01 Jul Productivity tips and tools for small business
Running a small business is a big job. One where you juggle many roles and undertake a variety of tasks. Using your time effectively and being productive are essential to small business success. We’ve pulled together some key productivity tips and tools to help you manage your time and develop a more efficient business.
It’s important to introduce any new work habits and processes slowly to ensure you can sustain the changes. Don’t try and make all the changes at once. As changes become habitual, try adding in others.
Manage your email inbox
Our email inboxes can be one of our biggest time wasters. It’s best to turn off notifications and manage your emails at set times, and for a set amount of time, during the day.
Your email is not a to-do list. Don’t avoid opening emails or deleting or moving them because they haven’t been actioned. Instead use a task list or tool to manage your actions and priorities. The idea is to action the email or respond immediately, or add something to your to-do list/schedule.
With the searchability function of email you don’t need to use a complex system of folders or labelling. When no longer needed you can delete emails, move them into a generic folder or archive them. Try to keep your inbox as empty and manageable as possible.
Automated filters are available in most email platforms to manage emails. For example, sorting newsletters and marketing emails, or moving emails from important contacts into a priority queue. Investigate what options are available on your email platform and implement automation where it can help you.
Instead of back-and-forth email chains, use a scheduling tool or instant messaging app to make arrangements with regular clients and friends. Apps like Calendly can link directly to your calendar. And apps like Slack provide messages, private channels and group chats.
Plan your week and prioritise
Plan your time and set priorities each week to ensure you’re focused on the right tasks. Allocating 30 minutes or so each week to planning will help you get organised and take stock of what is coming up in the week ahead.
Schedule time into your diary or electronic calendar to attend to the priority tasks. And don’t forget to sync your electronic calendar with your phone!
And when it’s time to tackle your tasks, focus on a single task at a time. Multitasking has proven to be inefficient. Designate times in your day when you won’t answer the phone, messages or emails. Use a timer and set times for tasks, problem-solving and breaks. When the timer goes, you stop and move on to the next thing on your list. You’ll get used to doing tasks that are time-bound and doing them fast!
Manage projects efficiently
There are some great project and task management tools useful for keeping track of projects, and working with collaborators and clients. The three most popular project management tools are Asana, Basecamp and Trello.
Access files remotely
Stay productive when you’re away from your desk, and use an accessible online file storage system. There are a plethora of tools to help you share notes, ideas and files. Try out Google Drive or Evernote as a start. They allow you to save, sync, share and access information from any device. For larger items like images and video, try Dropbox.
Plan and schedule your social media
While social media can be an important part of your marketing, it’s also an area where inefficiency reigns! Be strategic and plan your social media posts in advance. Then batch schedule to Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and more to ensure you’re posting regularly and at the best times. Tools like Hootsuite and Buffer can provide a one-stop-shop for this.
Keep track of valuable content to share on the socials using RSS feed sites (see the next section).
Keep up with the latest information
Keeping up-to-date with the latest information and developments in your industry, competitors, best practices, government regulation, market trends and so on is important, but can be time consuming.
We suggest following the best blogs on these areas or subscribing to newsletters with the type of information you need (including your competitors!). RSS feeds give you a way to keep up with blogs, news sites and other websites. You choose the topics and sites you want to subscribe to and get updates in a centralised location. Popular RSS feeds include Feedly, Feedreader and The Old Reader.
You can also set up Google Alerts to receive notifications when there are new results in your industry, competition, etc.
Attending workshops and seminars are great ways to learn and keep up-to-date. Of course one of the best ways to learn is to be part of a Beyond Business Group where you are guided through each aspect of your business and given great information and curated content!
Streamline your accounting
Have a dedicated business bank account to separate your personal and business finances, and more easily track your spending.
Keep and organise all your receipts, filing them based on category. You can also take photos of your receipts and file them. Regularly reviewing your expenses can help you monitor where you are spending money and where money can be saved.
Having a suitable bookkeeping system is important for effectively managing any business. It helps with monitoring cash flow and financial health, and keeping accurate records. Bookkeeping systems can be manual, using accounting books or spreadsheets, or if you have lots of transactions it can be more efficient to use accounting software. Some popular choices for small business are MYOB, Xero, Quickbooks and Rounded.
You’ll need to consider what functionality you need. For example, payroll, stock tracking, job tracking, online payments, records of customer purchasing patterns, or if your system has to handle multiple bank accounts or foreign currency.
Allocate time each week reconciling your accounts and following up payments. Develop systems for invoices as suits your operations, e.g. completion of job, end of week or month.
Look after yourself to stay productive
It’s important to take care of yourself, mind and body, so you can be productive. One of the most important elements of overall health is adequate sleep. Make time for sleep, ideally setting a regular bed time. Also make time for other self-care such as socialising, exercising and hobbies. Schedule them in if you need to. Having a regular routine can help.
Regular exercise reduces stress and keeps your mind and body healthy. Walk, run, go to the gym, take yoga or Pilates classes. If you want to exercise at home there are apps to help, such as PEAR Personal Fitness Coach, Workout Trainer, Daily Yoga and Pocket Yoga. And there are a glut of 7 minute workout apps for when you get a short period of time in your day for a blast of high intensity interval training.
Making even small changes in your day, week or month can significantly improve your productivity and profitability. Implement several small changes and you can really take your business beyond.