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We’re constantly hearing about fun invented holidays like “National Donut Day” or “Talk Like a Pirate Day” but there’s one holiday that won’t enlarge your waistline or make your kids look at you funny – it’s “National Simplify Your Life Week.” As a small business owner, no doubt you could benefit from a little simplifying of your work life, so we put together a few tips for you to implement throughout the week:
1. Learn to Prioritize – You can only accomplish so much in a given day, and it can be too easy to get bogged down in small details and let the big stuff get away from you. That’s why it’s vital that you learn to prioritize and take care of the most important tasks first.
To get started, try the “eat the frog” method. As the saying goes, if the worst thing you have to do every day is eat a frog, then you should probably eat the frog first and get it over with. Try this with the most difficult or taxing task you have to do in a given day. You’ll feel productive and the task won’t hang over your head.
2. Single Task Rather Than Multitask – Everything you ever heard about multitasking in the 90’s was wrong, wrong, wrong. Multitasking only serves to divide your attention and ensure that you aren’t working to the best of your abilities. Multitasking also actually wastes time! Instead of trying to do it all, focus on the task at hand, do it well, then move on to the next.
3. Reduce Distractions – We’ve established that multitasking is bad for you, at the same time that technology is making it easier than ever for us to become distracted during the work day. During work time, try shutting off email, social networks and any devices that beep or buzz. Messages can almost always wait while you’re getting work done. If you’re a serial mouse-clicker like many of us, work with your computer in full screen mode so you can truly only see the task at hand.
4. Shorten Your Emails – You’re a busy professional and so are your correspondents. Strive to keep every email five sentences long. Too short might look rude, but too long runs the risk of your important message ending up in the no-man’s-land of unanswered emails. Five sentences is more than enough to include a friendly greeting, the essence of what you need and a polite closing.
5. Automate As Many Tasks as Possible – Technology has made running a business simpler than ever, but many busy business owners haven’t found the time to go out and find apps that save time. Do you see the paradox here? It’s worth your time in the long run to find and embrace technology that imports your business bank account directly into an accounting system or automatically sends out recurring invoices every month. Even tasks that absolutely have to be handled by a person can be outsourced to a contractor from a site like eLance or TaskRabbit.
6. Eliminate Paperwork – Why are you still wasting time and energy on paper – which these days just has to be printed, scanned, then shredded or filed – when you could be doing almost anything you can do on paper electronically? Use an online faxing app like HelloFax to fax straight from your computer, or an app like DocuSign to sign contracts without ever having to print them out. All the trees will thank you, too!
7. Learn How to Say “No” – “Can I pick your brain?” “Do you have a few minutes to talk about our great new product?” Small requests for your time and attention add up to lost productivity. Whenever a new request comes in, don’t automatically think about how you can work it into your schedule. Instead, think about whether it helps you achieve your business or personal goals or if it’s something you genuinely enjoy doing. If it isn’t, answer with a polite but firm “no.”
How have you simplified your work life?