For most of us—but business owners especially—time is scarce. There is always more to do than hours in the day. Even worse, in the midst of the chaos, you may quickly resort to tactics that aren’t the most helpful, and may even be counterproductive. To help you break this cycle, we’ve come up with 15 simple time-saving tricks to help you accomplish more and meet your deadlines—without going insane.
Being too optimistic about what you can achieve in a single day can make you feel overwhelmed. Being late to appointments, rushing through them, or having to reschedule them will be counterproductive and will only make you feel stressed. Be realistic when scheduling appointments and accepting invites. Only take on what you can handle with full engagement. This will make your meetings more productive and will save you the time it takes to reschedule and rearrange your timetable.
For a week (or more), keep track of how much time it takes you to complete various tasks. This will help you to also be realistic about your to-do lists and timelines. Leaving insufficient time for something important is likely to cost you more time in the long run.
Running a business often means having a constant stream of the unexpected popping up. There is no way to schedule them, but you can plan for them. Allow generous cushions between meetings and scheduled tasks so that if something does pop up, you will have only minor shifts to make, as opposed to canceling and rescheduling.
If you use time-saving tip #3, you may end up with more down time than you’re used to. The 10-15 minute time window can seem rather inconvenient: too long to do nothing but too short to get started on something. The truth is, these short time blocks are sufficient for many things, especially when you add them up throughout the week. Use them to complete small tasks or contribute to ongoing tasks, such as brainstorming ideas for your blog, glancing over your calendar, paying a bill, or making a quick phone call.
Automation is key to saving time. One of the easiest ways to be more time-efficient is to automate your marketing and bill payments. This will not only help you save time every month, but it will also protect you from late payments.
Spare yourself from writing the same things over and over again. When it comes to emails, forms, and creative marketing collateral, streamline the process with templates so you don’t have to start from scratch every time.
Related: 25 Free Tools to Rock Your Visual Marketing
Don’t waste time looking for files and documents. Make sure they are all at your fingertips. You can do this by having a neat, organized filing system. This can help you save time as well as space in your office. The same applies to electronic files.
You may already have a filing system on our computers, for photos, documents, invoices, marketing material, and more. Yet as you power through the day, you may become less and less accustomed to actually saving files to their appropriate folder—let alone saving them with a name other than “New Document 5” or “IMG_4522”. However, when you are trying to retrieve that file in the future to send to an interested prospect or create a timely social media post, you can’t find it! Nor can you search for it because it isn’t properly named.
Try getting into the habit of naming your files specifically, and saving them to their appropriate folder as they are created. This will save you the time of having to rename and move files in mass amounts later on down the line. More importantly, it will enable you to retrieve important files quickly and at opportune times.
In addition to naming and organizing your files, you should also back them up to an external hard drive or online location. Performing regular backups will save you the time of having to reproduce lost files. You can also archive important but unused but files, which clutter up your frequented folders and slow down functionality.
You never know when you will come across something important that you will need to remember at a later time. This could be the name of a customer service rep you spoke to about an account you have, an important detail about a client or important person in your network, or a specification about a product in need of repair. To make sure you don’t spend precious time trying to recall all those important points and details, make sure you have a notebook (physical or digital) to take it all down. A digital notebook with a search feature is best, as you can bring up notes using certain key words.
It can be a challenge to schedule face-to-face meetings. If you don’t actually need to be in the same room, schedule phone or Skype calls to spare yourself travel and coordination time.
Every business owner is familiar with those never ending, hardly productive meetings that happen from time to time. A great way to limit these is to set an end time for each meeting. This forces all participants to make sure everything that needs to be discussed is fit into a reasonable amount of time. Be generous with setting the end time, however, as you don’t want to end up cutting a productive discussion or making those involved feel unvalued.
You will have to complete hundreds of little tasks during your work week. An easy way to save time is to categorize them. Grouping errands by location can maximize efficiency. You can also group by types of tasks (creative, email, housekeeping, and accounting, for example). It can take some time to switch and settle into different mindsets. Grouping your tasks by mindset will allow you to capitalize on one mindset and make use of momentum before moving onto the next.
Multitasking is a way to save time but can be counterproductive when it comes to larger items. For projects that require more thought and effort, it may be best to complete them in one sitting, or at least in milestone stages. If you jump to new tasks before completing a milestone for your project, you are likely to waste time later on having to recall where you left off.
If you have an important deadline coming up, set multiple reminders of everything that needs to be done. This will help you to stay on track with your timeline and reduce last minute efforts that lead to stress and poor quality output.
Implement these time-saving tricks and see if they make a difference in your work day and productivity. You can’t always reduce the amount that you have to do, but you can reduce the time it takes to do it all and stress involved with it.