction books. With both text and audio options available, it’s worth the small investment of $10 per month to be able to ‘read’ the best bits of books like Good To Great in just 13 minutes (or even less time if you leverage Tip #1 and listen at x1.25 speed!). That’s 10 hours per book back in the bank.
Hot tip #3. Protect your time
We always talk about time as being a small business owner’s most precious resource… because it is! You need to guard your time to prevent it being snatched away by undeserving distractions. Don’t worry, these tips should time-sucker-proof your work days:
- Use the ‘Do not Disturb’ mode on your phone
By putting a stop to all the calls, alerts and notifications that are constantly blowing up your phone, you should be able to claim back some of your ability to focus.
This guide explains how to switch to ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode on your Apple device, while this guide will help you setup the same feature in Android.
- Cut down on unnecessary meetings
Productivity experts estimate that around 67% of meetings are unnecessary. If you have regular meetings in your schedule that always end up seeming kind of, well, pointless, then be ruthless and cut them out! Similarly, before you accept a meeting invitation, get into the habit of asking yourself ‘could this be resolved via email or a quick phone call?’.If a meeting is essential, then preparation is key to keeping discussions on track and to the point. Set an agenda of issues that need addressing and stick to it. Take tangential discussions offline and keep social ‘chit-chat’ to a minimum and you’ll be able to get back to business much sooner.
- Schedule ‘office hours’
This time saving strategy also shows good leadership by providing development opportunities for your staff. While blocking in periods where you are ‘less available’ will protect your time from constant interruption, it will also empower your team, encouraging them to practice taking responsibility for your business in short bursts. That’s the very definition of win-win!
Hot tip #4 Delegate
Thinking back to our previous blog on time management strategies for small business owners we talked about delegating. There are a lot of ways to do this – even if you are a small team or one-man show. Technology offers great opportunities to offload tasks that are no longer a great ‘spend’ of your time as your business grows. There are so many apps that are brilliant for helping small business owners get organised and automated (check out our blog on 14 of the best).
If you need to outsource completely, consider engaging a ‘done for you’ service. Freelancers come in all shapes and sizes – bookkeepers and accountants, virtual assistants, content marketers, HR consultants… almost anything you dread doing yourself. It’s a good option for getting time-sucking tasks ‘off your desk’.
Hot tip #5 Single-task (it’s the new multi-tasking)
For a long time, psychologists have been warning us that multitasking is not only next to impossible, it may also be harmful for productivity. Our brain is set up to concentrate properly on one thing at a time. Therefore, most of what we think of as ‘multi-tasking’ is really ‘rapid-task-switching’, ie you move quickly between two or more tasks. That’s fine if you are working on each task for an hour or longer, but where you are dealing with shorter tasks, the time lost in ‘re-focusing’ often results in lost productivity.
In an ideal world you would focus on one task at a time until it was done. If, like most people, your schedule doesn’t allow for this, you could try organising your time into a series of 30 minute ‘allotments’ (and aim for no interruptions during these times).
There are situations when ‘multi-tasking’ may work for you. For example, when you are driving to work and sitting in a traffic jam, listening to music you enjoy or a podcast might help you pass the time more productively.
Hot tip #6 Get in the Go Zone
The ‘Go Zones’ are a concept put forward by AFL-player turned productivity expert, Mark McKeon. Basically, it dictates that your work day should be split into three time-based zones. This allows you to maintain a more even focus because, rather than fixating on completing a task, you can concentrate on working effectively (which is much easier to do when there’s a light at the end of the tunnel).
For your ‘Go Zone’, set aside a period of 2-3 hours (in the morning works well) where you can really get stuck into some pre-planned ‘meat and potatoes’ tasks. These are the ones that will make you feel like you’ve done a ‘good days work’. Once you have your list prepared, set the clock and… GO! No distractions. No emails. No phone calls. No exceptions.
After a break, you should shift down a gear or two into the ‘Slow Zone’. You might still need to complete the tasks from your Go Zone, or you might have more admin-based, routine tasks to tackle. The key thing is to avoid the need to use up high levels of energy (you’re done with that for the day!). Put off key decisions or high-attention tasks until your next Go Zone… preferably tomorrow!
Hot tip #7 Enjoy the ‘No Zone’
McKeon’s third ‘zone’ is also super important: the ‘No Zone’. Nobody can live a life in 5th gear all the time. When you’re having down time, make sure you actually enjoy it! Don’t feel guilty. Instead, focus on being present in the moment. Acknowledge yourself for all the work you have done. Switch off, chill out, recharge, remember to smile. Let the adrenaline subside and allow the serotonin to rise.
Bring it on 2019!
You might feel a little anxious at the thought of putting finite terms on the hours you have to work in and on your business this year but take heart. With the above tips you should be able to stretch those hours just a little further and make this year a great one for your small business. Happy new year from the team at Tenfold Business Coaching!