Time, like money, is one of the most valuable resources for business owners, and the phrase “time is money” is a perfect example of the situation for most and more productive entrepreneurs. After all, you only have 24 hours a day, so how you manage your time is of paramount importance.
There are many tips on how to improve your productivity, most of which are aimed at a general audience. However, in this article, we present the top 10 productivity tips specifically for merchants and e-merchants. They can be put into practice immediately and provide measurable results; and will help you manage the hours of your day more efficiently, save time, and hopefully make more money and more productive.
1. Start your day early and create good habits
You have more willpower early in the morning; this is part of the reason why starting your day earlier is linked to higher productivity. According to an article in Entrepreneur magazine, willpower is a “muscle” that gets tired from overuse. When you’re faced with difficult decisions and people throughout the day, your willpower gradually becomes depleted. This explains why most people prefer to exercise in the morning rather than at night.
It is obvious that it takes time to become a morning person. Your body and mind need time to learn to follow a new long-term habit. However, it is certain that successful entrepreneurs follow habits strictly; whether it is meditating, dressing in a specific way, or eating the same meal at the same time every day. These are decisions that have already been made, and they give you the space to focus on more important tasks, such as running your business.
2. Create task lists
If you’re managing several different projects, it’s best to document your progress in writing to avoid potential oversights. Creating to-do lists can be considered the cornerstone of the entrepreneurial spirit. These lists allow entrepreneurs and time-strapped e-tailers to quickly identify and prioritize tasks.
You are probably already aware of the importance of to-do lists, and the fact that they are used by many successful entrepreneurs demonstrates their effectiveness. At the beginning of each day, write down the daunting and urgent tasks, and complete them in priority.
Some tasks that are critical to the smooth running of your business — such as paying your Internet and electricity bills — can also be considered priorities, no matter how easy they are to accomplish.
3. Avoid clutter
It’s hard to be more productive in a messy environment, so get your workspace (office, store, etc.) in order. According to Fast Company, tidying up a work environment is the fastest and easiest way to improve productivity. Clutter negatively impacts mental clarity. It will be difficult to accomplish anything if your desk is covered in paperwork.
Digital clutter” can be just as detrimental as “physical clutter”. Make sure you organize your digital files and documents efficiently on your computer so you can easily find them, and optimize the browsing experience on your online store. Your administration interface should also allow you to smoothly manage your e-commerce site.
4. Avoid interruptions
While smartphones are the most useful devices ever invented — most people probably can’t live without them — they can be a source of continual distractions. We’re not just talking about social networks and apps, but also calls, texts, and emails.
To maximize your productivity, it’s best to only use your phone and check your inbox towards the end of your workday. A survey conducted by Deloitte showed that 40% of people check their phones within 5 minutes of waking up, with 20% doing so immediately. According to an article in Psychology Today, this behavior proves unproductive as it pushes you into a reactive mindset early in the day.
During your workday, don’t be afraid to turn on your voicemail so you don’t have to answer calls. According to Business Insider, Beth Doane, founder of the organic clothing brand Raintees, rarely answers phone calls. Doane gets all unscheduled calls to her voicemail; otherwise, she says she couldn’t accomplish anything.
“I call back everyone who has tried to reach me at the end of the day, and if someone really needs to talk to me, my assistant’s phone is included in the voicemail message; she is the one who assesses the importance of the call,” she says.
When you’re working on important tasks, consider putting your phone away so it’s out of your sight and out of your mind. After all, even the faint sound of a vibrating phone can be distracting. Avoiding checking your phone in the morning and ignoring calls that aren’t important during the day are other good habits to develop; even if they may take time to build.
5. Focus selectively
If every time you complete and cross tasks off your list, you realize that you need to add new ones to keep moving forward; you may lose focus as you notice that the work never seems to stop. However, if you want to become more productive, you must learn to focus selectively on each task; no matter what the situation.
Experts argue that “multitasking” can actually be detrimental to productivity, and entrepreneurs and e-traders need to learn to work on each task individually. This could mean dedicating two full hours to inventory management, only to spend another hour scheduling staff. However, it would be impossible to accomplish both tasks simultaneously.
6. Use a time management system
Knowing how to manage your time effectively is a skill that you learn little by little; and when you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, there’s no shame in asking for help. There are many time management applications and software that can help you avoid multitasking. Some time management systems, such as the Pomodoro technique and the Eisenhower system, are also popular with entrepreneurs.
If you want to get a better understanding of how you manage your time, here are some of our favorite time tracking tools:
7. Automate tasks
If you run your business alone, you won’t have the time or ability to do everything yourself. By automating time-consuming and repetitive tasks, you will be able to plan them in advance and forget about them (there are many processes that can be automated by entrepreneurs).
Social media marketing, for example, has become essential to the promotion of any merchant’s or e-merchant’s business; but, who has the time to tweet or post on Facebook and Instagram multiple times a day? There are many tools like Buffer and Hootsuite to manage social profiles and schedule online content publishing. Even though some of them are paid, they will help you become more efficient and have more productive work weeks.
Going paperless is also a way to automate business operations. While it may seem daunting at first, some businesses can run better this way. Receipts, invoices and bank deposits can be easily managed online. By keeping vendor invoices and inventory forms in digital format, you’ll never have to dig through boxes of paperwork to find a certain document; and if you have employees, managing their time sheets and information online will allow you to access them from anywhere.
8. Outsource and delegate
Even if you automate a number of tasks, as an entrepreneur, you won’t be able to handle everything else alone. You can become more productive by delegating certain tasks; it’s that simple. It is essential to outsource and delegate when you are able to do so. Activities such as data entry and certain aspects of customer service can be outsourced at an affordable cost. If you run an online business, but don’t have the technical skills to create or redesign your website, you can save time by hiring someone to do it for you.
You can free up several hours of your day by hiring freelancers or agencies that will take care of these tasks. Not sure where to start? Check out our blog posts for more information on this topic.
9. Organize yourself in advance
You probably set monthly, yearly or even long-term goals for your business, but do you plan your time productively? Most people plan their week on Monday morning; while the most and more productive entrepreneurs do it on Friday.
According to an article published by Fast Company, you should spend the last 25 minutes of your Friday planning your week ahead. For example, you could set a goal for Monday, so you can start the week with a clear mind about the tasks that need to be accomplished; you could even schedule an activity for Monday that you really enjoy so you’re especially motivated to start your week.
Another technique to improve productivity is to work in a different environment once a week; you can plan this ahead of time as well. Tracy DiNunzio, founder and CEO of Tradesy, a wholesale clothing e-commerce site, told Business Insider that she works from home once a week.
“I try to work from home at least one day a week, and I set aside set time slots during the day in which I punctually go to the office to take care of the priority tasks on my list without interruption,” she says.
10. Take breaks
Learning to “slow down” is the key to becoming more productive, as counterintuitive as that may sound. To hone your skills and enjoy your work, it is vital to take regular breaks. This doesn’t just refer to vacation days (and days when you’re sick and decide not to work); it also refers to small breaks throughout the day. An article published by Fast Company suggests that you think of the day as a series of short sprints, not a marathon.
According to the article, “It’s better to work with high levels of concentration for short periods of time, separated by breaks, than to work for longer periods of time with only partial concentration. “You can give it your all for short periods of time, as long as you have a clearly defined stopping point. After you rest, you can sprint again.”
Effective time management also means never scheduling meetings unannounced. Meetings often waste a lot of time, and sometimes you leave feeling like nothing was really accomplished. Always schedule your meetings in advance, and make sure to draw conclusions that will help you move forward more quickly.
Finally, it is also vital to take time for yourself; to see friends and family, or perhaps spend uninterrupted time with your children and spouse. Entrepreneurs often feel that it is essential to spend all day working. After all, if you don’t give it your all to get more done, who will? However, this is the wrong approach. Spending time away from work will allow you to rest your mind and continue to be motivated and more productive over time.