Entrepreneurship is messy. There is no clear roadmap and no set 9-5 time clock. When life is already hectic enough, adding a side-hustle or new small business into your plans can be overwhelming. That's why you need to know how to simplify your workday to maximize productivity.
Not everyone can make drastic steps toward simplicity, but if you have some control over at least your workday, you can do a few small things that will simplify things greatly.
Start by eliminating most of the routine, boring, administrative tasks with a few simple principles. That way, you can focus on the tasks you enjoy in your business, like creating your products and building relationships with customers.
One of the best moments in life is when you allow yourself to simplify. Declutter mentally, physically and emotionally.
If you don’t have control, or if you find yourself thinking, “I can’t do these things”, I’d start to ask why not?
Is it possible to change things, if not today then over the long term? Often we believe something isn't possible (working from home, for example), but in the long run, could be.
You don’t need to do all of these things — start by picking just one and trying it today. Then try another and see if it works. Experiment to find what works for you.
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1. Start Your Workday Early
Start your workday before the phone starts ringing and the emails start flooding your inbox. By getting to the office (even your home office) before “standard” work hours, you block off peaceful time to prepare and focus for the day ahead.
It's kind of like working out in the morning.
It can be difficult for night owls like myself to adjust, but it feels so fulfilling when you have two or three big tasks checked off your list before most people start their day.
2. Limit Your Work Hours
It's an impulse to believe that working longer hours equates to higher productivity. But studies have shown that more time on the clock does not create higher value for your company.
By cutting back and limiting yourself to 6-8 hour days maximum, you will naturally become better at prioritizing what matters.
The essential projects will move to the top of your list as you force yourself to be more efficient with your time. Which brings us to the third productivity tip…
3. Make a Short & Simplified Workday Task List
Are you a list-builder? I love making lists and feeling that thrill and accomplishment of crossing something off.
Challenge yourself to take your normal list and cut it to no more than THREE items that absolutely have to get done that day.
I call these your “Most Important Tasks” or M.I.T.s.
Choose the projects or tasks that if nothing else were completed that day, you'd still be proud and feel success from your day.
Prioritize these MITs so highly that you finish them before any other tasks, including drowning in your email inbox.
4. Batch Distractions
As an entrepreneur in a tech-forward world, it feels essential to be highly active on every social media site in order to be responsive to your audience.
However, in the same way surfing the web and watching tv can be distractions, process that FEEL productive can equally become distractions.
Things like email, reading blogs, and responding to all your DMs quickly eat up more time than we realize.
Schedule a time to knock out these process all at once – preferably later in the day: say, from 3-4 p.m.
By grouping them all into one time period, you can stay focused on your MITs in the morning, but still set structured time for your “distraction tasks.”
Another approach is to block off only 10 minutes at the end of each hour for distraction tasks, but it can be harder to stay diligent and not let that time stretch.
5. Write Shorter, Simpler Emails
It may sound crazy, but have you ever noticed how long it takes to send a simple email?
Rather than over analyze your words and rewrite to perfection, aim to cut your emails down to 3-4 sentences per email.
First, it will drastically shorten the time it takes to write or respond to emails.
Second, (and admittedly my favorite aspect) is that it will shorten the replies to your emails. That means you enjoy the bonus benefit – spending less time reading email in the first place.
6. Limit Work Meetings
Meetings are a staple of the corporate world. They are a necessity for teams and communication as well. But that does not mean they have to be the standard 30 – 60 minutes we have become accustomed to, and we certainly do not need several a day.
Some top corporate executives hold only 5-minute meetings. Gary Vaynerchuk and Richard Branson are huge proponents of this concept. A recent Forbes article, on the topic pointed out that “Richard Branson spoke openly on his blog about his aversion to the traditionally timed meeting, saying that “It’s very rare that a meeting on a single topic should need to last more than 5-10 minutes.”
It's very rare that a meeting on a single topic should need to last more than 5-10 minutes.-Richard Branson
Often, you don't even take a seat. Anyone who attends these meetings better be prepared and concise.
If you can skip out of meetings and collect notes or communicate a different way, it could save you hours per week.
7. Automate Routine Tasks
The fewer repetitive and routine tasks you have to accomplish, the more time you’ll free up for creating and developing your valuable projects and services.
As a solopreneur, the earlier you can automate the better. Automate wherever possible. Some common tasks to automate include:
- Having customers fill out forms or make orders electronically
- Screening prospective clients through a web form prior to scheduling calls
- Using a service that automatically processes payments or ships your product
- Automating your email list welcome series
- Scheduling social media posts & looping them throughout the year
8. Eliminate Paperwork
In the corporate world, there is not a lot you can do about the amount of paperwork that constantly has to be processed. As an entrepreneur, one benefit is that YOU create the standards of procedure (“SOPs”).
Paperwork may be a necessary evil in some industries, but when it's not absolutely required, eliminate it. We are blessed with so much technology today that most processes should be able to be handled electronically.
9. Simplify Your Workday Environment
Take a few brief minutes to clear absolutely everything off the top of your desk. Put back nothing else but a few most essential items.
Everything else should be filed, given to the appropriate person, given a permanent spot in a drawer, or trashed/recycled.
Make quick decisions and then get back to work.
10. Get Away
Get out of your normal office and find a go-to getaway work spot. Create a peaceful escape where you can focus on high-priority work without distraction.
When traveling more frequently, I loved working on an airplane as my getaway focus. It's quiet and relaxed, with no internet service for distractions. Then, I'd be able to save and send once we touched back down on the tarmac.
11. Take Breathing Breaks
Every 15-20 minutes, get up from your desk, and take a brief break.
You could turn the “breathe” app on your smartwatch, or simply take a brief walk around your home or office. Even better, get outside for some fresh air.
Walk around, get your blood circulating, and stretch your joints.
When you get back to work, remind yourself what you want to be working on, and clear away all distractions.
12. Practice a Focus Ritual
Take a couple minutes every few hours to perform a refocus ritual.
One of my favorites is to fully shut down every application and open tab in my browser.
It may sound simple and marginally effective, but often my multi-tasking brain goes into overload with too many “open tabs” and the manual processes of shutting them down on a computer truly does help.
Return to your list of Most Important Tasks and figure out what you need to accomplish next before beginning any distraction tasks.
Repeat this refocus ritual throughout the day whenever necessary. It's like meditation for the entrepreneur!
Mom Has The Last Word to Simplify Your Workday
Simplifying your workday is always easier said than done, but with these productivity tips, you will have a few more tools in your tool belt.
The “Most Important Task” concept has been a game-changer for me for the last several years. Now, as a mama, I use it even more because often there ARE days that I can only get ONE thing accomplished!
What I'm not good at yet is the practice of taking breathing breaks. Some of these productivity tips come naturally, and others we need to be more intentional about.
Do you have a favorite productivity tip to simplify your workday? Is it on our list? Share with us in the comments below!