Ecommerce Expertise / How To Sell Online

The small business owner’s guide to doubling productivity

/ 4 min read

One of the biggest challenges for small business owners, and especially solopreneurs, isn’t necessarily knowing how to do the things it takes to run their business, but having the time to actually do them.

This can (and usually does) include handling a variety of tasks in the areas of customer service, store management, and marketing. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help reduce the overwhelm you feel and continue to get all of the essentials done. Here’s the five-step plan you need to follow to double your productivity and get more done.

1. Decide what’s vital versus what’s nice to do

First off, you need to prioritize your tasks. Start by making lists of tasks you do on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis. This can include small things like checking email, to large things like doing your taxes. You might be surprised by exactly how much you do on a regular basis.

Next, for each of these lists, prioritize the tasks. Organize them in order of the things your business couldn’t live without to the things that would be nice to get done, but usually do not.

Finally, annotate next to each task how well you are able to complete them. Some annotations may include quick and easy, must be done by me, not good at it, time consuming, and similar.

Once you have done these things, you should be able to easily see what tasks are vital to your business, and which ones you are the most capable of completing. With these things in mind, it’s time to move onto the next step.

2. Find out what your team is good at and delegate

If you’re a solopreneur, you will want to skip to the next step. For those small business owners with one or more employees, you will want to consider which tasks can be delegated from your to-do list to your employees.’

For example, let’s say that one of the tasks you want to delegate is creating content for your business blog. First, you will want to consider your employee’s interest and ability to do this task. If you have a few employees that love the idea of writing for your blog and they have some time to devote each week to the task, then they would be the perfect people to delegate the task to. On the other hand, if they are not good writers, or are fully consumed with other revenue generating activities, it might be better to go with the next step.

3. Understand the value of your time

When you have tasks that would be better suited to a skilled expert, but you’re not ready to hire a full or part time employee, then outsourcing to a freelancer, contractor, or other professional might be a good alternative.

If your biggest objection is price, consider this. How much money could you be making if you fully focused on the things you do best for your business, and leave the rest to others? So instead of you spending a full day trying to figure out how to design a new logo for your business, spend your day generating revenue and use a fraction of that revenue to pay a designer. And instead of stressing about your quarterly taxes, hand that job over to an accountant.

By outsourcing, you free up your time, reduce your stress level, and ensure someone better suited to it is getting the task done. While it may feel like a hit to your bottom line, in the long run, it gives you time to focus on the areas of your business you really enjoy working on.

Also think about the random tasks that consume too much of your time. For example, use a scheduling tool like Calendar or Mixmax to organize meetings.

4. Batch your day into productive “chunks”

One thing that can be time consuming in managing the day-to-day tasks in a business is bouncing back and forth between tasks. The ability to focus on one task at a time and keep a consistent rhythm can make it easier to finish that task in less time.

This is why you want to batch the tasks you do as much as possible. Let’s say that you are a solopreneur that has to handle emails from customers, packaging and shipping products, and marketing via your social media networks. Instead of prepping an item to ship each time a sale comes in, answering emails each time the notification pops up on your desktop, and checking your social media networks in between, try batching.

  • Check and respond to emails at the beginning, middle, and end of the day.
  • Check social media network notifications and post a new update to your social media networks twice a day.
  • Set aside an hour or two before you need to leave to drop off packages or before your carrier comes to pick up packages to do shipping and handling preparation.

By doing this, you’ll get into a rhythm with each task instead of having to start and stop throughout the day. This allows you to be productive with the time you would normally spend shifting gears from one task to another.

5. Monitor, measure, tweak, repeat

Last, but not least, you need to monitor & measure your activities to see the profitability and efficiency in everything you do. By analyzing your activities continuously, you can identify when one task is starting to take longer than usual, or when one task that was once profitable no longer is. Here are some examples.

  • By setting up Google Analytics, you can find out which online marketing activities are driving traffic to your website. If you see that Facebook generates more traffic than Twitter, for example, you’ll know that you need to focus more of your efforts towards Facebook.
  • By using unique coupon codes in your email marketing campaigns, you can find out whether your emails are generating more revenue than your paid marketing.
  • By calculating how much an hour of your time is worth and using a timer to monitor how long it takes to do a specific task, you can find out whether something is taking long enough to justify delegating the task to an employee, hiring an employee to handle that task, or outsourcing it.

Being more productive not only helps your business grow, but also gives you time back to focus on growing your business as opposed to managing it. What else have you tried that’s helped to improve your productivity? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Feature image from Flickr via TedxMaui

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