What better time than the start of the year to make course adjustments to your Small Business.  As with any resolution, taking small steps towards change create a long term course change and habits that generate a positive you.

Increase your productivity

Start by monitoring your productivity in time and in dollars.

Time – Some of what you do as a small business owner will be routine; there are a variety of daily tasks that will need to be accomplished to keep your business running smoothly.

The more effective you are when it comes to completing the day-to-day business management tasks (the ones that you don’t delegate, that is), the more potential your small business has for greater success. You can boost your productivity by developing systems to streamline these processes.

I would also like to include in this area, time management.  If you study the lives of successful individuals, you will discover the rich and famous have certain habits they attribute to their success.  They are very careful about how they spend their time.  We all have 24 hours in a day, the key lies in learning to use your time wisely.

A few ideas…

Monitor how you currently use your time.  Start a log by writing down how much time you spend on individual activities such as email, phone calls, and client work.  After a few days, take a look at the pattern that appears.  Bundle like tasks together, schedule time in your day to make phone calls, to answer emails and the like.  This will help you avoid the interruptions.  It’s difficult to get back on task when interrupted.  If by chance you are interrupted.  Don’t complete the interruption; make a note of it to get back to at another time.

Create a daily schedule and prioritize, don’t start your day without a “to do” list.  Make a list of tasks and categorize them into business-building activities, client activities and personal items.  Rank or highlight priorities. Then break big, unmanageable projects into smaller chunks so they become less intimidating and easier to accomplish.

Calculate how much your time is worth – time is money. Knowing how much your time is actually worth can help you make better decisions as to whether you should perform a task, or outsource it.  For instance, if your time is worth $200 an hour, you’d be far better off to pay someone $30 an hour to edit your newsletter.  You can ‘bank’ the other $170 per hour by spending your time on profit-making activities.

Money – Addressing your financial expenses and monitoring them to cut expenses where they are not necessary such as renting vs. owning or refinancing higher interest rates for lower consistent rates or consolidate debt where possible.

Have you heard of the 80/20 rule or Pareto principle?  In summary roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Or put another way, 20% of your activities will account for 80% of your results. This principle works in so many ways and therefore important to remember when thinking about being productive. Use the above tools to help you streamline your productivity and be efficient.

Delegate

Delegating tasks that don’t represent an optimal use of your skills allows you to focus on those that make you money. It’s a skill for both large and small business owners. If you are the leader of 1, there are still ways to optimize your time and delegate your way to greater success. Learn how to say ‘no’, and how to say ‘you do this!’

The first step is to identify what tasks can be delegated, successful people don’t work harder; they work smarter.  This means focusing on what you do best and delegating the rest!  Ask yourself what you enjoy doing least for your business.  Now imagine that you could literally give away these frustrating parts of your job.

Delegating is a skill that will become easier with practice.  Good help can be hard to find.  Finding someone who’s both trustworthy and qualified can be a little intimidating.  So ask for referrals from others.  And when you do find someone, call their references.  Think outside of the box in this area, perhaps there are people you know who would like extra income so tap into their strengths and talents to assist your needs.

Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing…

Virtual Assistants – In this day of email, fax, instant messaging and facetime, anyone, anywhere can assist you with your work.  Virtual assistants can help you edit your newsletter, pay bills, invoice, market, make travel plans, keep the books, manage your email, conduct internet research, plan events, bargain shop, make and keep appointments, and even word process – it’s like having your own personal secretary!

Web Designers – Why spend your own time updating your Website when you can pay someone else to do it for you?  When you take on your own web maintenance, it actually costs you potential sales that you could have made in that time.  In many cases, a professional Web developer could do a better job, with fewer mistakes, in half the time.  Save yourself the frustration and hire some help!

Whatever your business need, there’s a freelancer who can assist you including: business strategists, personal coaches, publicists, lawyers, newsletter editors, accountants, copywriters, research engine specialists and internet marketing consultants.

Can’t afford good help? Don’t fret- even if you can’t afford help, there are still ways to get the help you need.

Partnership – Is there someone you could trade services with? Remember the days of Bartering, bring it back to life, trade your services for someone else’s expertise services.

Interns – getting work experience is a valuable experience for the new college graduate.  You need experience to get work, but you need a job to get work experience.  For this reason, college students are often eager to get real world work experience that they can use to beef up their resume.

Get delegating, are you ready to ramp up to the next level of success?  Take a look at the work you do and ask yourself what you can take off your plate.  By handling off tasks, you’ll find you have more time, more energy, and more creativity to focus on growing your core business and enjoying your life.

Goal setting

Use Goal-Setting to Push Boundaries, and it can be a great way to clarify your focus, measure progress and track achievements. And for the most successful among us, goals also present an opportunity to push the lines of your comfort zone and take calculated risks.

The more you are willing to stretch and challenge yourself, the more you have to gain over the long term. Creating a plan for this growth in the form of long- and short-term goals, a business plan or even single targeted tasks can help your business reach new levels of success.

Commit to Continuous Learning

You should understand that no matter how much you achieve, there will always be more to be learned and applied for even greater success.

Even if you don’t have the time or the desire to learn in a traditional classroom setting, there are a number of ways you can advance your knowledge and continue to learn so your business can continue to thrive.

Continuous learning can take the form of online training, self-paced programs, collaborative opportunities, mentoring, and even reading.

Local resources are at your disposal; SBA.gov; SCORE; SBDC; ASSETS. Check out our resources page for links