Let’s face it. Part of the “financial freedom” dream we all dream is to work less and get more done. No one wants to leave their 9 to 5 just to work 12-hours a day on their own business forever. The key is to implement some productivity improvement tools early so that your business systems scale as your income grows.
My idea of financial freedom is being able to work no more than four hours a day and still make enough money to pay bills and have some adventures with my family. Those adventures require cash but, they also require my undivided attention. My kiddos don’t want me checking my phone every 5-minutes while we’re at the waterslides or spending the day at the beach.
Frankly, I don’t want to even be thinking about my business when my four hours of work for the day is over. That’s a major part of my definition of financial freedom – I’m free from worry about having enough money and about making more money.
So, I make sure that I’m implementing productivity improvement tools that give me a strong foundation to build from. I want my business to be successful even on the days that I don’t work.
What Is Productivity In Small Business?
When you’re a solopreneur or a micropreneur, you wear A LOT of hats. Not to mention you literally have blood, sweat, and tears invested in your business (well, at least tears).
In the beginning, there is no choice but to do all the things because you can’t afford to hire anyone to help you yet. The linchpin in business growth is the point when you start making money.
In other words, when you can afford to implement some productivity improvement tools – you need to. This is key to the growth and scalability of your business.
Productivity as a solopreneur or micropreneur basically means constantly evaluating which tasks you are spending your time on each day and assessing if you have the budget to automate or outsource.
First, you have to identify the major themes that drive your business. We’re all in business for financial freedom, right? So, your main themes are going to be related to what makes money in your business.
For instance, selling an e-course, selling an e-book, having a membership community, or even growing the pageviews on your blog for advertising income and sponsored posts.
Next, you need to break down each of your major themes into goals, objectives, and tasks.
So, your goal would be “launch my course – Facebook Groups: How To Use Them To Find Clients” by the end of Q1.” With this goal, you have three months to get it done.
The objectives are things you will assign a one month due date for. It is always best to narrow your projects down to sections of three. So, month 1 would be researching and writing the course. Month 2 is filming and designing the slide deck. And, month 3 is designing the launch plan for the course.
The tasks are what you’re going to do each day to focus on the month’s objective. This is where you can outsource or automate some of these tasks.
This is also where some solopreneurs get stuck and actually slow down their productivity. If you have the resources to outsource or automate – you must do it to see any growth in your business.
When you are approaching your productivity with an organized framework, it’s much easier to identify areas where you can let go of responsibility.
Just because you are busy working on tasks doesn’t mean that you are being productive. If the time that you are spending on tasks isn’t pushing you towards achieving your objective – then, it is wasted time.
Is Being Busy The Same As Being Productive?
It’s easy to get caught up in the act of being busy when you’re a solopreneur. In the beginning, there is a website to build, blog posts to write, content upgrades to design and about 1,000 other tasks to get done in a day.
You’re busy all time and each new person on your email list, client email or increase in page views is exhilarating. But, once you get to a point where you’re making money it’s not necessary for you to be doing all of those little busy tasks.
You have literally purchased the privilege of switching perspective from the microtasks to the big picture projects.
I recommend choosing a day each quarter and blocking it off just for planning. Some people will say one day every six months and you can do that too. But, I have a hard time being able to envision past three months at a time. So, I go for the three-month plan.
Regardless of how often you do your planning days – one of the key objectives for the day is to list all of your tasks and consider your budget to see if there is anything you can get off of your plate through outsourcing or automating.
Start by writing out the tasks that you really hate doing. Anything that you hate doing is going to take more energy and focus because you have to get past your mental block about the activity.
Those are perfect tasks to outsource or automate.
Take a look at your budget and how much profit you’re making. Can you pay someone to take those tasks off of your plate?
Most virtual assistants sell packages of hours – can you purchase $100 worth of hours per month and hire a virtual assistant to SEO all of your posts or design your social media post images?
If you’re doing Zoom meetings that have been scheduled on Acuity – is there a Zapier integration that can automate that so you don’t have to email the links manually?
Just be thinking about what you’re doing that is busy work versus what you could be doing to make more money or to keep the systems of your business running even when you’re not working.
Being busy is kind of like hiding under a blanket. It feels safe and blocks out the world. But, the world is where all of the opportunity is! Come out from under your blanket and things happen.
Why Is It So Important To Monitor Productivity In Your Small Business?
When you’re under that busy blanket, you can fool yourself into thinking that you’re getting so much done and making so much progress.
But, the real test of that is the dollars and cents in your bank account. If you have created a budget for your business then you have identified at which month you should be profitable.
During your monthly progress assessment, if it’s looking like you’re not going to reach your goal or, you already haven’t, the problem could be what you’re spending your time on.
That’s an important thing to be able to distinguish because otherwise, not meeting your profitability goals, can completely crush all of the motivation and dream juice right out of you.
If you’re staying in touch with what you’ve been spending your time on and what you can afford to let go of – it’s much more likely that you will reach your goal. And, that means, being able to let go of even more of those busy tasks because you can afford it!
Obviously, when you’re first starting out, focusing on automating as much as possible is key because a lot of that can be free. For instance, did you know that you can get an extension for GMail that will set a timer for when emails are populated to your inbox? Then, you can schedule when you answer emails instead of being distracted as they come in one at a time.
Automating and outsourcing busy tasks in your business are key productivity improvement techniques. The trick is knowing what you need to automate or outsource and where you can find help.
Productivity Improvement Tools That Will Change Your Business
These are just a few of the productivity improvement techniques that I have learned and use in my business.
This tools lets you automate systems by acting as the “go-between”. There are hundreds of integrations that Zapier will automate for you. For instance, if you are a coach and you use IntakeQ, Zapier will automate the process of getting all of your new clients added to your MailChimp mailing list! Or, you can use a “Zap” to automate the process of sharing your newly published blog post to Facebook. If you use project management software like Trello or Asana, you can use Zapier to integrate those programs with your GMail account so you get a new task or board for each email. The Zapier site even has a free downloadable book that gives you 300 Zaps that they have found their customers use the most.
Writing blog posts that make people take action can be a challenge. But, it all starts with a great headline! Once you’ve got the headling down – the content of the post can come together fairly easily. So, where do you get great headlines? Portent! This free tool is super-fun to use and really gets the creative part of my brain engaged. I can run down a list of blog headlines in just a few minutes. It used to take me literally HOURS to figure out what I was going to write about. I don’t always use every single headline that Portent gives me. But, I am always inspired and do come up with tweaks for each headline to make them fit.
Whether you have an iPhone or an Android, there is an app for that. The Pomodoro technique is a way to break your time out into chunks. Then, you work in 20 to 25-minute sprints. Head to your app store and search “Pomodoro”. You’ll get a whole list of apps that will help you keep track of your sprints. This is such a useful way to keep track of how much time you’re spending on a set of tasks. I try to block off a group of tasks that I will get done in each sprint. Then, it’s like a little competition with my task list.
The contact form on your website can have conversations with visitors. Consider using the ‘autoresponder’ tab in the settings of the contact form so that people get an automatic response when they send you a message through your website. If you’re a coach, you might even add your FAQs to the autoresponder. If you’re a blogger, you might add links to your most popular blog posts or send them to your Facebook group where they can ask questions. Make the autoresponder work for you! You can even sign off with “If your question still hasn’t been answered – let me know and I’ll get right back to you”. That way, you can file any first time received contact forms and only read the ones who reply back to the autoresponder.
Make sure you are being a complete jerk about guarding your time against your inbox. This can be a major time-suck. Now, I’m not saying ignore anyone who ever emails you. Far from it. I’m saying, schedule your “answer emails” time, put a boundary on how long you will spend doing it, and add filters and rules so that anything that might trigger your “shiny object syndrome” bypasses the inbox and goes right to a separate folder. Yes, this might trigger your “FOMO syndrome” but, that is a much less costly syndrome to manage.
There is nothing more frustrating to me than a 4-day email exchange going back and forth about which times are available on person As calendar to accommodate person Bs schedule. Just give person B access to the calendar so they can schedule themselves! I love Acuity. It’s simple and clean. You can add coupon codes that will either take a percentage or a specific dollar amount off for your clients (this is great for any referral plans you have in place) And, their customer service is second-to-none.
This is similar to Zapier as far as the program acts as a middleman on your behalf between two systems. But, there are a few different integrations or, as they call them, ‘recipes’. IFTTT stands for If This Than That and, you can design your recipes to fit what you want done. For instance, this IFTTT recipe will add any Gmails that you star to Evernote so that you can read and digest them later. Do a Google search for “best IFTTT recipes for YOUR BUSINESS NICHE”. You’ll find a million of them already designed for you.