10 Tips for Small Business Owners to Stay Productive When You Are a Jack of All Trades

Online Reputation Management
by Jayson DeMers
@jaysondemers
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As the owner of a small- to mid-sized business, you're a jack-of-all-trades by necessity. You'll be responsible for overseeing a wide range of different operations relevant to your business, from accounting and cash flow management, to production and customer service. In your early days, you'll be performing many of these roles yourself, at least partially, and as your business grows, you'll be expected to make decisions for, advise, and direct these different departments.

It makes it hard to be productive since your attention is split and your skillset is diverse.

Fortunately, there are some strategies that can help you maintain this jack-of-all-trades approach, but simultaneously boost your productivity.
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Best Productivity Tips

1. Be aware of how you're spending your time
2. Keep your inbox organized
3. Delegate effectively
4. Segment your time
5. Keep only one tab open at a time
6. Take control of your communication channels
7. Know what you're best at and prioritize it
8. Know what you're worst at and eliminate it
9. Get friendly with automatic notifications
10. Learn how to say "No"

Try using these approaches to improve your productivity:

1. Be aware of how you're spending your time

First, start paying close attention to how you're spending your time throughout the day.

Ideally, you'll be able to measure how many hours you spend in each of several different departments, and compare those hours to the amount of value you were able to contribute to your organization. Inevitably, you'll discover that you're spending too many hours in an area where you're not adding much value – and too few hours where you should be spending them.

A straightforward approach is to use time tracking software, but I also recommend you use email monitoring tools; you spend more time on email than you think, and analyzing your top sources of time waste here can be incredibly insightful.

2. Keep your inbox organized

As I said, email is a notorious source of time waste; you're getting dozens, if not hundreds of emails every day, from multiple people in multiple departments. If you don't keep your inbox tidy, it's going to take you several times longer than it should to track down messages – not to mention the possibility of losing tasks.

Use custom markings and labels in Gmail to keep your messages organized by content.

3. Delegate effectively

As a jack-of-all-trades, you're a generalist, rather than a specialist.

Generalists usually aren't as productive as their specialist counterparts in niche areas, but cover more categories overall. You can take advantage of this by learning to delegate to specialists in various areas related to your work.

Find trustworthy employees and contractors you can count on for your most important tasks, and don't be afraid to assign work to them.

4. Segment your time

It's tempting to quickly switch between tasks throughout the day, jumping from accounting to design to sales. But it's much better to segment your time, and spend chunks of your day focusing exclusively on one department or one type of task. It's even better if you proactively schedule this time, planning your day in advance, with plenty of breaks between segments so you have the opportunity to "reset."

Frequent breaks are proven to boost productivity, yet 38% of workers feel discouraged from taking them.

5. Keep only one tab open at a time

You likely have multiple tabs open in your internet browser at any given time, and/or windows for multiple different programs open on your computer. This is to make it easy to jump between tasks or cross-reference multiple lists of data.

Again, it's better to focus your attention; keep just one tab or one window open at a time.

6. Take control of your communication channels

Today's communication channels make it easier to stay in contact with a team and work with a wider range of people, but they can also serve as distractions.

If you're a generalist covering multiple areas, you're likely getting notifications of new messages constantly, over email, in chats, and in various management platforms. Every notification you get distracts you, costing you 23 minutes to fully recover.

Take control by limiting your communications to certain times of day, or by turning off notifications entirely.

7. Know what you're best at and prioritize it

Analyze the effects of your work, and determine what you're best at. Among all your skills, there are a handful of areas where you particularly excel. Figure out what those are, and emphasize them as much as possible.

For example, if you feel best at landing sales with new clients, delegate other tasks so you can spend more time doing it.

8. Know what you're worst at and eliminate it

Similarly, you need to know what you're worst at, and find a way to delegate it. If you're not good at taking notes and staying organized, for example, consider hiring a part-time assistant to help you in these areas.

9. Get friendly with automatic notifications

One of the biggest problems in improving productivity is staying consistent and keeping your priorities top of mind.

You might know what you want to improve and how you want to improve it, but you have to take the time to actually do the work – and consistently adhere to your objectives.

Automatic notifications are one of the best ways to solve this problem. You can set them to remind you of important meetings and tasks, but also to get consistent reminders of the habits you want to establish, such as a reminder to clear out your inbox.

10. Learn how to say "No"

Many entrepreneurs get overwhelmed because they're constantly taking on new work, and going out of their way to help other people (including leaders within their own departments). It's, therefore, a productive improvement to learn how to say no to these requests.

Know what your objectives are, know how much free time you have, and don't feel bad about rejecting anything that compromises these areas.

Measurement, Analysis, and Refinement

No matter which strategies you use, the key to your improvement will be measuring your results, analyzing those data, and refining your approach over time.

Some people (and organizations) will respond better to some tactics than others; pay attention to how your hours spent and levels of stress change with each new tactic, and optimize your efforts to favor those that are most rewarding.
By Jayson DeMers

Jayson is the founder & CEO of emailanalytics.com, a productivity app that enables you to visualize you and your team's email activity so you can rebalance workloads and improve productivity.
This is a guest post. Want to feature in our blog? We'll love to hear from you at [email protected]

Originally published Oct 4, 2019 10:00:00 AM

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