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How to Save Time by Streamlining Operations Invest some now in order to save some in the future.

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Time has taken on new meaning in 2020. For some people, the days and weeks have blended together into an indecipherable blur. For entrepreneurs, however, time is still an incredibly limited resource. Already tasked with juggling various elements of their business simultaneously, many small-business owners are now also tasked with teaching, childcare, and caring for loved ones. Any tool or strategy that saves time is especially critical, allowing you to do more with less and make proactive decisions.

Tearing yourself away from urgent tasks for an ambiguous future payoff can be daunting, particularly given the current circumstances. But it's necessary: "You are going to have to spend time in the present to save time in the future," says Bernardo Martinez, Vice President of Global Merchant Lending at PayPal. The companies that survive these rocky times are the ones that can adapt, work smarter, and carve out the time to plan for an evolving and often uncertain future.

Below, Martinez shares strategies for creating the space you need to build a thriving business.

Perform a time audit.

It's hard to overstate how much small-business owners do; there is virtually always something that requires immediate attention, which can make prying yourself away from the day-to-day grind a herculean feat. Growth, however, depends on keeping an eye on the horizon in addition to the ground directly in front of you.

Maintaining this balance requires time. To get more of it, Martinez recommends performing an audit of your company's existing operations. Ask yourself: Where are the pain points, and how can they be mitigated? Are there processes that can be done more efficiently? Identifying even minor improvements on common tasks can have a significant overall effect on productivity.

"The [business owners] who are successful are the ones who take a step back," Martinez says. Instead of rushing to simply fix problems as they arise — such as scrambling to meet a tax deadline — try and address the root cause of regular hiccups. (Perhaps by hiring an accountant or switching to an automated system.)

Over time, this will create the space to focus on less immediate, more strategic goals. When you are consumed with urgent activities, "you don't have time to think through how things are progressing. And when you don't have time for that you might not have the right diagnostics to solve [underlying] problems in your business," he says.

Incorporate online tools.

Technology is advancing rapidly, offering an array of capabilities that make day-to-day tasks easier and more efficient. Harness these advancements whenever possible, Martinez says.

These tools will vary based on the specific needs of your business, but in general, digitizing day-to-day operations is a good place to start. Moving transactions online not only saves time, it allows you to collect myriad data, including valuable insights into consumer behavior and preferences. Restaurants with online ordering capabilities, for example, can determine not only their most popular dishes, but the types of customers most likely to order them, which opens up new marketing opportunities.

Start by looking into whether your existing partners offer any additional, potentially timesaving, online services. If you already use PayPal's commerce platform, for example, and are in need of capital for your business, consider accessing financing through PayPal. Unlike applying for a traditional loan, which requires in-person visits and can take weeks, the application for PayPal Working Capital is a simple and done entirely online. "The application, decision and funding can take just minutes," Martinez says, allowing you to take a beat and plan for the future.

Prepare in the present for the future.

In the short-term, updating operations — for example, moving from paper to the cloud — can seem like a headache. Not only does it take time, but it requires buy-in from employees who are used to doing things a certain way. But the investment at the outset is almost always worth the reward every day after.

Take payments, for example. Many entrepreneurs, including Martinez's sister, a property manager, continue to rely on physical invoices despite the availability of online invoicing systems. As a result, hours of unnecessary labor go into sending, collecting and reconciling individual invoices, a process that could easily be digitized. Once you make the switch, "it will probably take you a few hours to send 100 invoices rather than a day or two," Martinez says. What's more, "instead of waiting seven days to get paid, you can get your money right away."

People think it's easy to push off making the switch because the transition requires an upfront investment of time. That's a mistake: "You have to invest time in your planning process to save time in your execution process," Martinez says.

*The lender for PayPal Working Capital in the United States is WebBank, member FDIC.

Visit PayPal for more ways to streamline your business operations.