You’ve probably heard the maxim that it’s better to work smarter than harder. Working smarter means allocating your time, energy and money, so vital tasks get done more efficiently, freeing up your personal time.
Too many business owners think they must keep working harder—taking on more responsibilities and working longer hours—to succeed. It makes sense because you’re responsible for your business, but that route leads to work overload and burnout. Ultimately, your business will be unsustainable if you keep pushing yourself to work harder.
Here are three tips to working smarter.
1. Commit to deep work
How often do you get five minutes into a project just to be distracted by your email notifications or text messages? It’s difficult to focus on a task while being so distracted cognitively. Your mind has to bounce back and forth between different activities, and it takes time to transition every time a new email comes in.
Set aside time each day where your cell phone is on silent, your email notifications are off, and you can’t check your social media. Use that time to focus on your most cognitively demanding tasks. Eliminating distractions frees up your brain to focus on the activity at hand, which in turn enables you to get your work done more quickly.
Deep work was developed by Cal Newport, who has written a book on the subject.
2. Find the right business management tools
There are many fantastic platforms and software-as-a-service tools to help you run your business, but not all of them are right for you. It’s easy to get tempted by the latest app that claims to make your life easier. Before you sign up for another subscription service, make sure it benefits you.
Please don’t sign up for something because it’s marketed as saving time, make sure it actually will save you time. Otherwise, it just becomes one more tool that you have to log into and use to justify the expense. Productivity apps aren’t productive if you’ve already got your team logged into three other apps. Get rid of platforms that are redundant or don’t meet your needs. Don’t use any media because you can—investigate them to make sure they solve a problem for you or make a process more efficient.
That said, when you do find a tool that makes your life easier and more efficient, buy it and use it. For example, you can purchase software to make invoicing easier, simplify project management, and even manage your time.
3. Increase your rates
If you haven’t increased your rates in a while, it’s a great time to consider doing so. Increasing your rates means you can focus on higher-paying clients, earning you more money in less time. You don’t have to raise your rates a vast amount, either. Instead, increase them enough that if you lose a few clients, your business won’t suffer financially. Then focus on finding new clients who will pay you at your higher rate.
Being a successful business owner means working hard—but it doesn’t mean you have to keep working harder. On the contrary, finding ways to work smarter—by increasing your rates, investigating management tools and committing to deep work—will help you in the long run.