Forgive the blatant reference to a 1990’s Cher pop hit, but the title of this blog post does recognise a widely known fact – small business owners are time-poor. For the most part, small businesses operate without the luxury of specialist resource, the status quo is a bunch of hard-working generalists doing their best to keep the plates in every avenue of their business spinning while still driving strategic growth and revenue.
A picture says a 1000 words and this infographic detailing the typical week of a small business owner (thanks to Business Insider for that!) shows there’s not often much time for an extended coffee break and a detailed debrief of the weekend’s test match.
So how do you scrape back some valuable minutes in your day and rebalance that time = money equation? As a small business ourselves, serving small business needs every day, we found some time (it was in between the couch cushions) to pull together Suite’s top time-saving tips.
- Tunnel Vision Tuesdays
Multitasking like mad men and women every day; oscillating between finance strategy and filing; jumping from staff one-on-ones to marketing meetings; then diving into invoicing, may make you look and feel like the busiest bee in the hive, but it isn’t always efficient. The day often ends with that simmering irritation of achieving 10 per cent of many things and 100 per cent of none. Tunnel Vision Tuesdays are the antidote to this frustration, turning your focus to just one aspect of your business just one day a week can enable you to advance a project to satisfying completion. At Suite, Tuesday is dedicated to marketing. We build great document management apps, but there’s little point doing what we do unless people know about it. So, on Tuesdays, we dedicate our time to telling the Suite story, making sure the day ends with at least one tangible output. Try it and let us know how it impacts your results, and by all means, don’t restrict yourself to Tuesday. Firmly Focused Friday also has a nice ring to it.
- Ditch the pen and paper
Hand-written notes are a thing of the past here at Suite, not just because we operate a paperless philosophy, but because we’ve found faster ways to document our meetings, ideas and brainstorms. Furiously scribbling down notes during a meeting, pausing to clarify or catch up with the speaker, then interpreting and typing our scrawls from the transcript into an electronic document to email to the team just didn’t seem efficient to us. So, instead we write directly into tablets, take pics of whiteboard sessions, and voice record our annotations on documents. This new way of working cuts down on wasteful double-handling, not to mention the extra minutes spent finding the right piece of paper in the messy piles cluttering our desks.
- Email Wrangling
The only thing to surprise us about the infographic above is the relatively small number of hours dedicated to emailing. Often, emails can seem like a maleficent villain, senselessly attacking your productivity throughout the day. Emails can be, for want of a more articulate phrase, a real time-suck. However, email management is also a very personal thing, the approach that works for Jack, may not work for Jill, but there are a number of things you can try to stand up to your inbox. Try turning off notifications on both your mobile devices and your desktop to avoid constant interruption and proactively check your email only when it works for you. Or embrace the Rules and Alerts function of your email client to sort, flag and organise incoming messages, such as directing emails where you’re only CC’d into a non-urgent folder. As Tim Ferris, author of The Four-Hour Work Week puts it “Email is someone else’s agenda for your time. Don’t let it fool you into thinking you’re being productive.”
- Work to the Cloud clock
The cloud gives businesses the flexibility to work anywhere, anytime, putting business owners back in control of their time, instead of being governed by a server, stuck in a specific location. Traffic looking bad today? With a cloud-based business, you don’t need to spend an hour and half doing nothing but commuting to your workplace, just flick on your home computer and work from your living room that day. As well as added flexibility, cloud computing also enables businesses to strip out time-consuming IT tasks from their operations, the hours spent up-keeping servers, updating software and backing-up data quickly add up. With a cloud-run business, these tasks are automated, and you get that precious time back.
- Take a break
Sounds counterproductive right? When we’re talking about finding time and efficiency gains, the notion of taking time off seems impractical, so forgive the imminent computing analogy we’ll use to explain this. Imagine a PC operating day in, day out, running multiple systems, completing hundreds upon hundreds of tasks, facilitating process after process (this PC may be sitting right in front of you). That PC grows tired, slow and inefficient. But a well-timed restart, a dedicated shut down of the 40 browser tabs it has open, a chance for it to update core programs and to turn off its overworked engine, and that PC gets back to work, almost as good as new. Taking a break is your physical re-boot. At Suite, we encourage each other to take the time to consciously reward ourselves, take a week off and restore our depleted energy reserves so that we can return to SuiteHQ with renewed focus and vigour.