2014-08-27It’s so liberating to run a business in the technological age. The world’s knowledge base is at our fingertips, our clients are not limited by geographical location, and there is a gadget for just about anything.

But. . .

It’s also overwhelming to process all the information coming at us, nerve-racking to always have to be on top of things enough to respond quickly, and tiring to be switching from one gadget to another in our quest for the “ultimate tool.”

As a result, we feel like we’ve got no downtime—not a moment to spare—yet we desperately need some more time to grow our businesses.

Getting more done in less time is the holy grail of every entrepreneur.

It’s my goal as well!  So, let me share with you a few tricks I use to get time on my side and use to my advantage the same technology that got us into this situation in the first place.

5 Simple Strategies For Getting Time On Your Side

1.  Automating

Automation is the process of using technology to put things on autopilot.   

Are there day-to-day activities that eat up a lot of your time?  Is there anything that could be automated?  Anything you’ve been putting off automating for the longest time?

Go for it!  You might very well get addicted to it.

Scheduling meetings, for example, can easily be automated by using an online scheduler like  Acuity Scheduling or ScheduleOnce.

Screening potential clients can be done by asking them to answer a few questions before jumping on the call with you.  You can do it by embedding a Google or Wufoo forms on your website.

You can also automate requesting testimonials by creating Google or Wufoo forms with questions you want clients to answer, embedding the form in a template of an “I’d love to hear your feedback” e-mail, and sending it every time you need to request a testimonial.

I bet, not only will it be faster, but also increase the number of responses compared to your casual “Could I have a testimonial from you?”

If you are curious what other areas of your business can be automated, take a look at these ideas.

2. Integrating

Integration is making applications you’re already using “talk to each other.”

Technology allows us to have just about any gadget or software we need to help us be more productive.  However, too many gadgets can have just the opposite effect on our productivity.

Integrating or “linking” different applications saves a massive amount of time as it creates a “living system” where updating one of the parts triggers an update in all the others

Therefore, when picking applications, always check and give preference to the ones that can easily integrate with applications you already have in place or intend to start using.

Take Asana’s integration, for example.  You can integrate it with Evernote and be able to turn Evernote notes into Asana tasks and Evernote notebooks into Asana projects.

You can also integrate Asana with Google Drive and Dropbox and reference supporting documents for the tasks or projects by simply giving links to Google Drive and Dropbox documents.

Another way to integrate different applications is to use software like IFTTT or Zapier.  Both of them allow you to connect different applications by creating a chain reaction, where when one action happens, another action gets triggered.

For example, both IFTTT and Zapier can help to create a pathway where once you receive an e-mail with an attachment, it’s automatically forwarded into your Evernote.  Or when you publish a blog post on your website, make sure it posts on your social media accounts, too.

3.  Structuring

Structuring is more than just organization.  It’s about creating a comprehensive strategy for your chain of events. 

Being clear on the steps you need to take in order to accomplish a repetitive task will take away any guesswork, allowing you to become very efficient.

For example, a structure for working on content creation for your blog might involve creating a list of blog topics at the beginning of each month, write a blog post every Monday, and post and share it on Wednesdays.

A structure for working on client projects might involve creating a calendar of project milestones. Share it with your client and ask the client to set aside time for the dates when they need to give you feedback.  Notify all other parties involved in the project (e.g., your virtual assistant, supplier, video editor, etc.), and block off the dates in your calendar to ensure you meet deadlines.

Having structures will not only make managing those activities a breeze, it will help achieve consistency—ensuring that your blog posts are coming out every Wednesday without a hitch or that the quality of your client work is always at its best.

To create structures, rely on project management software like Asana or Trello.  It might surprise you, but Evernote could be great for it as well.

4.  Batching

Batching is engaging in activities that require similar resources—physical, mental, or energy.

It allows you to drastically increase your productivity because you are not wasting time and energy switching from task to task, especially if they are different in nature.

Studies show that when we switch from one activity to another, it takes an average of 15 minutes to regain complete focus.  When you use batching you are allowing your brain to concentrate and focus on similar-by-nature tasks.  Thus, less time is lost on regrouping and getting back “into the zone.”

For example, if you are working on an e-course with video tutorials, don’t work on one module at a time.  A faster way to complete the project would be to work on tasks in batches: write the content, record the videos, edit the videos, embed them, proofread the entire course and test the links.

Once you create structures (see the point above), you can easily see what everyday tasks can be batched as well.  For example, you can batch writing blog posts, create and schedule social media updates, research and turn beautiful images into inspirational quotes, follow up with your potential clients, or send out invoices.

5. Doubletasking (instead of multitasking)

Doubletasking lets you do two dissimilar tasks at once, slashing in half the time it would take you to perform them individually. 

What makes doubletasking so efficient is that you engage in two different types of activities—a mental and physical one (e.g., listening to a podcast while working out or ironing).  Those types of activities don’t compete for the same resources, that’s what makes them a good match.

Multitasking, on the other hand, involves doing two mental activities at once (e.g., watching TV while editing an e-book or talking to your husband while reading a client’s e-mail).

Studies have shown that multitasking lowers IQ and reduces productivity by as much as 40%.   So, when multitasking, you actually accomplish less, not more, because you are interrupting your focus and productivity by quickly switching from one task to another.

I assure you that the only thing this accomplishes is a state of stress and burn out.  Be kinder to yourself.  Use techniques that actually dispel the feeling of “too little time!”

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What About You?

Have you been practicing any of those strategies already?  Do you have any recommendations of your own?  Do let me know in the comments below what strategy sounds interesting to try 🙂