The curse of today’s typical small-business owners is that there’s never enough time to do everything that needs doing. Tapping opportunities in social media marketing, for example, takes a chunk of time not required in the past. Or maybe you need to beef up your online presence, or get a mobile website. The list of time drains is endless. And just when you’re on a roll, some kind of interruption throws you off course.
But Jason Womack, a workplace-performance expert, has some unusual advice: You can accomplish a lot more every day simply by learning to recognize when you’re done with what you’re doing, and moving on to the next thing.
Business owners sometimes put off the most important things on their to-do lists until there’s time to work on them. But that time never seems to come. “When you learn to recognize when you’re done with projects, big and small, you’ll immediately find that you have a lot more time than you thought you did. That’s time you can use to focus on the things that truly matter,” said Womack.
Here are four things you can do to work smarter, recognize when tasks are done and build your business:
• Don’t major in minors. Our natural tendency is to spend a lot of time on the projects and tasks that are easy for us. Then we tell ourselves there’s no time to tackle the harder stuff. So when it comes to knowing when you’re done and freeing up time during your day, completing the easy tasks quickly and efficiently is critical.
• Avoid overwriting emails. Much of your time – probably too much – each day gets eaten by email. Make a conscious effort to keep your emails short and sweet. Get to the point quickly and use action verbs in subject lines so that both you and the recipient know what needs to happen before the email is even opened.
• Stop over-staying at meetings and on conference calls. Often meetings and conference calls will take as long as you’ve allotted for them. Set an hour for a meeting and you’re sure to go the full hour. “Pay close attention to how much of your meeting is actually spent focused on the important stuff,” says Womack. “If you spend 15 to 20 minutes at the beginning or end of the meeting discussing someone’s golf game, then next time reduce the amount of time allotted for the meeting.
• Know when to ask for help. Have you ever been stumped by a project or task? Did you walk away from it for a while and then come back hoping you’d suddenly know what to do? Sometimes knowing when you’re done is knowing when you, personally, can’t advance the situation further. But that’s OK. Asking for help is better than wasting time on something you can’t figure out yourself. •