Productivity And Efficiency For Christian Entrepreneurs
Shannon was getting her online business started as a graphic designer. She wanted to create book covers for authors of inspirational fiction. But after spending several weeks at the computer, she had nothing to show for all of her time other than a couple of social media accounts that had pretty graphics.
The problem was that Shannon was struggling to stay productive. Like many entrepreneurs, she faced an overwhelming number of distractions, interruptions, and notifications. All of which was keeping her from doing her best work.
Productivity and efficiency aren’t about the number of things you get done or how quickly you can get through them. It’s about ensuring you’re working on tasks that will get you closer to your Kingdom goals.
Sometimes, this means you’ll have days to zip through tasks and get much accomplished. But there might be other days when you’re called to slow down as the Spirit leads.
Even as busy as He was, Jesus found the time to meet a Samaritan woman at the well. He could have gone onto the village with His disciples. But He chose to stay behind and minister to the one person He knew needed his care and attention that day.
Understanding when to work and when to slow down and minister is crucial to honoring God with your business. Here are some tips and tricks for increasing your productivity and efficiency with that in mind.
Say No to Busy Work
Busy work is a thief that steals your productivity and efficiency without your knowledge. You get to the end of your day, and you haven’t made any real progress on your goals. Maybe you re-organized your desk or updated your blog. But you haven’t done anything that will truly help you build your business.
Busy Work = Urgent
The critical thing to understand about busy work is that it feels urgent. However, busy work never adds value to your business. An example of busy work would be checking your social media accounts the second your phone dings. Doing this makes you feel productive even though you aren’t.
To say no to busy work, you have to be willing to say ‘no’ to seemingly urgent tasks. For example, it's easy to get off track if you’re working on a client project and you get a message that it’s time to update your website software. Your day is over before you know it, and the client project is still waiting for you.
Busy Work = Procrastination
For many people, busy work is a form of procrastination. It might not look like procrastination. You may tell yourself that you just need to make a giant to-do list and organize your resources before you start on a project.
If you want to say no to busy work, you have to understand that it causes you to make a lot of plans. But it’s the follow-through that makes the difference.
It might be helpful to say, “Before I begin on this project, I will take 10 minutes to make an outline”. When the ten minutes are up, start working even if your outline isn’t completed yet.
Busy Work = Overwhelm
Busy work frequently masks overwhelm. Maybe you're overwhelmed at the thought of learning new software or creating an e-course. So you spend most of your time doing less important tasks instead of focusing on what will increase your productivity and efficiency and ultimately grow your business.
If you find that you’re using busy work to avoid overwhelming projects, try to sit down and pick a deadline for just one task. You might say, “By [your date], I will hire a virtual assistant that can install this software and teach me how to use it.”
To keep busy work from stealing your productivity and efficiency, you have to understand what it is. Even more importantly, you need to know why you’re doing this busy work so that you can tackle the real root of the problem.
Know What Your Most Valuable Tasks Are
You may have heard of the 80/20 rule. This rule states that eighty percent of your income will be generated by twenty percent of your actions. For most business owners, that means they’re filling their days with tasks that aren’t truly valuable.
The best way to deal with this problem is to find twenty percent of the most critical tasks. When you know what these tasks are, you’ll be able to make smarter business decisions. These are the questions you need to ask yourself to determine if an activity is truly making you money.
Can this task be done by someone else?
Your most valuable tasks will always be the ones only you can do. If you're a New York Times bestselling author, your most valuable task would be writing. If you're a coach, your most valuable task would be coaching your clients.
If you’re working on a project and there are elements that someone else can do, don’t be afraid to outsource. By outsourcing, you’ll be able to concentrate on bringing your very best work to the project.
Does this task make me money?
Your most valuable tasks are income generators. This is important to understand because many business owners spend too much time on activities that aren’t profitable. Tasks like spending two hours fussing over your Facebook header or nitpicking the colors of your website are not producing income.
If a task doesn't earn you money, then you need to ask if this is something that genuinely needs to be completed by you. Outsourcing mundane tasks let you focus on big picture tasks that increase your income.
Am I energized by this task?
Your most valuable tasks are the ones that energize you. If you love a task and it fires you up, the chances are high that it's a valuable task. Most business owners dread the small, mundane tasks because they already know these tasks don't matter that much.
When it comes to activities that you don’t enjoy, you need to evaluate whether they even need to be done in the first place. It could be that you’re holding onto outdated advice or that your business has changed so much that you no longer need to do this task.
At the beginning of each new season, you should evaluate your work, looking for the truly valuable tasks on your plate. Don’t be afraid to let go or outsource your eighty percent tasks so you can embrace your twenty percent ones.
Email Productivity: Stay Focused in Your Inbox
Email is a great way to connect with your community and stay in touch with them. But just like every other business tool, you have to know how to use email properly, or it can easily consume your days.
Many business owners have difficulty managing their inboxes. As a result, they stayed buried under an avalanche of ever-growing messages. If that describes you, then consider trying some of these email tips.
Stop Checking Your Email Constantly
This one is difficult if you have your email account synced to a mobile device. It’s tempting to drop everything and check your email the second you get a new notification. But when you check your email too often, you'll be tempted to respond to messages later. This can make you more likely to forget or ignore the message.
Instead, set a designated time to check and respond to messages. It's usually best to have 1-2 times that you stop and check your email during the day. Many business owners find that checking their email in the morning and again before they stop working is the best way to go.
As a business owner, you may get the same questions frequently. For example, if you offer WordPress themes, you might receive emails from new buyers asking how they should install their WordPress theme.
In cases like this, it’s helpful to have a saved response. All you have to do is copy and paste your response each time you get the same question. Even better, have an FAQ section on your website that you can point others toward.
Make Decisions Quickly
Procrastination is the enemy when it comes to email productivity and efficiency. You only have a few basic options for handling email messages. You can respond, file, delegate, or delete your emails.
Once you decide, ask yourself if you’ll need the information again later. For example, when you get an electronic receipt for a business purchase, it’s usually best to file it. But emails that aren’t important or that you don’t have to follow up with can be deleted.
Know When to Pick Up the Phone
Sometimes, an old-fashioned phone call is required. With a phone call, you have the advantage of tone and inflection. This is important when dealing with situations that might be tricky, like negotiating a price with one of your clients or when collaborating on a project with a business partner.
Mastering email productivity and efficiency can be difficult. But with the right systems in place, you can make it more manageable. Take control of your inbox and end the electronic avalanche.
Become a Productive Content Creator
You want to create valuable content. Your content should be helpful to your community while making your business shine.
But creating quality content takes time. If you struggle with content creation, writing a simple blog post or article may take hours. You dread each creation session because you know it’ll be hours before you’re done.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to spend hours agonizing over each piece of content that you create. If you follow a few basic content productivity and efficiency tasks, you’ll shave hours off the creation process and may even grow to enjoy it.
Start with an Outline
This is not your high school teacher’s idea of an outline. Your outline can be simple with just a few bullet points, or it can be more complex with complete paragraphs that will need to be fleshed out later. Whichever method works for you is fine. There’s no right or wrong way to make an outline.
You want to create an outline because it's much easier to write when you already know the main points you want to cover. Start by writing down topics you want to touch on, then go back and number them in order of importance. You’ll want to share your most important points early in your content.
Write a Terrible First Draft
Many people struggle with content creation because they’re trying to craft the perfect content piece. But it’s much easier to write a terrible first draft and edit it later than to create perfection the first time around.
The best way to write your first draft is to set aside a timer. Using only your outline, start writing. You don’t have to begin with the introduction if you don’t want to. You can begin by writing your conclusion if that’s what you prefer.
Feel free to jump around as you create your content, but write it quickly. Your goal right now is just to get your ideas on the page. Later, you can organize or edit those ideas.
Block Out Interruptions
A common reason for difficulty with content creation is repeated interruptions. When you’re interrupted frequently, you lose your original thought and have to look back to discover where you were.
Once you enter the creative state, it’s best to stay in it until you’ve completed your project. Most interruptions really can wait until later, so try turning off your phone notifications, alarms on your computer, and other digital distractions.
Create in Batches
If possible, write several blog posts or articles in one content session. When you work this way, you’ll stimulate your creativity and come up with even more ideas. As a bonus, you’ll now have content that you can schedule in advance later on.
Content productivity and efficiency are skills that anyone can learn. Don’t think you have to use every content hack you hear about. It’s OK to ignore the advice that doesn’t work for you. Instead, just focus on the content tips that make you the most productive.
How to Use Social Media & Still Be Productive
Social networks can help you nurture relationships with your community and grow your business. They can also help you stay on the cutting edge of your industry and give you a way to communicate in real-time.
But the downside of using social networks is that they can become a time thief. You may have logged on to post one update and are still browsing three hours later.
Social media is too valuable a tool for most small business owners to stop using. But that doesn’t mean you have to be consumed by it. You can learn how to manage your social accounts more effectively by following these social networking productivity and efficiency tips.
Use Apps to Track Your Time
You may be surprised to know how much time you’re spending on networks like Facebook and Twitter. Try installing time-tracking software on your laptop and phone to monitor your social activity.
The most significant advantage of using a time tracking app is that it forces you to acknowledge your social media habits. Once you know how much time you waste on social networks, you can take control of your usage and change your ways.
After every social media session, you should completely log out of your account. When you stay logged in constantly, it is much easier to tell yourself that you’re just going to check Twitter for a few minutes.
Schedule Down Time
You don’t have to stay plugged into social networks. It’s not healthy and can distract you from what you’re working on in the present. Many small business owners find that having a regularly scheduled downtime is helpful.
This time period could be from 8 pm to 6 am or any time slot you choose. Having regularly scheduled downtime prevents overwhelm and boosts mood. It also shows you that the world won't crumble if you don’t respond to every comment the moment that it comes in.
Go Offline When You’re Working
One of the biggest productivity killers is constantly checking in on social media. When it's time to get down to work, block your internet access for an hour or two. You'll be amazed at what you're able to accomplish.
If you can’t find the willpower to block it yourself, look for an app to help you. Some apps will lock down your internet access for two or more hours at a time. This usually works well because the only way to re-gain internet access is to shut off your device and reload your operating system.
Social networks are valuable marketing tools. To get the most value from these tools, you need to set clear guidelines to know when you’re being productive and when you’re not.
Why Productivity And Efficiency Matters
Remember that productivity and efficiency aren’t about how many things you get done. It’s about getting the right things done in the correct order. When we are calm and focused on our to-do list, we honor God in our business.
When writing to the church, Paul was encouraging them to hold services in an orderly way. Although that was the original context, this advice can also be applied to our daily tasks as well.
40“But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” (1 Corinthians 14:40)
Grace and peace,