Running any kind of business is difficult when you don’t have the time, energy or resources to be productive.

I’m not just talking about the kind of productivity which will turn you into a working machine. I’m talking about the productivity to actually get something worthwhile done, and avoid the disheartening feeling of slaving away at a desk for eight hours with nothing to show for it.

Productivity is one of my biggest struggles as a small business owner.

I have my blog, plus various client projects, to manage. I often sit at my desk at the end of the day and praying that I have more time!

The chances are, you feel something like this: demotivated to do your work; not knowing what to spend your time on, or struggling to set goals that actually make a difference to your small business.

In this guide, I’m sharing how I conquer all three using simple productivity hacks:

1. Breakdown your time

I’m no stranger to using every time blocking tool to help me become more productive. One of the most popular is the Pomodoro technique.

The Pomodoro technique lets you work in manageable chunks so you don’t carry on working when you’re likely to be unfocused. Encouraging you to work for a solid 25 minutes is said to be the most effective way to get things done, and you’re rewarded with a 5-minute break to refresh and refocus.

Having said that, I just found that the Pomodoro technique wasn’t for me. I felt restricted by having these time blocks – and I often felt ready to work for longer than the 25-minute period.

If you’re not a fan of the Pomodoro or prefer to work in longer chunks of time, try and create your own version. This can include blocking time periods, such as Monday mornings, to do a specific task.

Once the time has elapsed, take a break. When you feel refreshed and refocused, block out your next chunk of time and plan what you’re going to work on.

This method will let you choose to do the work when you’re most productive.

2. Create to-do lists

If there’s one thing you might not know about me, it’s that I’m a sucker for to-do lists. In fact, I have tonnes of them dotted all around my house to keep me on-track in pretty much every area of my life.

To-do lists help you to be accountable and stop putting things off that you need to do.

By listing everything that you need to do, you’ll get a bigger picture of your day, week or month. It’s much easier to digest and plan something when you’re able to see what you’re working on, instead of thinking about it!

I end every working day by writing a to-do list. Now, you might be wondering why I do this at the end – let me explain.

When I finish work on a Monday evening, I might not have done everything that I wanted to achieve on that day. It’s totally normal, especially considering that unexpected things can crop up when you’re running a business.

If this happens, I write everything that I missed on the whiteboard in my office. These are the tasks that I’ll focus on first when I come back to work the following day.

Having a clear plan of your day and a list of already-prioritized tasks helps me to get started; instead of browsing Twitter for half an hour before actually getting stuck-in.

Now, I know what I’m doing and don’t have to waste my mornings being unproductive.

3. Get rid of distractions

I get distracted on a daily basis and the chances are, you do too. After all, it’s pretty hard to stay on-task when you’re juggling six different client projects!

The best way to stop yourself from being distracted is to get rid of distractions altogether. This can mean:

  • Muting or pausing your inbox, then setting aside time to check emails when you have time to reply
  • Using an internet blocker to stop you from wasting time on social media
  • Turning off the TV during working hours

Getting rid of any distractions will mean that your focus won’t be taken. You can then enjoy these time-wasting tasks out-of-hours and make sure that you’re staying productive as a business owner.

4. Set achievable goals

Another small business productivity tip that I like to follow is setting achieveable goals.

A few months ago, I’d have laughed if you told me that I’d be setting goals for my work. It sounds ridiculous, but I never thought they’d work, and that they were a bit of a faff – like ringing the doctors at 8am to get an appointment in two weeks’ time.

However, since taking the time to set goals for my business, I’ve noticed a huge uplift in my productivity levels and the volume of quality work I get done. They make you accountable and allow you to see the bigger picture.

Do this by thinking of a goal that you want to achieve within your business. This could be:

Once you’ve got these big projects noted somewhere, they might look scary. Heck, they might even look terrifying, but you can create mini-goals to help you get there!

For example, for the “eight retained clients” goal, these might be your mini-goals:

  • Send 10 pitches a day
  • Connect with 20 relevant people on LinkedIn every month
  • Write – and publish – one guest post every month

Notice how each of these goals are actionable, quantifiable and to-the-point? Use the SMART goals template to help make sure that yours are attainable.

Breaking big goals into achievable ones means you don’t get off-task through overwhelm. Plus, it can show you how your daily tasks and to-do’s are working towards your end goal to boost motivation.

5. Work to your own schedule

I mentioned before that blocking your time is an awesome way to boost your productivity as a small business owner. But, don’t feel like you have to “follow the norm”.

Flexibility is one of the main things that people love about being a freelancer. It can be easy to forget that you have this luxury once you get into your work, but the key to being a productive small business owner is to work when you feel the most productive – even if that’s at 9pm!

6. Delegate tasks

When you’re running a business, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do everything yourself. (If you can – you’re a genius and I’d love you to teach me your ways!)

Consider delegating tasks that you aren’t confident with, or those that take up too much time.

There are tonnes of remote workers that can help you with off-jobs. A virtual assistant, freelance writer or social media manager can take big tasks off your hands and leave you to do the work you specialise in.

Here are just some tasks that you could outsource to help boost your productivity as a small business owner:

  • Social media scheduling
  • Bookkeeping and tax returns
  • Email management
  • Facebook group management
  • Writing and editing

7. Bribe yourself!

When I say that I bribe myself to get my work done, I get a funny look. It’s like, “You actually tell yourself that you can have something if you do something else? Are you a six-year-old?” is what’s running through their head.

I know it sounds childish, but it works. Saying that if I get this done by X time, I can do X gives me a real spur of motivation and helps me to stay productive.

For example, you could use one of these examples as your bribe:

  • If I finish this 1,500-word blog post, I’ll buy myself a chocolate bar
  • If I pitch to ten prospective clients this morning, I can work on a fun task this afternoon
  • If I organize my expenses for the entire year at some point this week, I can reward myself with a spa break

(The rewards will obviously be tailored to you and what you like doing. Feel free to go crazy with them!)

Successful self-bribes happen when you stick to them. No skipping the task to get to the goodies – actually discipline yourself and know that you’re being rewarded for your work!

How do you keep productive as a small business owner?

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