One thing everybody wants it to get more out of less. I am a big proponent of this. I like to get more money out of less work and more work done in less time. When running a business, time is money. When running a service based business, time is everything. There are lots of things that pop up during the day that can completely ruin your schedule and in some cases, even your paycheck.
No matter how organized, there is only 24 hours in a day
This is a fact that you have to come to terms with. You can only get so much done in a day. Somedays you are on top of things and everything goes smoothly. Other days, you wonder why you even bothered getting out of bed. Your productivity was so low, you probably would of been better off sleeping. At least you would be refreshed the next day. So don’t put too much stress on yourself if you have a less than productive day.
Sometimes, it is better to procrastinate:
Continuing on from my last point, some times it is better to procrastinate. You can’t brute force a solution to a problem all the time. Look at Archimedes. The laws of buoyancy came to him while he was having a bath. I have had all sorts of answers come to me, almost magically, when doing random, non work related things. So if you are struggling with a particular issue, over thinking it may a bad thing. Set it aside and work on something else.
Beware of Time Bandits:
Time bandits can come in many forms. People, phone calls, emails or anything that interrupts your train of thought. When you are in the zone, see 80/20 rule (getting 80% of your work done in 20% of your time) the last thing you need is an interruption. After a small interruption it statistically takes 20 minutes to get back to where you were before the interuption. That is a lot of time! Try to avoid checking emails as they come in and turn off your phone! Watch this TED talk by Jason Fried about why work doesn’t happen at work.
Create Goals for yourself:
Use goals to measure your productivity and motivate yourself throughout the day. I suggest spending 10 or 20 minutes at the start of your day or week to create a detailed todo list that you want to accomplish. Nothing feels better than checking off that last item on your list. If you don’t finish, don’t worry, this is part of measuring what you are capable of accomplishing in a day. Over time, you will begin to know what you can accomplish in a certain amount of time making you all the more efficent.
Monitor your time usage, but not too much:
Having the knowledge of what you can do in a certain amount of time is a very powerful metric. This will make you more professional, being able to give accurate time lines, as well as help you price jobs and other services easily. This will also help you schedule your day more accurately.
Try to avoid the trap of spending all your time monitoring how you spend your time.
By monitoring your time, you can also pinpoint where you are wasting the most time. This can help in making your business and life more efficent.
Eliminate, Automate or outsource – in that order:
Now that you know where you are spending most of your time, why not try reclaiming it. I suggest eliminating, automating or outsourcing, in that order. Perhaps you are spending half your day dealing with something that makes you 5% of your revenue. That doesn’t add up. Is this a certain task you can eliminate all together? If not, why not automate what needs to happen. With a little ingenuity and some time and/or money, you can automate most things. If you cannot automate it, how about delegate the task to someone else.
Don’t waste time waiting – go mobile!
Another big time trap is wasting time when you are sitting around. As I type this, I am at the car dealership having my wife’s car serviced. Invest in mobile so you aren’t sitting around wasting time when you are not in the office. It feels good to be productive when you are not supposed to be. It is like getting free time, which is free money in some sense.
Be organized – Document
How much time have you wasted time and time again looking up the same information or resolving technical issues you know you have solved before. Excellent network and business document saves a large sum of time and also helps you forge your business processes making your business more valuable. I suggest building a knowledge base of solutions to technical problems, creating a operations manual and documenting every detail of your clients network in excruciating detail. You should also have your business processes down so you are not reinventing the wheel every time an issue comes up.
A big productivity / creativity killer for me is routine. A lot of people suggest a rigid routine to remain more productive. I find that routine kills the creative process, making your solutions less unique and awesome. Try shaking things up a little bit, like taking your wife shopping during the day or go visit a museum or art gallary. Read up about Allan Bacon and his little life experiments. I have found it is difficult to cultivate ingenuity in strict, rigid environments.