“Work smarter, not harder” is a saying that most of us are familiar with. But how do we actually apply this concept when it comes to running a successful small business? One of our recent podcast episodes featuring bestselling author, Penny Zenker and Remote Quality Bookkeeping CEO, Mark Kilduff, discusses this very topic. Zenker explains the importance of getting into the “productivity zone” by combining a championship psychology, implementing a winning strategy and creating sustainable results.
Time blocking fits into the winning strategy category because it involves creating effective habits that will boost your productivity. Assigning specific tasks to established blocks of time can help you to eliminate distractions and increase your efficiency. Here are 7 steps that will help you to master time blocking so you can truly work smarter.
- Write it down. The first step is to write down clearly defined business goals (these may be short, medium or long term). From there, you can start to carve out your schedule – ensuring that your actions align with your goals. In other words, the tasks you plan on doing must take you one step closer to achieving the goals you’ve created. Writing your timetable on paper helps to make it concrete. It also helps you to stay on top of tasks that are completed, those that are in-progress and those that you may need to delegate (more on this later). By having a clearly defined set of objectives and a well-laid out schedule, you can start improving your time management skills.
- Track your time. The next step is to determine how long it currently takes you to complete specific tasks. This is an excellent way to ensure that your actions align with where your values and goals lie. Keeping a time log will also help to highlight areas for improvement. You might be surprised at what your time log reveals. You may also see how small distractions throughout the day can add up to significant amounts of lost time. For more information on how to keep a time log, check out productivity expert, Laura Vanderkam’s effective time tracking strategies.
- Figure out the drivers of your business and spend your time there. Once you’ve determined how long it actually takes you to complete a task versus how long you thought it would take you, you can really start to zero in on a strategy to become a more effective planner. One way to do this is by pinpointing the key drivers of your business. Key drivers vary from industry to industry and business to business. Here are some examples: machine downtime in a factory, leads for a service-oriented business or superior customer support for a software company. Creating time blocks around these areas can help to drive better results for your small business.
- Determine how much your time is worth. As a small business owner, time is likely your most precious resource, because it is the most scarce. It is often tempting to take on every single task yourself in order to trim costs. But is this really the wisest way to invest in your time? If you value your time at $100 per hour but your time log shows that you spend several hours a day on $10 per hour tasks…take a closer look at step 5 below.
- Delegate or outsource. You may be able to delegate small tasks to your team or outsource others that may not be key drivers of your business or worth your personal investment of time. This is important because it is likely that several of these projects will be fundamentally critical to the survival of your business though they may not necessarily be key drivers.One example is administering payroll. This function is essential to the smooth running of any business. However, it takes a lot of time to ensure that it is managed correctly — from payroll processing, direct deposit to calculating employees’ work hours. Transferring these tasks to an outsourced payroll provider like Remote Quality Bookkeeping, frees up valuable time to focus on your core business. For more on the benefits of outsourcing payroll, be sure to check out our previous blog post on the topic. To highlight this point another way, by hiring a virtual assistant at $10 per hour for 10 hours a week, you can block out five 2-hour blocks to work on landing new client deals. This would be a much better investment for the future of your small business.
- Implement daily changes to take your productivity to the next level. Zenkel cautions listeners to avoid Parkinson’s Law — the idea that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. In other words, the longer the deadline or meeting, the greater the likelihood that it will be inefficient. Re-evaluate your meetings: try to pick the right time, involve the right people and focus on the right topics. Make sure the meeting times are tight and the focus is action-oriented.
- Review and adapt. It is important to stay flexible. Try not to block out every minute of your day from the moment you wake up until the time you go to bed. Being this rigid may make you more anxious and less productive because your schedule is unable to adapt to any changes that may arise. It is important to strike a careful balance and use these tips for mastering time blocks to ensure that “running your business doesn’t get in the way of running your business”.
Need even more productivity tips for your small business? Then check out Penny Zenker’s book, The Productivity Zone, and her podcast, Taking Charge with Penny Zenker. Also, be sure to contact us at RQB for your outsourced bookkeeping needs so that you can focus on what matters the most — providing value to your clients and growing your small business.