Starting a business is a time-consuming process.
It requires a lot of focus and attention from you and you’ll be doing this whilst trying to juggle a social life and potentially another job.
I know that was a rather negative opening gambit but it’s good to go in with your eyes open!
I’m going to offer some handy tips and tricks to help you better manage your time. By getting some good time-management and productivity practices sorted in advance, you’ll start your business as you mean to go on – with purpose, drive and clarity.
How to be more productive at work
Your workspace is where you need to knuckle down and focus on your project. Distractions, physical and virtual, stop you from achieving as much and will eat away at your precious time. This forms just a small portion of the challenges you’ll face working from home.
Sounds scary, but really the only scary thing here is how much you’ll find you get done once you integrate these 4 tips.
- Find the do not disturb features on your phone and other devices (or better yet, hide them away whilst you’re working). This one’s pretty self-explanatory, don’t let every notification ping distract you. I can vouch personally for this one as I have a pretty unhealthy social media addiction, every notification distracts me from my work and sometimes can take me a while to get back into my work.
- Buy yourself a new notepad and pens – this may seem like a simple thing to do, and it is. But what it does help you do is create a new blank slate for you to work with. Subconsciously this will help separate your work from your personal life.
- Clear your physical workspace. I always resisted the tidy desk/tidy mind mantra – but I’ve come to believe it’s true. Make your workspace the best possible space for you to get tasks done in.
- Clear your virtual workspace. Create a new profile on your PC. This will be free from the usual applications you would use if you use your PC recreationally. Your browser favourites and other sources of entertainment will be clear and help you stay distraction-free.
So why bother doing all these things? Seems like valuable time you could spend working on your fantastic business idea, right?
Well, this is about applying focus and removing distractions. Distractions that your mind probably loves but are not conducive to the intensive business activities that we are about to engage in.
These tips also form a very effective ritual to tell your mind in no uncertain terms you are about to do something really important. And that your mind should probably pay attention.
After all, once you are in “the zone”, a distraction can completely ruin your productivity and kill your workflow. This can happen all day and you’ll find that even though you have spent 8 hours at your desk, only a few of those might have actually been productive.
Next up, we’ll talk about time management and provide you with some tips for managing the precious time you have available.
Time Management Tools and Techniques
Time management is a skill – and one particularly important for you as a future business owner.
Starting to build good time management habits now will pay off in the long run, and certainly by the time you launch your business.
So, set your own personal goals for what you want to get out of the time you have available and set up your schedule to make room for this specific goal.
The blog posts over the coming weeks will guide you through the components you need to build a business plan, including a financial plan. How far you want to take starting the business alongside this goal is up to you!
With that being said, here are some tips to help you be more productive:
- Carve out a portion of time in the week to focus on your business. Personally my most focused time tends to be early afternoon on a Sunday. I already feel that the weekend is coming to a close and get a rush of productivity. Work out the best time for you to focus and set the date in your diary each week.
- If you don’t have one, get a calendar, which could be a free online calendar like Google Calendar. If you have unavoidable commitments, remember to take them into account and to block in extra time for your work.
- Use a Tomato Timer – A technique I have found particularly helpful when trying to manage my work time. The idea here is you focus fully for 25 minutes then take a 5 minute breather and chill out. You can get this as an extension for Chrome or it can be used in a web page.
- Employ the 80/20 rule – The basic philosophy behind this rule is that 80% of your results comes from 20% of your activities. Use this rule as a way of prioritising which tasks are most important and will net you the biggest results. If you are struggling to prioritise, think about what the consequences are of not completing the task, does it need to be done at all?
- Start the day with your worst task – This one may seem a bit odd, but the psychology behind it does make sense. You can continue through your day knowing that the worst task is already out of the way.
This list is by no means comprehensive, there are more tips and tricks out there for you to try. However, these are the ones that may help you the most as a budding entrepreneur. Employing these will make your better at managing your time, which you’ll find is a precious commodity when starting a business.
Organising your project – what else do you need?
You should also think about the materials and methods you’ll use to organise your project. This is mostly about note-taking, managing documents and collecting information, you’ll be doing a lot of research and you’ll need ways to store it and make sense of it all.
Note-taking, managing documents and collecting information
Choose a method of note-taking that suits you. Whether it’s physical notes around your desk, a notebook you cannot be parted with, or one of many available online document/media management tools.
Personally, I prefer a combination of online tools for different purposes. The benefit of online tools is that they can be easily shared between different people working on the business and can be kept constantly up to date. In addition, all of these are free to use.
Here are a few examples of some free tools that are available online:
- Pinterest – create mood boards, branding ideas and visual marketing ideas
- Trello – assign tasks and manage different workflows – including checklists
- Evernote – for note-taking, reminders and deadlines
- GoogleDocs – simple, widely used document creator, including text (Docs) and spreadsheets (Sheets)
- Office 365 – All in one Microsoft package, most common at home and in workplaces. Offers Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneDrive, OneNote and more. Synchronised in the cloud and accessible from most devices
- GoogleKeep – fast note taking and list creation app, including the option to dictate.
- SimpleNote – simple reminders, lists and note-taking
- Dropbox – allows you to store files online and access them from any device.
Organising all your work may seem like it takes ages but this will help you save time further down the line and you’ll be much more efficient when it comes to working.
Let’s talk about finance…
Whilst this topic doesn’t necessarily have any large financial elements attached to it. If you’re thinking about starting a business or are in the process of doing so, it’s a good idea to start organising your finances.
As a little exercise, you could start tracking any expenses for your business in a spreadsheet or in Brixx. These expenses could be the notepad and pen you may have bought, or if you have subscribed to a piece of software, like Office 365 for example.
Recording these purchases will help you get into the habit of recording expenses, looking at cash flow and using a spreadsheet for business finances in general. It’s also good practice for keeping your personal and business’ finances separate.
For a more detailed guide on how to forecast your cash flow for your business, check out this article.
We’ve covered quite a lot here, from choosing your workspace, all the way through to organising your project. I don’t really expect you to follow all these tips to the letter. You’re far more likely to find a combination of a few of these that really work for you.
Let’s quickly recap what we’ve mentioned here:
- Creating a distraction-free work zone
- Find do not disturb on your devices
- Buy new notepads & pens
- Clear your physical workplace (desk)
- Clear your virtual workspace by creating a new profile on your PC
- Time management & productivity
- Carve out a portion of time in the week to work on your business
- Get a calendar
- Account for unavoidable commitments
- Use a tomato timer
- Employ the 80/20 rule
- Start the day with your worst task
- Use free online tools to help keep your project organised. For example Google Drive, Trello & Evernote.
Hopefully, these tips will help you become a more productive and time-managed entrepreneur as a result.