As a small business owner, your time is incredibly valuable, and usually quite limited. You seem to spend hours at your desk tapping away, but sometimes you don’t actually achieve a lot. Here are some of the best ways to improve your productivity levels without working harder, just working smarter.

1. Take advantage of time-management tools

It’s easy to think you’re great at keeping track of time, but you may not be as good as you think. One way to ensure that you aren’t spending longer on a task than you anticipate is to use a time management tool like Rescue Time. It runs in the background on your computer and provides you with detailed reports so you can analyze your activity and see what you’re spending the most time on.

2. Take scheduled breaks

When you own your own business, it can be tempting to pour all your time into a task without taking breaks so that you get it finished, but this can actually make you less productive. Taking regular scheduled breaks every few hours can help you maintain the same level of performance, and you will probably get the task done in less time.

3. Set yourself mini deadlines (and stick to them!)

For longer projects without a timeframe, set yourself mini deadlines. The pressure of working to the clock can help you be more productive. Of course, it’s important not to set unrealistic deadlines and make yourself stressed, so it’s all about finding the right balance.

4. Follow the two-minute rule

If you get a notification of an urgent task, ask yourself whether you can do it in less than two minutes. Updating the company social media? Showing an employee where something is? If you do it straightaway instead of putting it off, you’ll get it done much quicker.

5. Listen to music

Listening to your favorite bands on your headphones when you have an important task to do can help you focus and get in the ‘zone’. Plus – it does help that you send out a subtle ‘do not disturb’ message to your colleagues.

6. Stop having meetings

Face-to-face meetings have to be THE biggest time-waster for a business owner. Your time is so short, so having less meetings can really save you time in the long run. Ask yourself if the subject to be discussed in the meeting can be sorted out over email, the phone or even over Skype. Taking five minutes to discuss something over email is much quicker than a two hour meeting which will probably yield the same result.

7. Prioritize your tasks

At the beginning of every day, list your tasks in order of priority. Then, take a second look. Any tasks with a low-priority should be delegated to an employee. This will help you as the business owner to focus on the tasks which will actually add value to your company, rather than spending time on paperwork.

8. Stop multitasking

Now that you know your most important tasks, focus on one at a time. It’s tempting to multitask and you can mislead yourself into thinking that it gets the job done faster, but it will help you more if you focus on one task at a time.

9. Take advantage of your commute

Half an hour commute every day? That’s time that you can spend getting ahead before the work day truly begins. Use the time to create your to-do list, prioritize tasks, brainstorm ideas or answer emails. That extra time doing small tasks will help you be more productive once you get to the office.

10. Break for exercise

Taking a short walk around the block or a quick spinning class in your lunch hour can really help you to clear your head and refocus for the rest of the working day. If you can’t do that, you do some simple stretches at your desk – anything works.

11. Turn off notifications

As a business owner, you probably get a lot of emails! However, you should set aside a time in the day to check and respond to your emails, and switch your notifications off. Then, rather than be constantly distracted by the ping of your inbox, you have a set time to focus on responding effectively to your emails.

12. Work in 90 minute intervals

Athletes, musicians and chess-players all do this, so why not a business owner? Work in 90-minute intervals and take a break after every interval. You’ll be much more productive and you may even be able to shorten your working day. Try it!

13. Change your environment

One of the advantages of working for yourself is that you can work pretty much anywhere. Take yourself out of the office every once in a while and go somewhere new. It could be your local library, that new café you’ve wanted to try or even the park if the weather is nice. It will help your mind to reset and you might even come up with some brand new ideas.

Author: Leila Jones is a content writer for First Lighting, a new small business in the UK. Leila is a Public Relations graduate from Sheffield Hallam University. You can follow her on Twitter @LeilaJones18.

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