Ever feel like nonstop work is the only way to get ahead as a solo business owner?
Don’t believe the hype — hustling 24/7/365 is not the answer. Not only is it counterproductive in the long run, but it’s also toxic for your health, your happiness, and your business.
Instead, focus on working smarter not harder.
Learning smart, productive work habits can make you exponentially more effective. Plus, it can prevent the all too common entrepreneur burnout and help you create the work-life balance you need to stay in the game long-term.
Here are seven of my favourite ways to work smarter not harder in my business.
1. Quit multitasking in order to work smarter not harder
In case you missed the memo: multitasking is a myth. It’s simply impossible for us to truly focus on multiple tasks that require real brainpower. And when you try to do it, you risk sacrificing your mental health.
It can feel like you are successfully managing all of these moving pieces, but switching between multiple tasks makes it harder to get tasks fully completed. Stop letting your work suffer. Instead, single-task your way through the day or better yet, batch your similar tasks together to save even more brainpower and time switching.
2. Take more breaks
Taking breaks is one of my favourite ways to work smarter. Without real breaks, our brains get tired, and we get distracted. Once you’ve given up multitasking, try taking a break between each task you focus on. It can be a 5-minute stroll out the front of your house, a coffee break or a few pages of a fictional book. Important: avoid scrolling on social media as a “break”. This does not actually allow your brain to rest.
3. Want to work smarter not harder? Outsource
You can outsource for two reasons: you need the expertise, or you need to free up your own time.
Outsourcing for expertise is a way of accessing the skills you need to get jobs done which will strengthen your business. For start-ups, it is the perfect way to buy the expertise required on an affordable and scalable basis. Gone are the days when, if you needed a bookkeeper, you hired one and provided them with sick pay, holiday pay, a desk and an office.
Or if you’re outsourcing to free up time, for example, someone to take on repetitive or admin tasks that you have been doing, but no longer want to or need to. A virtual assistant is a great option to consider here – many are experts in niche areas that can help build your business. I myself have brought a virtual assistant into my business and only wish I had done this sooner!
4. Schedule tasks based on your energy levels
We tend to ignore our energy levels when planning our work, but it’s a major player in productivity. Everyone’s energy spikes at different times—we each have our own built-in body clock called a circadian rhythm.
If you know you’re most productive right before lunch, for instance, don’t plan meetings or email catch-up time then. Instead, put your most challenging work during the time periods when you’ve got the most energy—and save easy tasks for when you’re dragging.
5. Track your time and review your productivity
If you don’t know how and where you’re wasting time, try tracking everything you do for a few days. This can be as simple as keeping a running list on paper of what you do during the day and how long it takes. If you tend to forget to do this, you can use an app, like the Reporter iPhone app, which randomly polls you during the day to see what you’re up to. It won’t take long for you to identify the trends in what you may be doing more often than I’d like.
6. Front-load your week
When planning ahead, put the bigger, harder, more pressing tasks at the start of the week (or day). This is so you can knock them out first and relax more as the week goes on. Set yourself up for success by front-loading your week. This is kind of a version of Eat The Frog, a productivity method that suggests doing the most important or impactful thing first every day—to be sure it gets done.
7. Set a start date for tasks, not just due dates
To radically reduce the stress about upcoming deadlines, try setting a start date for all upcoming tasks, so they’re on your radar well before they’re due.
Obviously, you should still have alerts set up for due dates, so you don’t miss them. But starting a task days before it’s due will let you relax and get it done well ahead of time. It’s a huge relief not to be scrambling to meet deadlines at the last minute (as much) anymore. Lots of to-do list apps offer a start date feature or something similar.