No one likes to waste time, and for small-business owners, wasted time almost always means wasted money.
Consider these sobering statistics compiled by the International Association of Business Organizing:
- The typical U.S. worker is interrupted by communications technology every 10 minutes.
- The average office has 19 copies of every document.
- Americans spend one year of their lives looking for lost and misplaced items at home and at the office.
- People who multitask decrease their productivity by 20 to 40 percent.
Here are five ways to streamline and simplify your business — and save time and money in the process.
1. Get organized.
When it comes to organization and completing tasks in a logical order, many small-business owners are their own worst enemies. They jump from task to task and wonder why, at the end of the day, they haven’t finished a single one.
Being productive requires focus and concentration, which is why a sensible to-do list is usually the best approach. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the all things you could be doing. Instead, prioritize your list by pending deadlines and by what’s most important. Focus on small, manageable goals and be realistic about how much time is needed to check them off your list.
Donald Wetmore, a time-management expert at the Productivity Institute, suggests dividing your days into 15- or 30-minute blocks and keeping track of how you spend your time. You’ll soon be able to determine where your time is going and what can be trimmed from your schedule or handed off to someone else (see #2).
If you’ve hired the right people, you shouldn’t hesitate to delegate tasks and responsibilities to them. This may be difficult at first — and often involves some delicate trust issues — but the hard fact is you can’t do everything yourself. Delegation frees up some of your valuable time that’s better spent on big-picture issues, such as where you want your business to be a year from now. It also enables you to take a break once in while, which in turn can refresh and invigorate you.
3. Schedule fewer meetings.
How much time do you spend in meetings with your employees or engaging in team-building activities? What if, instead, you used that time to send a concise, informative email to everyone involved? You could keep people abreast of the issues — and save time. Of course, some meetings are essential. When necessary, keep them short and follow these common-sense guidelines.
4. Go paperless.
Many business documents are unnecessary in printed form, yet we spend vast quantities of time producing and managing paper. These days, virtually all paperwork can be done online. Still using a fax machine? Fax-to-email services allow you to send and receive faxed documents via email. Need to send an invoice or accept a credit card payment? Try GoPayment. You can use your smartphone to take pictures of receipts, order forms, etc., and upload them to your cloud-based storage system — or email them as PDFs.
Your business becomes a lot less complicated when you take better care of yourself. How efficient are you when you’re sleep-deprived or stressed-out? Carve out time away from the business to do recreational things. Exercise. Read a book. Hang out with your family. Personal time revitalizes you and lets you gain new perspective on supposedly “urgent” business issues.