- Posted by Peter McHugh
- On October 9, 2019
We’ve always been huge fans of efficiency when it comes to our business. Everyone has heard the adage, “Time is money” and we learned early on that if we could get more done in less time, that meant more money for our business. In this blog post, we’ve pulled together a few simple ways you can be more productive with your time. It’s all about helping you get more done in order to feel more accomplished, and ultimately make more money for you and your business.
1. Understand that tasks take time
We’ve all made the mistake of saying “give me 10 minutes,” only to realize an hour later that you totally lost track of time. When we used to photograph weddings, we’d have brides tell us that the church was “5 minutes away,” and on the day of the wedding, we’d be scrambling into the ceremony with seconds to spare because NOTHING takes 5 minutes. Remember that things DO take time and even writing a short email takes longer than 2 minutes, so be sure to schedule your time accordingly ; )
If you have a To-Do list sitting on your desk, do yourself a favor and write a number next to each task so you can be realistic about your day. Resist the urge to underestimate the length of time you need. In fact, OVERestimate. No one has ever been upset that they completed something earlier than they anticipated and I assume you aren’t the first one out there who would be.
2. Be reasonable about your To-Do lists
It’s also important to break down your tasks into “accomplishable” chunks. For example, rather than putting a giant task on our list like “edit John Smith’s video,” which could take days of work, we learned to break things down into manageable tasks that take less than 2 hours. For example, instead of:
- Edit Video A
We’d break that major task down to:
- Load Footage (30 min)
- Organize Footage into folders (20 min)
- Make a Project file and sync footage (20 min)
- Create Markers and label favorite takes (1 hr)
- Cut the video (2 hrs)
- Edit the Audio (1 hr)
- Color the footage (2 hrs)
- Add Graphics and Text (1 hr)
- Export Draft for Review (20 min)
Not only will you be more organized about where you are in the project, you’ve now created clear start and stop points that will allow you to come back to your project, which helps you schedule realistic timeframes to get things done.
You’ll find that once you start checking tasks off your list, you’ll be more motivated to keep going, rather than staring at the same task on your list for 3 days while you’ve been continuously working on it. Break your TO DO list down into tasks that take 20 minutes to an hour (2 hours max) and you’ll find yourself becoming more productive and more aware of what you can handle on a normal workday, rather than totally overcommitting and coming up short and stressing out.
Bonus Tip: Make sure to [especially if you work at a desk or workstation] get up between tasks, have a stretch, drink some water, have a snack and give yourself some credit for what you’ve just accomplished. It’ll help keep the positive energy flowing right into your next task.
3. Control your own schedule
We used to think that we had to work around our clients’ schedules in order to be a quality and accommodating service provider. In a lot of ways, this is true. If you are trying to win someone’s business, you want to be able to meet them where they are and work around their needs. However, don’t let this hurt you and your business. Sometimes we feel like adjusting our schedules to help others is the only option, but the reality is, you can totally set reasonable boundaries that allow you to be more efficient without compromising your ability to accommodate the requests of your clients.
For your client, there is a very slight difference between you saying, “I’m going to be in your area on Tuesday and Friday this week, would there be a time those days that would work for you?” and saying “Whenever you are available this week, I’ll be there.” On the flip side, there is a HUGE difference between those two scenarios for your schedule and sanity.
Do yourself a solid and resist the urge to make open-ended scheduling for your clients, partners, and colleagues. When it’s time to schedule a meeting, always lead by providing a few options and asking if either of those options work for the person you’re meeting with. Worst case scenario: they say those don’t work and give you some options or ask you for some more options. In both cases, YOU are in control of your schedule and still providing an awesome service.
Bonus Tip: We actually found that by giving the options it was actually easier to schedule with our customers and potential clients. Giving them an open-ended option provided too many choices and proved overwhelming and easier to put off. Giving a few choices makes it an easier decision for them and a more efficient way for you to manage your days for productivity! Win-Win!
4. Start to automate or simplify repetitive tasks
Think about the things you do over and over again and find ways to automate them. How could you use a software, template, process, or video to make your repetitive tasks take less time?
We work with an awesome graphic designer that sends us videos of her recorded screen while she explains her design work rather than scheduling a meeting with us to review over the phone or in-person. This is such an efficient way to manage all of our time. We are able to move projects forward without meeting and getting distracted with side conversations, plus we can refer back to these videos at any point.
Another way we’ve improved our productivity is to create templates for emails we have to send regularly. You may customize these messages each time depending on the details, but if there is a large chunk of what you say that is the same every time, create an email template that you can start from and save yourself a ton of time doing things over and over again.
Lastly, see what you can do to avoid wasting time on travel and unproductive meetings. When we first started our business, we were more comfortable in person and every time we had to talk with a client or a subcontractor/team member, we’d schedule an in-person meeting. This meant preparing for the meeting, packing up our stuff, driving to another location (dealing with traffic, etc), arriving early, conducting the meeting and then often letting things get off-topic or letting a meeting take a full hour or more even though we accomplished the goal in the first few minutes, etc.
Think about meetings you schedule that could be more productive through video, email, over the phone, or through Skype/video chat. A meeting that could take up 2 hours of your day could be shortened to 1 hour or less if you don’t have to leave your office!
Now that we’ve shared a few ways to improve your productivity (and sanity) let’s put this stuff to good use. Start to use these tactics in your business and let us know how they work for you! Or, if you have any other tips you’ve implemented that have worked well for you, we want to hear about them.
Let’s get more done in less time!