As a solopreneur, the way you spend your time truly makes or breaks your business. You don’t have other employees to pick up the slack. Your ability to fine-tune your product or services, make sales and grow your brand is all up to you.
Because of this, it is essential that you learn how to make the best possible use of your time. Thankfully, many of the changes you can make to improve your time management are relatively simple. Yet they can still deliver big dividends for your startup venture.
1. Prioritize and schedule your task list
Creating a “to-do” list is a frequently cited productivity tip, but solopreneurs need to take this one step further by prioritizing their daily tasks.
A McKinsey survey of worldwide executives found that only 52 percent felt that the way they used their time matched the top priorities of their company. By listing out your tasks in order of importance and focusing on one item at a time, you will be far more productive than if you were to attempt multitasking.
One helpful way to prioritize your task list is to organize items by things that must be done today, tasks that would be better to complete today but don’t have as tight of a deadline, and low-priority items that can easily be pushed to tomorrow if you run out of time.
Of course, you should also be mindful of what times of day you are most productive. If you tend to get your best work done in the afternoon, it may be better to take care of smaller, less-important tasks (like answering emails) in the morning. Customize your schedule according to your own work habits.
Regardless of how you prioritize your task list, establish a set schedule that you follow every day. An established routine will make it easier to stay on task throughout the day.
2. Find tasks that you can automate or outsource
Because solopreneurs have to handle all the responsibilities of their business, it can be surprisingly easy to run out of time to accomplish everything you want. This is especially true if much of your time is taken up by mundane, time-consuming items. In fact, a report from McKinsey found that roughly 45 percent of workplace activities could be automated.
The easy solution is to determine what tasks you can automate or outsource. For example, an appointment scheduling system for small businesses would allow prospective clients to book appointments online so you don’t have to spend so much time calendaring these appointments yourself.
From data analysis to basic administrative items, turning over such tasks to an automation program or outsourcing to a virtual assistant will increase your efficiency and give you more time to focus on complex problem-solving items related to business growth.
3. Eliminate potential distractions
Many solopreneurs work from a home office. While this can boost your productivity by eliminating commuting time, being so close to the comforts of home can also prove quite distracting. If you want to save time during the work day, you must find ways to eliminate these distractions.
Common distractions for at-home solopreneurs include family members, house chores, social media, and personal texting and email. While establishing a designated area as your home office is a good start, you must also establish rules regarding these distractions during working hours.
You might consider a “no interruptions” rule with your family, keep your cell phone in a separate room or even use a web monitoring tool to limit your social media access. Remember, there is no one size fits all solution — find what works best to control your biggest distractors.
Another way to eliminate distractions is to organize your workspace. As Lindsey Patterson notes, business owners can make significant headway when they declutter their workspace. Going paperless, getting rid of outdated or unneeded items and even cleaning up your computer desktop will help eliminate physical and digital distractions.
The Harvard Business Review reports that a clean and organized workplace improves productivity while also reducing work-related stress. Minimizing clutter can also make you less likely to procrastinate, ensuring that you actually take care of everything on your to-do list.
4. Take time for breaks
While taking a break may seem counter-intuitive for helping you maximize your time during the workday, this can actually significantly enhance your productivity.
As Meg Selleg explains for Psychology Today, studies have found that taking breaks do much more than improve productivity by staving off fatigue and stress. Breaks can improve creative problem-solving skills, learning ability and motivation to achieve long-term goals. They can also help you avoid decision fatigue.
Perhaps most importantly, taking breaks will improve your long-term physical and mental health. A walking or stretching break will help stave off health issues that can result from sitting at a desk all day, like depression, obesity and heart disease. Taking breaks to improve your health now will ensure that you can continue to be productive in the future.
Building a more productive day
As a solopreneur, you are only accountable to yourself.
By taking greater control over how you manage your time, you can enhance your productivity and put yourself on track for scaling your business into something even greater.
What do you think? Have you already started working on a side project or have you already become an entrepreneur? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!