You know the saying, can’t see the forest for the trees? Well, entrepreneurship can turn you into a treehugger very quickly. The trouble is, the forest (a.k.a. the big picture) can often fade to the background.
This is a mistake. By allowing less-important activities -- like checking emails and responding to customer queries -- to crowd out your larger organizational and business goals, your startup can lose its way. And not only will you feel like you’re constantly chasing your goals, you’ll also be running woefully behind.
Here are six simple approaches that can make a real difference in how much you get done every day:
1. Plan, then attack. When you have so much to do, planning may feel like a waste of time. How can you sit at your desk quietly with an empty piece of paper in front of you when you’re behind on everything? In reality, taking ten to fifteen minutes to plan every morning will save you much more time than you waste. If it’s easier, make a plan for the next day before you stop working the day before. Either way, that list of things to accomplish should be thought out, prioritized and in front of your face each day.
2. Bundle responsibilities. If you can accomplish two things at once, do it. For example, plan the order for any errands to determine the shortest route. Save up all of your financial requirements and go to the bank once a week rather than two or three times. Keep an ongoing list of office supplies and stop at the store when you’re nearby.
3. Use delivery services. FedEx will pick up and deliver. Many office-supply stores offer free delivery with a minimum purchase. Computer troubleshooting firms come to your office for a slightly higher fee. Let other people drive around for you. You have better uses for that time and gas money.
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4. Ask for help. When you have a big project that involves hours of mindless labor, bribe some friends or family with free pizza and soda (or beer) to help you. From collating and assembling media packages to getting orders packed and out the door, this approach can finish a project in one evening that would have taken you a week.
5. Write it down. It’s so easy to jot down messages and reminders on little pieces of paper and post-its, and then you have lots and lots of little pieces of paper and post-its all over the place. Instead, invest in a steno pad with a wire binding at the top. Keep this on your desk and by your phone. Throw it in your car when running errands for the business. Write the date at the top of a new page every morning and put your to-do list on that page. Write every name, phone number and idea in this notebook.
Two months from now, if you want to contact that supplier with great prices on paper bags, it’s in the book. The customer that wanted your product in yellow? Guess what? It’s also in the book. You have a history of your business in those steno books. Plus, they’re really valuable at tax time when you want to remember all of your errands and meetings for mileage deductions.
6. Give yourself a break. If you’re working full steam every day including weekends eventually you experience the law of diminishing returns. Even if you’re doing work you love, the brain has its limits. Take at least one day a week totally off. Take mini-breaks every few hours such as grabbing a cup of coffee and looking out the window or going for a short walk around the block to clear your head. You’ll come back energized and ready for more.
You need all the time you can find to accomplish your goals. These ideas are a good start. Ask friends and family for other suggestions. Read time management books and articles on organizing. One good idea may save you several hours a week.
What time-saving measure have you used at your startup? Let us know in the comments section below.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.