For an agency owner, in fact, for any business owner, there are never enough hours in the day. When I first started out, I easily worked 80 hours per week, until I burnt out, ended up extremely exhausted and wasn’t really any fun to be around when I wasn’t working, as I was too exhausted. I knew something needed to change. One of the biggest revelations for me was that being busy and being productive are two very different things!
Certainly we could all work 24 hours a day and still not complete everything that we’d like to or need to accomplish. Therefore we need to utilise the time that we do have available, and the resources around us, as best as we can. Particularly in an agency or start-up setting due to its ever so dynamic environment, it can be sometimes too easy to lose focus. Over the years I’ve learnt a few tricks that have helped me to find more focus and also to enjoy a life outside from work.
Avoid social media sites and e-mails first thing in the morning
Don’t spend your first hour in the office on social media and checking your email.
“What? Are you mad?” you’re probably thinking. I have to admit, about a year ago I would have completely agreed with you. It is just such a morning routine for everyone. You arrive at the office, make a cup of coffee, have a quick chat with your staff and then check all your email accounts and social media. Once you’ve sorted all the junk, yes, most of it will have been junk, you most likely will have not received any correspondence that couldn’t have waited until later in the day. When you check the clock and you suddenly realise that you’ve already been in the office for more than an hour and still haven’t completed anything of real value yet. Now you proceed to plan your day- or what it’s left of it and before you know it, it’s 11am.
Tip: Only scan can your work email very briefly to look whether there is anything that requires your immediate attention. Don’t spend any great length of time to process any of the emails. Instead get on with your first task of the day. I am planning a post on how to get your inbox to 0 over the next few weeks.
Plan you day
I know that sounds pretty basic, right? I used to do the daily planning either before, during or after my morning social media and email marathon. But you end up using up the time when you’re fresh and alert for something that you don’t really require to be in top form for.
I used to have a never ending to do list (and I still keep a master list) but now I only use a small piece of paper that has 6, maximum 8 items on it.
Tip: Prepare your short to do list of 6-8 items at the end of the day and leave it at your desk, waiting for you in the morning, so you can dive straight into the first task, without wasting any of your active brain time.
Start with the biggest (and ugliest) task first
It’s natural that you choose a task that you like doing over one that you don’t really look forward to. This could be the best way for you to keep pushing back and delaying a task that might make a huge difference to your business. I used to always begin with easier projects that I enjoyed doing, just in order to justify moving a more important task back.
As Brian Tracy, author of the book Eat that Frog explains, “Take action! Resolve today to select the most important task or project that you could complete and then launch into it immediately”.
Tip: Choose the biggest task or one that you least likely want to be doing and discipline yourself to complete it. Surprisingly those tasks never take as long as one anticipates and the completion will provide you with a great natural boost, as you’ve truly accomplished something of value.
Don’t make yourself available all the time
I am most productive during the morning, therefore when I’m in Edinburgh, I work from home in the morning or when I’m in the Gibraltar office I don’t come online until after 10am. If there is anything important happening, my staff know that they can call me. Other than that I get to use the time when I’m being the most productive, for the high importance tasks. Obviously this isn’t always possible, due to client or other project commitments, but it’s been working pretty well for us.
Tip: Evaluate when you feel freshest and active and block this time out in your calendar. Ask everyone who works with you that you are not being disturbed – that also includes client phone calls! Remember, no-one can be or needs to be available all the time.
Most of my suggestions are very simple and you are probably already carrying out some of them. Sometimes it’s just worthwhile reviewing your work habits and see what you could tweak to improve your overall performance at work, so you can enjoy more time outside the office.
Always remember running a business is fun, as long as the business isn’t running you! I hope my recommendations have given you some food for thought how to increase your productivity as an agency/business owner.
What works for you? Why don’t you share your experience with me?