5 Efficiency Hacks to Manage Your Business More Effectively

Ask any business owner to reveal their most important resource and you're likely to hear “time." Not even the richest or most powerful among us can buy more than 24 hours in a day, so the key to growing your business is all about maximizing the time given to generate the biggest wins. With that in mind, here are five ways to take your business to the next level — and the tools you need to do so.

1. Optimize your personal workload

To escape the demands of the day to day, it's critical you don't waste precious time on tasks that don't require your unique skill set. Take a week and track every part of your day in 15 minute increments with an easy-to-use program like Smartsheet. Seeing where you spend your time will help you find areas to optimize.

Even if you don't have employees, you can remove things from your plate by enlisting the services of virtual assistants — remote helpers you can hire by the task, hour, or month to help with everything from accounting to marketing. (If you're new to the VA world, Zirtual is a great place to start!)

You may not even need a human helper. There are amazing AI tools that can automate repetitive functions like booking meetings (Amy can handle that) or doing pre-meeting research (Charlie's got it covered).

2. Set your socials to autopilot

Social media is too important to ignore, but it can be a major time drain. If you've got the resources to delegate your social media accounts to someone else, consider doing so. If not, don't fear — Edgar is here. Edgar is a great tool for maximizing your productivity, because you can set it and forget it. You populate your schedule with rules (promotional posts on Mondays, life hacks on Tuesdays, etc.) once and Edgar does the rest, pulling appropriate posts from your content library or RSS feeds you specify. This will keep your social content fresh and updated with minimal effort.

3. Automate, automate, automate

How much time do you spend moving information from one place to another? For example, when a new order comes in, do you have to copy the information from Location A to Location B, or does that move happen automatically? If things aren't happening automatically, they should be. When you're moving information around, you're doing more than wasting time — you're introducing an opportunity for human error. Eliminate duplicative work by introducing automation.

There are apps that automate just about everything these days with no coding required. Zapier can automate just about anything. Want to get a Slack notification when someone fills out a webform? There's a Zap for that. Need your sales manager to automatically see new LinkedIn comments in a Basecamp group? There's a Zap for that too — plus just about anything you can think of across more than 1,000 web apps.

4. Rev up your inbox

Are you tracking every email you send from your outbox? If not, you're missing out on important information that can help you close deals. Imagine being able to place a follow-up sales call at exactly the right moment, or knowing if a proposal you've sent has been opened one time or 20.

There are several email intelligence programs that track your emails (alerting you to when and where your messages are opened). Many also allow you to schedule emails for later, create and reuse templates, and set automated reminders to follow up on important pitches. Spending a few minutes to learn to use such programs will cut down on the time you spend chasing new business, and help optimize your communications.

Mixmax is one of the most popular (and most affordable) options on the market for Google for Business-powered inboxes. Yesware is a slightly less robust (but still great) option for Outlook. Both are easy to connect to your CRM software.

Don't have CRM software yet? Check out Pipedrive, which gives business owners a central location to track all customer information, sales goals, notes, phone calls and even project progress. It combines the best features of a project management program and a sales tracking program into one intuitive, addictive productivity tool. And, of course, it syncs with your email.

5. Keep track of what you want to accomplish

As simple as it may sound, writing down your goals is powerful — people who do so are 42% more likely to accomplish their goals. You should always know what the most important thing is to get done today, this week, and this year.

There are dozens of popular goal-setting apps on the market, and just as many notebooks and planners. Many people like Evernote for its simple interface and high performance across screens of all sizes. If you want a mix of old school and new school, try the RocketBook Wave. You write in it like a normal notebook, but an app transfers your notes or sketches into searchable digital files with the click of your phone's camera button. When you've filled all the pages, simply put the book in the microwave (really!) to erase it and start over again. The method doesn't matter — the practice is what is going to move the needle. Pick a strategy and stick to it. (Although, admittedly, microwaving a notebook is a pretty rad method that's going to be a fun conversation starter in those pitch meetings!)

Every small business owner gets overwhelmed from time to time. If you find your confidence wavering, take a deep breath, revisit your goals, and remind yourself why you took the entrepreneurial leap in the first place. Then go for it, using the hacks and tools above. You've got this!

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018