Productivity Tools for Small Business Owners


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Productivity Tools and Tips for Small Businesses
Time to take back control of your daily schedule and move forward with these tools and tips!

Small Business Productivity Tools and Tips

Ever have one of those days (or weeks) where you’re just dragging and can’t muster up the motivation to do anything productive? Ever dream of super helpful productivity tools that could help?

Of course, you have! We’ve all had days like that. Even those (seemingly perfect) people on an unmentionable image sharing platform, get them too.

The problem with the unproductive day(s) when owning a small business is evident. They set us back on projects, which allows other things to pile up, and the cycle repeats itself until we get “caught up.”

However, are we ever really caught up?

Well, the naysayers say no and to an extent they’re right. However, I like to think that certain things will always be a work in progress, while other smaller time-consuming tasks can be automated.

In other words, there are things we small business owners will never finish. For example, making a business continually better or improving relationships with clients and striving to offer better products and services.

The things that we can get caught up with involve improved workflows, eliminating time-consuming paper-pushing tasks, etc.

What are we to do about it? Well, to help you get started, I wrote this post based on some things that have helped me get ideas in order and a couple of tools that I’ve used.

Onward!

Utilize Tech to Boost Productivity

With technology evolving at an ever-increasing pace, new tools and productivity apps are continually being rolled out. With that said, productivity tools are one of those technologies.

Wise time management is the key to being productive.

It’s essential to free up as much time as possible by getting rid of distractions that eat up time.

Then, after we are free of distractions, and become more productive, we use that time to add more to our list that we need to optimize…again.

It’s a vicious cycle! Anyway, see where I’m going with this?

Eliminate Distractions

Eliminate as many distractions as possible!

Where do you start? First, focus on the “attention-grabbers”! (The ones that have nothing to do with your real priorities!)

Queue the super adorable kitten videos on YouTube! (kidding!)

The trick is to set boundaries for yourself and stick to them. (no fun, but necessary!)

Examples of distractions that grab our attention:

  • Notifications
    • E-mail
    • Messaging Apps
    • Phone Calls
    • Texts
  • Meetings
    • Avoid the unimportant/unnecessary ones
  • Visitors
    • Gossip
    • Random Conversations
  • Internet
    • News
    • Pop-up notifications (fix these in browser settings)
    • “Research”

The other side of distraction is when knowingly spending time on tasks unrelated to what your current priorities are.

Examples of Outgoing Distractions:

  • “Needing” to check on “stuff.”
  • Watching Video Content
    • Entertainment Purposes (cat videos)
  • Social Media
    • Random news
    • Reading comments
  • Random Searches on Google
    • Answering Random Thoughts
    • Looking at Random Pictures
  • Talking to People (You take other people’s time)
    • Telling Gossip
    • Starting Random Conversations
  • Smart Phone
    • Apps
    • Messaging
    • Games
    • Calls

As you can see, there are many types of distractions grabbing your attention away from what matters.

Make To-Do Lists

In the past, I’ve been very guilty of not adding stuff to my list, only later to find out something needed to be turned in several weeks before.

(Don’t let the pride of your super memory get in the way of making a to-do list.)

Everyone forgets at some point and time, don’t let this simple mistake take control. It only results in backtracking.

Anyway, making a to-do list is rather simple, and it can improve your efficiency just by reinforcing the notion that you have something important to do. However, depending on how you make your list can either be helpful or not (post-it notes are one of my guilty pleasures).

Create a Schedule

Just because we work for ourselves, doesn’t mean we get to escape the “confinement” of schedules! Calendars, plans, and deadlines help us to stay organized and on track to reach goals.

First of all, make a schedule yourself!

Don’t have an assistant do it. Who else knows what your priorities are better than you, the business owner?

Secondly; consider how often emergencies pop up for your business.

Unless you offer “emergency crisis consultation” or provide “on-the-fly” services, why are you sabotaging your schedule?

This is where the post-it notes come in!

Seriously. Baby steps!

Setting Priorities

Write down your priorities on a post-it, prioritize and then schedule them, but not so fast!

As you go through with making your to-do list, you’ll want to put your todos in rank order.

To keep it simple, have the number be between 1 and 3. One means that it’s highly essential, two = it can wait (but needs to get done ASAP), and three = not a priority.

Disclaimer: It’ll take some time before you figure out the difference in priority levels between each and you’ll probably see more 2s and 3s on your schedule at first.

Prioritizing Example

Let’s say you need to set up a new website for your small business, and the below things have to happen to get things moving.

  • Add the new website URL to ALL social media profiles
  • Set up email(s) through CMS and add email forwarding if necessary
  • Find/decide on website host and create/pay for an annual account
  • Choose a CMS through the host
  • Figure out a website theme
  • Register URL with search engines
  • Find a Contact Us Form plugin and add it to the Contact Us page
  • Begin to Draft/Publish an About Us page, Contact Us page, and Services page
  • Find a social media sharing plugin and connect social media accounts to the website
  • Create one image for each page
  • Connect website to Google Analytics

(Psst: Before the above items get added to a calendar, put them in rank order.)

Prioritizing

As always, how you prioritize a new schedule will heavily depend on what your current responsibilities are, what is already outstanding, and what HAS to get done ASAP. In this case, we need to get a website up and running in about 11 steps.

Here is how we would organize the above items based on some of our internal processes:

  1. Find Website Host (*GreenGeeks, HostGator, *Siteground, *Bluehost, or *DreamHost) and create/pay for an annual account
  2. Choose a CMS (WordPress, etc.) through the host
  3. Figure out a website theme through WordPress
  4. Begin to Draft/Publish an About Us page, Contact Us page, and Services page
  5. Create one image for each page
  6. Find a Contact Us Form plugin and add it to the Contact Us page
  7. Set up business email(s) through CMS’s (WordPress) cPanel and add email forwarding if necessary
  8. Find a social media sharing plugin and connect social media accounts to the website
  9. Register URL with search engines
  10. Connect website to Google Analytics
  11. Add the new website URL to ALL social media profiles

Adding the above tasks to your already existing calendar

Now that everything is in rank order, how in the heck can we integrate all of that into our existing weekly schedule? Well, it’s vital to ensure that we don’t fall behind on other stuff, overbook ourselves, etc.

Well, one of our favorite productivity hacks is called Time Blocking. It’s when you prioritize specific tasks that frequently happen (on a weekly, monthly, etc. basis) and then add them as a recurrence in your calendar, so they automatically appear on your schedule to “block time” so you don’t overlook the task or overbook yourself in general. Plus, each time block never exceeds an hour because each item is a task, not a project.

In the below calendar we’ll apply the same technique, but it’ll be for only one week. The items marked “Time Blocked” will be reserved for regular daily tasks and we’ll add the other items around them.

Time-blocking Calendar Example [Infographic]
If you’re having trouble finding extra time to work on a project, this calendar utilizes time-blocking to turn daily tasks into 30-minute or 1-hour blocks. [1-hour lunch included!]

Productivity Tools to get Workflows in Order

So why are we going from post-its to apps? Well, now that you have your priorities figured out and the schedule you want, nix the calendar and try these two tools! (you’ll see what I mean in a second)

Todoist

Welcome to the ultimate digital scheduler! Todoist wants you to succeed in your productivity pursuits. So much that they even have useful tips for better habits blog.

When you use this tool and complete tasks, you earn “karma” points that show your daily and weekly progress.

Why is that important?

Well, the points system works surprisingly well! As you rack up points, you’ll begin to see a dip in productivity if you don’t complete as many tasks as the day before. So in a way, it holds you accountable, and you realize it. The more you use Todoist, the more this feature matters.

Another neat feature is that you can create projects or workflows (that contain tasks within them). For example, if you have something that you do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, you can set a reminder, so it reoccurs at a specific time! This means that you no longer have to keep manually adding the todos to your daily calendar!

Once you check off the task, it reschedules itself automatically for the next date.

You can set up Todoist on your desktop through chrome extensions or on your phone with an app.

Rescue Time

The name says it all! RescueTime is a neat productivity tool that helps you to spot out problem areas in your daily schedule and gives you stats on how you delegate time throughout the day. It may be a little embarrassing to find out that you watch 30 hours of cat videos a week, but hey at least it won’t tell anyone! Plus, you’ll know what you need to improve!

Another neat feature is that you can set different websites (and apps) as very distracting, distracting, neutral, productive, and very productive. Then it begins keeping track of how much time you spend on each one and compiles it into an easy to understand daily overview.

Tip: Set up RescueTime on your desktop through chrome extensions and on your phone with an app, so it compiles info from both!

That’s all for now!

So there you have it, a few quick ways to improve your overall time management with productivity tools to get your schedule back on track! In the meantime, check out the below posts for more time management tips and stay tuned for additional UGH! Media blog posts. As always, feel free to follow us on Twitter or Pinterest!

Disclosure: Some of the above links are affiliate links, which means, at no additional cost to you, UGH! Media LLC earns a commission if you click through one of them and make a purchase. Any affiliate link above is noted with an asterisk (*).

 

 

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