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Productivity hacks for start-up owners

Start-up owners may need to sacrifice a lot of their spare time to ensure that their business succeeds, so it can pay to manage time effectively to help avoid burnout opens in new window and help give your business idea the best chance of getting off the ground.

You may have a brilliant business idea and a sound financial footing, but without effective time management, your productivity could fall, and you may miss valuable business opportunities.

Research by Asana found that businesses lose 3.6 hours every week opens in new window on “unnecessary meetings”, while 62% of the day is spent on “repetitive, mundane tasks”.

With this amount of time being spent elsewhere, getting to the important stuff can often be a challenge.

But with our top tips, your start-up could boost its productivity and learn how to work smarter, not harder.

Here are ten things you can do to be more productive when starting a business.


1. Write a to-do list

It sounds basic, but writing out a to-do list at the start of the day can help you stay focused and meet your long–and short–term goals opens in new window.

To-do lists are a great starting point to understand the scale of work ahead of you.

You can use it to manage your time and resources.

It also helps you prioritise jobs and tackle the most impactful tasks first.


2. Cut down your email hours

Emails are an essential part of any modern business, but it’s easy to be sucked into an endless loop of correspondence as you drop whatever you’re doing to answer anything that drops into your inbox.

This approach can mean that tasks take longer than they should because you’re constantly distracted by email.

You might tackle this by scheduling specific times during the day to check your emails, such as dedicating one or two time slots per day or only checking your emails after certain tasks are completed.

This strategy may make focusing on the more time-sensitive tasks more manageable.


3. Limit meetings to one day a week

In the same way that you might set aside specific times to check your emails, you could find that a dedicated day for meetings reduces distractions and boosts productivity.

Poorly managed meetings can be unproductive, while colleagues or clients may schedule appointments that could be addressed in other ways, such as by email.

Limiting your available hours could encourage stakeholders to be more respectful of your time.

If they can’t book a meeting immediately, they might decide to message you instead – and it’s usually less time-consuming to respond to an email than to have a discussion.

If one day per week for meetings is too limiting, consider ringfencing your diary by blocking out meeting-free times, such as only allowing meetings in the afternoon and freeing up mornings for meeting-free activities.


4. Set small and large goals

Well-defined goals could help you structure your workflow and measure productivity.

Setting several goals to accomplish each day can increase your sense of accomplishment and improve morale.

It can be worth breaking down larger goals – such as a project deadline – into smaller, more manageable goals and milestones.

By focusing efforts on meeting smaller, more achievable milestones, you can work step-by-step towards completing a more sizable goal that, viewed as a whole, might have seemed overly daunting.


5. Consider using the Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle opens in new window is a concept used in economics and project management that states that roughly 80% of outcomes come from 20% of causes.

For instance, 80% of your revenue might come from 20% of your customers, or 80% of your productivity from 20% of your time.

These ratios aren’t always exact – the important thing to remember is that productivity usually isn’t distributed evenly, and you should identify inefficient activities.

Use this principle to identify the activities that generate the most impact, prioritising on these ahead of less effective tasks.


6. Use automation tools to save time

Small business tools are available opens in new window that can help automate many mundane and routine tasks, freeing up your time to focus on more impactful activities.

Tools such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, project management tools, invoicing automation, and digital marketing tools can help with tasks such as contacting clients, chasing up overdue payments, opens in new window or sending emails to prospective customers opens in new window with minimal involvement from you.


7. Log your time

Although you might be confident that you know exactly what’s happening in your business, many start-up owners are surprised to learn exactly how much time they spend on certain activities.

It’s easy to over- or underestimate the number of hours you devote to particular jobs, especially if you’re multi-tasking throughout the day.

As such, it could be helpful to implement a time-logging system.

You’ll identify areas of your business that take up the most time, which can inform the way you plan your day.

Many time-logging tools are free to use and work in your web browser or as part of a project management platform.


8. Delegate tasks

A good business owner trusts their team to do their job opens in new window.

You have enough on your plate managing your start-up, and you don’t want to spend extra time checking your employees’ work or doing tasks they’re qualified to do.

You may struggle to manage to-do lists without delegating, which could negatively impact your mental and physical health.

By contrast, assigning tasks to your team will reduce the pressure on you while building your employees’ confidence opens in new window.

This will result in a more positive work environment, and it could improve productivity as your team members gain responsibility.


9. Take regular breaks

Sometimes, the best way to get more done may be to do less – at least for a short while.

Regular breaks from work can help equip you with a greater sense of perspective, help keep you refreshed and enable greater focus when working.

The Health and Safety Executive recommends taking short 5–10 minute breaks every hour opens in new window, especially if you’re using a screen, such as a computer or a tablet.

You can use this time to do whatever helps you clear your head, whether chatting with a colleague, grabbing a drink, or taking a quick walk.


10. Foster a productive work environment

Did you know that there’s a connection between your work environment and your mental well-being opens in new window?

A clean, comfortable workspace with plenty of natural light can improve employee morale and help them work more productively.

You might also consider brain-power-boosting background music opens in new window, providing drinks or snacks, or creating opportunities for your team to socialise.

By creating a friendly work environment, employees may be more productive, and you can focus on the most important things to your business’s success.


Learn with Start Up Loans and help get your business off the ground

Thinking of starting a business? Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on being an entrepreneur.

Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses opens in new window include:

Plus free courses on finance and accounting, project management, and leadership.


Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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