Time is a finite resource, and one of the most precious to a small business owner who juggles a variety of responsibilities, usually on short notice. Add an extra-hectic month to the mix and your juggling act may turn into sweeping up the tasks you let slip.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of efficient business practices to help you save time and work more productively. Especially when payment and billing cycles may run on a monthly schedule, even losing an extra day or two in a short month like February could set you back. Having fewer days doesn’t necessarily translate to having fewer responsibilities.
Here are five time-saving tactics that will improve your business efficiency so you can streamline your workflow, whether you’re short on days or time.
1. Perfect Your Planning Skills
The saying goes, “Fail to plan, and plan to fail.” While this can apply to big picture items, like a business or marketing plan, don’t overlook the day-to-day planning. At the end of each day, create a to-do list for the next day, identifying three to five important tasks. On Fridays, take a look at the upcoming week, reviewing any meetings or project deadlines that might affect your daily tasks. And at the end of the month, create a plan for the next month, highlighting bigger goals and strategies, and scheduling them.
2. Prioritize Tasks
Business owners have to deal with urgent and important tasks, and it’s easy to let the urgent overpower the important. You’ve got to put out fires, right? Make sure you commit to blocking out time to focus on planning how to grow your business. Whether it’s for one hour, one afternoon or one day a week, turn off your phone and spend time thinking about new products and services, new markets or customer segments, and new marketing strategies. Identify big long-term goals. Michael Gerber, author of the classic business book “The E Myth: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It,” called this working on your business instead of in it.
3. Manage Expenses
Fewer days can also mean fewer customers and less income for that month, but recurring bills often stay static no matter how many days are in a month. Manage your expenses by creating efficient business practices. Automate your bill paying and payroll so you don’t have to take time away from running your company to mail checks. Hire a bookkeeping service that can handle the task for you. If waiting for customer payments causes stress, consider getting a loan in place that can get your cash flow back on track so you’re not left worrying or juggling money.
4. Eliminate Unnecessary Tasks or Processes
With fewer days in the month, you’ve got fewer hours to allocate to get things done. This is a good time to focus on business efficiency by determining what really matters and what you can let go. For example, do you really need to hold a weekly staff meeting, or is a weekly email with your team enough? Can you eliminate a trip to the post office by scheduling a postal pickup? And maybe you can reduce the time you spend creating project quotes by developing smart templates that streamline the process.
5. Beat the “Winter Blues”
Finally, shorter, colder days of winter can leave you feeling unmotivated and you may find that you’re less productive. Make a plan to beat the “winter blues” by fitting in some exercise, anything from a brisk walk outdoors to a game of basketball at the gym. Physical activity helps to reduce stress and improve your sleep, which will give you more energy during the day. Also, try to find some sunlight each day. While the days are shorter, just 10 minutes of sunshine is enough to brighten your day — literally! And make sure to get enough water. When it’s cold outside it can be tempting to drink too much coffee or tea, and caffeine is dehydrating.
When you implement efficient business practices, it will feel like you’ve added hours to your day. This will not only serve you well in shorter months like February; you’ll develop habits you can enjoy for the rest of the year, too.