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Encompass® Agency Insights

5 Time-Saving Productivity Hacks for Small Business Owners

A clock.

From marketer to sales rep, accountant to HR specialist, small business owners wear many different hats in a single day. Jumping from one task to the next while trying to keep clients satisfied and projects on track can be downright exhausting. With limited hours in the day, maximizing your impact is crucial. These five time-saving productivity hacks can help you work smarter:

1. Identify the problem.

Before test driving a new productivity app, take a moment to evaluate your needs. Are you struggling to track employee schedules? A single shared Google calendar is a simple, free solution. Do you frequently forget about smaller tasks? A checklist with a built-in reminder system like Wunderlist can help. If your problem relates to a specific business function, like accounting, consider what automated options exist for streamlining this service and minimizing daily disruption, like Wave’s suite of free accounting tools.

2. Tame your inbox.

Rather than trying to manage email on a rolling basis, designate specific hours for checking messages. Sort messages into three groups: those that do not require a response and can be immediately archived, those where you can take immediate action with a short reply, and those that require a longer, more detailed answer. Set aside 30 minutes at the end of every day to reply to the messages that require a longer response.

Worried about missing an important message? The app Airmail will notify you when emails arrive from your most important contacts. Do you frequently receive messages that only need a short reply? The app Spark includes a “Quick Reply” function that sends an instant reply and archives your message. Spark can also save messages to Evernote or Pocket for you to read later.

3. Schedule time for “odds and ends.”

It’s easy to be distracted by smaller administrative tasks that feel urgent in the moment but are disruptive to your workflow and hinder your progress on major projects. Rather than hopping from one distraction to the next, dedicate an hour each week to addressing all your minor administrative to-dos at once. When confronted with an administrative task during your workday, simply add the item to your admin to-do list and keep plugging away on the bigger project.

4. Get the whole team on the same page.

Does your core team include employees who are part-time or work remotely on an as-needed project basis? Keeping everyone on the same page can be a challenge, especially when you’re not all in the same office at the same time. Depending on your business needs, a project management tool like Wrike or Asana can make it easier to track tasks, monitor milestones and foster greater accountability. A birds-eye view of your team’s workloads and upcoming deadlines keeps everyone moving forward—and helps to eliminate the need for those time-wasting "status update" meetings.

5. Stick to the same schedule.

Is there really magic in waking up and working early? Or is the key to productivity exercising over your lunch break? Some people are naturally early risers while others are night owls who hit their stride after everyone else has gone to bed. Rather than trying to force yourself to adopt an unnatural routine, instead, consider how you can make your routine align with your peak productivity. If mornings are your magic time, for example, commit to going to bed early so you can maximize those early hours. Get organized the night before and turn off email, so you can focus on a single, big picture task when you're at your sharpest. If you work best after a midday run, let your team know you'll be out of the office every day over your lunch break. Whatever routine you choose, set a schedule and stick to it!

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