Do you ever get to 5 p.m. and realize you haven't even gotten through half of your to-do list for the day? You're not alone: Nearly 60 percent of Canadians say they fail to complete all their tasks in a typical workday.1
As a small business owner, your priority list is likely endless—and yet, of course, your time is not. While an overload of work is often the culprit, external factors can also contribute to productivity challenges.
These tips can help create a more streamlined workday for both you and your employees.
1. Rethink the to-do list
There is so much satisfaction in crossing items off a to-do list. But if you're like most small business owners, you likely find that you have more “to-dos" than hours in the day. Part of the problem is that when they are numbered, they all appear to have equal weight, even though some can be accomplished in 20 minutes, while others might take two hours.
A better strategy may be to estimate the length of each item, and block it into your schedule. For example, you might plan to order inventory from 9:30 to 11 a.m. and approve expense reports from 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. While those two items might have been side-by-side on the list, putting them in your schedule acknowledges that they have different time requirements, creating a more realistic plan for the day.
Another side benefit is that scheduling tasks can help you make use of “Parkinson's Law," the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." If you allocate tight time frames, you might surprise yourself by doing the task in less time than usual.
2. Rely on technology
Apps can provide a number of productivity boosts. For example, they can help you track your time so you have a more realistic view of how long tasks take (which can help you make a more realistic schedule, as suggested above).
You might also try a program that “blocks" certain favorite time-wasting websites so that you can still conduct website research as needed, but you aren't tempted to visit your social media sites.
Technology can also lend a hand in streamlining tasks. For example, business owners who are American Express® card members can easily and efficiently monitor and manage their business expenses by using their online services account on their desktop or via the American Express® app, when they’re on the go.
3. Make the most of “micro-moments"
Some days you might expect to be running from task to task and then find yourself with an unforeseen pocket of time when your lunch guest is running late or a phone call is unexpectedly cancelled. Often we tend to squander these short blocks rather than putting that “found" time to use.
To boost your productivity, compile a list of short tasks to tackle when these moments present themselves, such as calling your Amex concierge to make reservations for your weekend plans.
4. Disconnect altogether
Are you always on—responding to Slack messages, texts and emails? While today's technology can help us take advantage of those micro-moments, it also can lead to stress and burnout. And burnout is a critical issue in today's workplace. Consider that the World Health Organization (WHO) recently added “burnout" to the latest edition of the International Classification of Diseases, describing it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed."2
Whether you vow to take more vacation days, disconnect from your device, commune with nature, meditate, or any combination of these relaxation ideas, taking time to just "be" might be the most productive thing you do, bringing you back refreshed, recharged and more creative than ever.
The best thing about productivity methods is that there is likely one that will resonate with you and your working style. Give some of these suggestions a try and see if they help make your to-do list a little more manageable.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.