No matter how productive you are as a small business owner, there always seems like there is more to do. I have had to come to terms with the fact that my to-do list will never be done. But given this situation, there are strategies that can increase your productivity, and maybe even free up time to do things outside of your business. 

1. Do less to get more done

The hustle culture hustled you. “Grinding” for more than short periods will inevitably lead to burnout. While it is counterintuitive, doing less will actually help you get more done. 

The trick to this is objective analysis and ruthless prioritization. Ensure that you are doing the right things to move your business forward. Look for “shiny object” distractions that can take time away from less interesting activities, which might be the ones that increase revenue. 

Instead of planning to get everything on your to-do list done, identify one to three things that if you accomplished them, would make it a good day. 

2. Batch similar tasks 

Carol Roth always recommends batching similar tasks, and for whatever reason, I am not able to do it. She will do a lot of writing or video creation at the same time and then publish it on a schedule. 

A colleague of mine has been publishing short and punchy videos of case studies with happy clients, showcasing the value he brings. When I commented on how much I am enjoying them, he said they were all recorded on the same day and he scheduled publishing them with his social media management software. 

3. Leverage your productive times of day

Are there times of the day where you have an easier time accessing creative ideas or thinking through business problems? Most of us know when our peak times are. I recommend that you respect this time and use it for business planning or content creation. 

You are missing out on an opportunity if you are wading through your inbox or doing some kind of rote task that could easily be done during a low energy time. For many people that is sometime around 3 PM. 

4. Write things down

The human brain can only keep a small amount of ideas in short-term memory. Get into the habit of writing things down, prioritizing, and creating a plan for working through the items you have written down. 

When possible, add them into your calendar to further support their getting done. 

5. Schedule time to “do nothing” 

While you are adding things to your calendar, I also want you to include “white space.” Using this time to take a walk or journal or ideate may give you access to some of your best ideas. 

If you think about it, you will realize that most of your best ideas came when you were doing something that wasn’t work related. Maybe you were driving, taking a walk, or taking a shower? 

Scheduling time to do nothing can be very productive. Go figure. 

6. Establish a routine 

What can you do to get into the groove and maximize the time you have for an activity? If I am on a deadline to write something, or am trying to brainstorm ideas for content, the fastest way for me to drop in and focus is to join an online Zoom group where we work on writing projects for 50 focused minutes. 

It is astounding how much you can get done in 50 minutes. 

7. Decrease distractions 

One of the reasons the “together but working alone” Zoom sessions are so magical is because we are urged to turn off distractions. No phone or email beeps and no social media scrolling. 

I strongly recommend that you turn off all notifications that you don’t absolutely need. The constant pinging is very distracting and can contribute to feelings of anxiety. 

In case you haven’t heard this, or need a reminder, humans can’t multitask. Like machines, they can shift attention, but there have been lots of studies on the amount of time it takes to refocus and the increase in mistakes in your work that happen when you try to multitask. According to this Cleveland Clinic post:

One study found that just 2.5% of people are able to multitask effectively. For the rest of us, our attempts to do multiple activities at once aren’t actually that.

Studies show that when our brain is constantly switching gears to bounce back and forth between tasks – especially when those tasks are complex and require our active attention – we become less efficient and more likely to make a mistake.

In short, decreasing distractions and planning to do less may be the ultimate productivity hacks for small business owners. 

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash