When you own a small business, the buck stops with you. You’re the boss, and whilst the freedom of being in charge of how you spend your day is exhilarating at first, the reality is that if you’re serious about making your small business a success, you need to make the most of your most precious resource, time.

There are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. However, once we accept that no-one ever gets to the end of their ‘to-do’ list, we can focus on refining our prioritisation skills to make sure we get the right things done.

Here are 5 productivity tips to enable you to get the most out of each day, and ensure you’re spending time on the right activities that will make the most difference to your success…

1. Do one thing at a time
It’s a myth that multi-tasking is an attribute. We may think we’re being more productive if we’re doing lots of things at once, but in reality we’re splitting our attention, and not doing anything properly. This inevitably negatively impacts our work, as well as being mentally draining.

Neurological experts advise that it is far more effective to block out separate periods of time for each task, with regular breaks where we are free from digital distractions too. By pausing to take a walk, listen to music, or exercise, your brain will be refreshed and ready to tackle the next task more efficiently.

2. Write down your top five priorities every night
It’s easy to fall into the trap of being constantly busy, but not necessarily productive. Many of us start the day checking email and social media, and then embarking on a couple of easier tasks thinking we’ll be motivated by ticking items off our list. However, the danger is that the day will slip away before we get round to doing the most important jobs.

You can combat this by taking 3 minutes before bed every night to write down the 5 most important things you have to do tomorrow, and then commit to doing them.

This works in several ways. Firstly it harnesses the power of your subconscious brain while you sleep to help you tackle your items more successfully the following day. It also forces you to prioritise the really important actions, as you are only allowed 5 on your list! It also saves you time in the morning as you already know what you need to do, so can get stuck in straight away. And finally it allows you roll-overs, if you have a super busy day and only managed to complete 3 of your most important things you will still have achieved more than most people do in a day, and you can keep the other 2 for tomorrow’s list.

3. Spend at least one day a month thinking about the long term
Strategic thinking often gets forgotten about when we’re caught up in our hectic day-to-day lives. However if we don’t make time to regularly step back to look at the bigger picture, and the direction we are heading in, we lose control of our businesses, and our lives.

Get in the habit of taking a day out a month for strategic thinking. Whether you go on a long solo bike ride, or walk, or anything you enjoy that gives you space and time to clear your mind. Use the fresh perspective to think honestly about what’s happening in your business and your sector, and whether there is anything you can do differently, or better, to keep you on track.

4. Be realistic with your goals
Many of us are so enthusiastic about our small businesses that we get carried away when setting our goals for what we want to achieve. Whilst ambition is good and necessary for success, it can backfire if we overestimate what we can get done, and we end up spreading ourselves too thin trying to achieve it.

It’s far more effective set realistic goals that take into account the resources you have available (particularly your time). You will be more motivated to work towards realistic goals in the long run, and your success will be built on more solid foundations too.

5. Make your health and well-being a priority
Finally, don’t invest in your business at the expense of your personal health and well-being. Research shows that poor nutrition and lack of physical activity is linked to lower productivity at work, so it’s important to build in time to be healthy if you want to be working at your best.

It’s also vital to balance family and free time with business commitments. You only have one life, and none of us know how long we will get. You don’t want to look back at the end of it wishing you’d spent more time with loved ones. So be strict about what work is essential to accomplish today and be sure to leave plenty of time to do things you enjoy doing, and spend time with the people you love.

If you’re a small business owner in need of expert accountancy or business management advice, please get in touch to find out how we can help you.

Bibbys are a firm of friendly Chartered Accountants in Devon, helping individuals, entrepreneurs and small business owners with all their accountancy, tax and business planning requirements.