We’ve all heard the term work smarter, not harder – most of us have probably even said it a time or two. Yet many business owners do exactly the opposite. With advances in technology, our work is often everywhere we are 24/7. Late night texts, early morning emails, phone calls outside normal business hours – multitasking has taken on a whole new meaning, and many business owners are working almost every waking moment of their day. While technology has made it easier to do all the work ourselves without the added expense of onboarding new employees, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re more productive or efficient.
You’ve often heard me say that work-life balance is a myth. Balance instead is a constant juggling act. When you are inefficient and unproductive at work, it only lends itself to guilt, frustration, and burnout. So, how do you work smarter and not harder and achieve maximum efficiency, productivity, and sanity?
- Strategize. What do you really want? What are you trying to achieve? Developing the bigger picture can be a time-consuming process initially, but it gives you a roadmap to follow. Having a guide helps you foresee and prepare for the tasks necessary to reach your goals.
- Planning. Good time management includes blocking out time for the important things to ensure you have the time needed to focus on the things that matter. Try to focus on only one task during each time block. You’ll find that when you know what priorities you need to focus on, your mind can better prepare for what needs to be done during that window, and you will use your time more efficiently.
- Track your time. Often when blocking time, we are overly optimistic about the amount of time a task will take or fail to account for contingency time if we run into a snag. Tracking your time will start to help you to block out time realistically, so instead of constantly finding yourself behind the 8-ball, you’ll be able to manage your time more efficiently and also make better decisions when it comes to cost estimations and employee management.
- Find the weak links in your efficiency. If you find that you “copy and paste” or duplicate entering information or have to reproduce tasks, you’re wasting time (and, by proxy, money). It may take more time upfront to figure out how to create a system, but finding the inefficiencies in your workflow will save you time and money in the long run.
- Automate when you can. Not every business is set up for automated tasks, but if you can, you should. Use technology to your advantage. Are there routine processes that can utilize smart automation versus hiring an employee? There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to automating, but automation can help reduce costly errors and increase efficiency.
- Delegate when necessary. You don’t have to do it all (and you probably shouldn’t). Spreading yourself too thin will be disastrous in the long run. Learn how and when you need to ask for help. If you constantly feel overwhelmed, it’s time to consider onboarding an employee or seek other resources (like automated systems or outsourcing) to help you tackle the things outside your areas of expertise.
- Measure and celebrate. Creating a strategic plan means setting benchmarks and evaluating and measuring your progress according to those metrics. This step makes decision-making a bit easier. You will be able to assess whether you are setting unrealistic goals or whether you need to make adjustments in other areas. But the best part about setting and measuring goals is celebrating the wins! Celebrating your accomplishments helps you build confidence as an entrepreneur but also helps navigate your business’s future.
Using these concepts to help you manage your business will help you succeed in leading your business. You might even be surprised by how you can take back control of your time and maybe even have a little to spare to focus on yourself (something else you desperately need to avoid burnout).
Empowered Leadership helps businesses find freedom through business coaching, executive coaching, assessments, and training. Stacie is an entrepreneur who helps business leaders balance their time to run an effective business and enjoy their life.