Why your current way of working is costing you time and results and how to fix it.

I was a budding entrepreneur who had just quit her full-time job and was working hard to build a solid consulting practice. The entire weekend was spent cleaning my home from top to bottom in an effort to remove every hidden dust particle or sneaky pollen invader that could have contributed to my husband’s tortuous allergies. It was Monday morning, and I was telling my male business mentor how I had spent my weekend, expecting him to sing my praises as a business owner who also made time for family. I was wrong. “Crystal! How much do you charge an hour!? Why in the world did you pay $100/hour for home cleaning!?” That one sentence changed my life forever. Had I devoted that time to my business, I could have made nearly ten times over what a cleaning service would charge.

Work Smarter not Harder

The phrase “Work smarter not harder” has been a part of the American consciousness since the 1930s yet many professional fail to grasp the meaning. It’s not the motto of the lazy. In fact, if you’d like, you can still work the same amount of hours. However, by working smarter, you’ll get better results in those hours which can lead to raises or business growth.

Three Tips for Increasing Efficiency and Effectiveness

  1. Create a prioritized to-do list daily. The key word is “prioritized.” Start with those items that are revenue generating or will result in the greatest return. Getting contracts out, following up on hot leads, finishing up your boss’ beloved pet project—all of these things are more important than filing and other administrative tasks. You can justify not completing reports if you’re exceeding your sales goal by 30%. However, you cannot justify lagging sales with too much data entry work. In fact, in the first scenario, you may score a new (or additional) assistant!
  2. Perform non-revenue generating activities only once. Whether you’re an employee or business owner, if you are involved in revenue generation, that should be your primary focus during the day. All other items should be outsourced, whenever possible. Did upper management create a new weekly report for you to complete? Fill it out one time while creating a screen capture video of the steps and then outsource it to an internal or (if legal) external assistant. If the item can be completed remotely, consider finding help on a site like Odesk.com or Guru.com.  Don’t do this though. Simple research, data entry, and other similar items should also be delegated/outsourced. Again, create screen capture videos, write directions, or have the person who will assist you observe and record out thorough instructions.
  3. Schedule down time. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) recently conducted a study to measure the effects of vacations on work productivity. 77% of supervisors responded that employees who take vacation are more productive in the workplace. Breaks play an equally important role. A University of Illinois Study found that the brain’s ability to focus drops after centering on a single task for an extended period of time. Even brief diversions from a singular task can help increase productivity and focus.

This post first appeared on Personal Branding Blog.