What if I told you that finding ways to get more done is not only possible but can also help your business thrive?
It might seem like the answer is obvious – “just work harder!” But sometimes, less really does mean more when we’re talking about achieving goals and dreams.
The key isn’t necessarily in putting forth massive effort; instead, approach it by deciding on your biggest priority tasks. That way, you’ll have free time left over at night or on weekends for things such as family obligations (or even fun!).
As an online business owner, time is one of your most valuable assets. To be successful, you need to avoid the time traps that destroy your productivity.
In this post, we’ll talk about some time traps that don’t directly put dollars in your pocket yet involve essential tasks. Plus, I’ll share proven strategies so that you can get your time under control. Then you can concentrate on the important work.
Stay out of the black hole of administrative work
The joy of running your own business is that you can work when and where it suits you. But there are still responsibilities to consider, like bookkeeping, managing emails, project management, etc. These often seem like urgent tasks, but in most cases, they aren’t.
And guess what? None of that adds to the bottom line.
The best strategy is to delegate these non-income-producing tasks to someone else. But you may also make them more simple and quick to complete if delegation isn’t an option. Especially if they are business tasks that you don’t like.
Step 1: Log your time
You probably spend more time than you realize on administrative tasks. So the first step to being more productive is to take a closer look at how you’re spending your time. First, list all the administrative tasks you do every day. Then, seek out ways to streamline or automate those tasks. You may be surprised at how much time you can free up, especially if you’re new to time management!
Use an app like Toggl to track your time or use a piece of paper to jot down time entries. You’ll get clues about what you can cut or outsource as you see where you spend your time.
Be specific and complete. Log everything, from the most menial task to the highest priority work. For example, if you participate in Facebook groups from 9:15 to 9:45, put that in your log. If you have a coaching call from 11:30-1:00, write it down. You’ll get a true picture of your day when you log every activity.
Bonus video tutorial: How to Use Toggl to Track Your Time for Free
Step 2: Create templates
I guarantee that, as you start tracking your time, you’ll notice there are certain tasks you repeat regularly.
Creating templates that can be re-used will save you a lot of time. Getting started on a task is often the most challenging part, and templates will get you past that hurdle.
Consider creating templates for:
- Emails you write over and over, such as:
- Follow-ups with potential clients
- Onboarding new clients
- Managing billing issues
- Follow-ups with former clients to reconnect
- Frequently asked customer questions
- Blog posts
- Graphics for your blog and each social media platform
- Facebook ad creation
Step 3: Create systems
Your time log will also point out areas you can systematize. You’ll be surprised by how much time (and mental energy!) you can save once you have systems.
To create a system, start by documenting every step as you work through a task. Then look at the steps. Is there a better way to do this task? Should the actions be in a different order?
Don’t get bogged down with technical issues
Unless your business provides technical support, dealing with technical issues is probably not your favorite thing. Plus, it can be (and usually is) a huge time suck!
You know what I’m talking about. Things like setting up new landing pages, setting up products in your shopping cart, resolving WordPress plug-in conflicts, etc. All those techy things that have to be done but bog you down and waste your time.
Step 1: Make a list
Doesn’t every time-saving strategy start with a list? 😊
Think about all the things you do every week that involve using technology. Maybe it’s creating a new email automation, fixing broken links on your website, editing your latest podcast episode, etc.
Keep a notebook handy, or an electronic note open on your desktop as you go about your day. Whenever a tech task interrupts your income-producing work, write down the task and how much time you spent on it. If you do this for a week, you’ll have a good idea of the amount of time you waste on the techy stuff.
Step 2: Outsource
At this point, you should have a list of tech tasks that eat up your time and don’t contribute to your bottom line. Now, it’s time to take action!
Figure out which of these tasks you can eliminate entirely, and put a plan in place to outsource the others.
You’ll be amazed at how much time and energy you’ll save by ditching the common time wasters and focusing on what really matters.
Before skipping this section, think about how much time you could save by outsourcing your work. Just an hour or two of your time each week can make a world of difference.
And consider this:
- Often these are difficult tasks for you, but someone else will find them easy!
- A skilled VA will often accomplish a task faster than you, so the cost won’t be as much as you imagine.
- You can spend the new-found time creating products to sell or working with clients.
And remember, you don’t have to break the bank to outsource your work. There are plenty of affordable options available. So take a moment to learn more about what outsourcing can do for you.
If you can’t justify outsourcing at this time, then go back to the section about systematizing. Make a checklist of everything you have to do to complete a technical task. Then, streamline it as much as possible. If you can’t move the tech stuff off your plate, you can at least minimize the amount of time you spend on it.
Do you spend more time learning than doing?
If you want to be successful in business, you have to continuously work on improving your skills. You can’t afford to let them slide. That’s a given.
But if you’re always learning and never implementing, you’ll never make progress. (And honestly, taking courses can be a form of procrastination.) So make sure to carve out time for both! Otherwise, you’ll just be spinning your wheels.
Step 1: Schedule your learning time
Look at your calendar and the time log you completed earlier:
- How much time do you have on your hands, really? It’s likely to be less than you believe.
- What days and hours do you find yourself less productive? This is a good opportunity to watch a video, complete an e-course, or read a chapter in a business book.
- When do you have additional activities planned that will allow you to multitask without worrying about missing out on anything? For example, waiting to pick up the kids at school or going for a walk make perfect times to listen to a business audiobook or podcast.
Once you’ve identified the chunks of time available in your schedule, block out the time you will spend on continuing education.
Step 2: Get organized
How many e-courses have you bought? How many free e-courses and podcasts have you subscribed to? How many business books do you own that you haven’t read yet?
At the beginning of the year, I created a simple spreadsheet that includes every piece of educational content I have access to. For the e-courses, I broke them down by module and lesson. Then, I added a column for the topic and another for whether or not it’s been completed.
Now, when I need to know how to do something, I can simply go to my master list and search for any resources I already have available.
Step 3: Create a learning plan
Once you have all your education resources organized, it’s time to create a learning plan.
- What do I need to learn right now?
- What will help me increase revenue, become more visible, or grow my business another way?
Then look at your master list of resources and map out a high-level plan. Don’t feel like you have to complete a whole course in order or read a book from front to back. Instead, pick out the pieces you need right now.
Once you have your high-level plan mapped out, add the detail to your 90-day plan.
Don’t overthink your products & programs
Of course, you want to offer exceptional value. And you work hard to create products and services that people love, right?
The problem comes when you get stuck overthinking, and you end up not creating anything at all. This is super-common.
So how do you avoid it?
Step 1: Identify what your target market wants and needs
Great places to learn about your market include:
- Facebook groups
- Blog comments (your own blog or other blogs in your niche)
- Emails from your audience
- Social media conversations
Another option is to conduct a survey of your audience. This can give you valuable insights into what they want and need. Plus, it shows that you care about their opinions. So go ahead and ask them what they think!
It’s super-easy (and free) to create a simple survey using Google Forms, Typeform, or SurveyMonkey.
You’ll want to include multiple-choice questions and a few essay-style questions in your survey. With multiple-choice questions, you will get a high-level summary that will quickly help you identify the main pain points. Essay questions let you see the language – the actual words – your target customers use. Those phrases are gold when you get ready to write your sales page!
If you’re stuck on this step, ask yourself if you can describe your niche in 10 words or less. If not, you may need to work on refining your target market.
Step 2: Build out your idea
Are you ready for the fun part? Now that you’ve learned what your market needs and wants, decide on the specifics of your program. What format will it be? How long?
For lower-priced products, keep this in mind:
Focus on one problem and one solution.
This will help you keep your product manageable so that you don’t get stuck in the productivity trap of creating but not shipping.
Higher-priced products will likely be more extensive and include more bells and whistles. Such as:
- A longer course that includes video and/or audio and covers the topic at a deeper level.
- A coaching package that includes several weeks or months and offers more access to you.
- Or a large freelance project that is more comprehensive.
One last thought about time traps
We all have our own pitfalls when it comes to time management.
I’ve covered four common time traps for online business owners here, but know this: a solution can be found whatever time sink affects you. First, think about where you are feeling stuck. Then, create a plan to deal with them. The best way to avoid time traps is to be proactive and plan ahead.
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