Top tips on how to work smarter - not harder

You may have started your own business to follow your passion and to get some balance back in your life but there are times when the hours you put into your business are long, hard and stressful. For those running their own blossoming business empire, there is a plethora of ‘how to’ guides on running your business without working 23.5 hours a day.

For those with a Personal Assistant Diploma they will also understand that the average 52-hour working week of a self-employed, micro-business owner need to be less. Do long hours equal success? Not so say business experts

Distractions and business needs

Technology is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Your business profile on social media brings recognition and trade, your email allows instantaneous messaging, your mobile allows you to stay connected at all hours of the day and night…

But this also means that you become bombarded and bogged down in menial admin tasks and minutiae. And the biggest consumer of your time is…? Social media ‘addiction’. Acting as a distraction, what was going to be a 10-minute check-in to see what is happening turns into an hour-long exploration of today’s trending topics.

Control issues

Procrastination – the art of never getting anything done. It can be a conscious decision not to deal with something or, for many people, it can be the result of an inability to prioritise tasks.

Running a business is all about balancing prioritise and unless someone has shown you how to do it, it can be something that many business owners learn as they go along. But the biggest issue is understanding when something is better outsourced.

As a business owner you are balancing the books too and so spending money on someone writing your website blogs may seem frivolous. But if it means you have an evening with no work, and the blog posts are of better quality, your business wins hands down.

What could you outsource?

What is consuming your time?

Are you wasting time? Some people would say they aren’t but still don’t seem to get everything done in a day that they think they should. If you are unsure as to whether you are haemorrhaging time or not, keeping a detailed daily diary of what you do, how long it takes will soon shed some light on your working day. There are days that don’t go to plan, but this shouldn’t be a daily occurrence.

Perception is often different to reality. Your perception may be that you only spend 10 minutes on social media but if the reality is this amounts to several 10 minute sessions in one day, you have lost this time ‘doing nothing of value’ in some cases.

The to-do list

To-do lists are great. Unless they are too long and then they become daunting. So, you have a to-do list as long as your arm, what’s the next step? The solution is surprisingly simple: prioritise no more than six things on that list.

“Only six?!” you may cry! By prioritising six things you are really focusing your thinking on what needs to be done. This leads to better results and efficient use of time, rather than a second-rate job that could land your reputation in hot water.

But beware of the to-do list that stretches endlessly before you. It is tempting to think ‘if I do that, I’ll be one step ahead tomorrow…’ A small business owner needs to know when it times to go home. And switch off.

Improved habits

Successful time management produces better self-discipline, the two walk hand in hand. As a business owner, we can become trapped in our own spiral of doom. When you first started your business, checking your email every five minutes for orders or work was an obvious need.

But the time has come to realise where the time-consuming, non-essential tasks lie – and you need to start breaking the habit. Some successful entrepreneurs will have a habit of checking their email account two or three times a day and at set times. Small changes to habits and attitude can make a big difference to a business owner. We may choose to work 52 hour weeks but if it isn’t always necessary, why do it?

NCC Home Learning offer a variety of online courses that benefit business owners, from a Personal Assistant Diploma to Business Administration.