Chances are you started your own company so you could be the master of your own destiny. But for entrepreneurs, building your business can quickly become all-consuming. Did you know that you can enjoy the quality of life that drove you to launch a business in the first place? It’s true, you can grow a business and work less. Here are some expert tips on how to work smarter and save time for travel, family and following your passions.
Do you have clearly defined business goals? If you answered yes, you can move on to the next section. If you’re not so sure what you’re trying to accomplish, keep reading. To use your time and resources efficiently, you need to establish goals that are SMART—that is, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Once you set your goals, make sure everyone on your team understands them and is on board.
By doing so, you have a built-in way to assess whether something is worth your while or not, such as an advertising opportunity or new signage. Does it check the boxes? Then get to work. If not, you can cross it off your list and move on to the next task. (Get help setting goals here.)
Once you have a crystal-clear idea of what you are working toward, it’s time to take a careful look at how you spend your business hours. Track everything you do for a few days, whether it’s with pen and paper or with a tool like RescueTime. Have your employees do the same.
Next, take time to carefully review the activities you logged. Because you have clear goals, you can evaluate how you spent your time and determine if your efforts were directly linked to growing your business. For instance, did hosting an all-day booth at an expo help you retain existing customers? Did your social media marketing campaign yield new leads?
After you take an objective look at the return on the time you invested, make some decisions. Start by eliminating any tasks that aren’t directly linked to reaching your goals. Then, review the activities that do contribute to your growth. Is there a way to streamline them so you can achieve the same—or better—results in less time?
Perhaps you get bogged down with bookkeeping each month and waste hours slogging through spreadsheets. Or you have good intentions of following through with your social media marketing posts, but they slip through the cracks while you’re busy doing other things. The solution to this conundrum is simple: find someone else to do it. If bookkeeping isn’t your forte, outsource it to a pro. The job will get done correctly, and you take back your time to use as you please. If social media is at the bottom of your list, perhaps you have a younger—and more media savvy—employee who would love to dig into it with your wisdom and guidance. The end result? A win-win, as you gain back time and your employee enjoys an opportunity to use his or her talents and interests to contribute to your business. Think creatively, and keep an open mind about who does what so you can take back precious time.
Though technology can steal our precious time if we let it, it also can help us work more efficiently. For instance, installing new customer relationship management software may save you hours each week that you may have spent double-entering data into various systems. Using workflow management tools, such as Trello, can help you and your team work more efficiently when you collaborate on projects. Whatever your time challenges are, there’s a good chance there’s already an app for that.
As an entrepreneur, you may be working odd hours so you can travel, be with your kids or care for an ailing relative. That doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected to your business, though. Use communications apps like WhatsApp to stay in close communication with customers or employees, whether you’re in town or halfway around the world. Hold video conferences on Skype when you’re on the road—for business and pleasure—and use a document sharing tool, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, to share reports and other important files.
Did you recapture some time? That’s something to celebrate. Recharge yourself—and your employees—for the next challenge by using some of that found time to do something you love. Then get back to work.
By following the above advice, you can be sure you’re putting your time to work for your business—while setting aside plenty of time to pursue your passions. For entrepreneurs who value their freedom, that’s the ultimate success.