During the course of your working day, you have a number of tasks that you must complete before your day is up, if you are strict with the hours that you work. As you advance through the day, you get more tired and less productive. This is due to the fact that you have no breaks in your day to keep yourself refreshed and awake.
When you work constantly throughout the day, this will often lead to problems with concentration and forgetfulness which can be detrimental to your work performance.
Alternatively, if you are taking breaks what are you doing with the time? Do you go on Facebook, Youtube, or Instagram every time you want a break? You’re not alone. It can be easy to spend hours browsing social media sites mindlessly. But by taking simple work breaks throughout your working day, you’ll stop procrastinating and get more done.
Here are my 3 tips on what you can do when taking simple breaks to help improve your productivity and keep yourself on task the whole way through your workday.
Use the 20-20-20 rule
Are you familiar with this method? The 20-20-20 rule is that you should take a break from your screen 20 twenty minutes. Every 20 minutes, you should focus on an object for 20 seconds which is 20 feet away. Sounds like a chore for some but can be really beneficial to reduce eye strain. Focusing on a screen for long amounts of time can cause:
- Blurry vision
- Double vision
- Dry, itchy eyes
I hold my hands up, sometimes I am glued to my desk for a very long time, and I mean a long time. I will usually only get up to go to the toilet, answer the door for a cheeky amazon delivery or my stomach tells me that it is time to eat. As a small business owner, it is important to focus on our wellness too. Yes, we want to deliver to our customers and clients a great service but please remember you. You can read more about the 20-20-20 rule here
Stretch your legs
Move that body! Getting yourself out of your seat and moving around is a great way to get you away from your screen whilst incorporating some exercise into your routine.
Stretching is important to avoid those aches and pains, getting into the habit of sitting with poor posture and will also help avoid any neck and back strain. I have a great chiropractor who I visit twice a month to get my back and neck sorted out. I have found being in a seated position for work does me no favours if I don’t move around regularly.
If you always forget to step away from your desk, set a timer to remind you to take a quick walk and get a stretch in. There are even stretches that you can actually do at your desk, although I would rather you left your desk.
Do something fun on your lunch break
Ensure you take a full break, not a 10-minute nibble and then back to it. Have your lunch away from your desk, somewhere comfortable and possibly in another room if you can.
Allow yourself to switch off even for 30 minutes and do something fun. Some ideas are:
- Read a book
- Call a friend/relative
- Play a game with friends/family
- Listen to your favourite music
- Go for a walk
- Do a workout
- Listen to a podcast
We all know that staying focused and productive throughout your working day can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re working on several projects simultaneously. The main point I am trying to make is that in order to be productive during the course of your day, it can be beneficial to take breaks from your work in order to prevent burnout.
Without taking these breaks you may find yourself becoming less and less motivated as the day goes on and eventually give up completely, which is what we don’t want. So, please remember to take regular breaks even if it is only briefly as they can have a major impact on your productivity. Keep bossing it!
So, we are already halfway through the week and it’s a lovely short working week for most of us because of the three-day weekend, due to the May bank holiday (UK public hliday). I’m guessing you have relaxed, maybe travelled and you are trying to transition back into a routine. Let’s face it, most of us small business owners will have worked throughout the extended bank holiday weekend.
If you turned your out of office on and took some time out for your family/friends, then you may feel that you need some tips on getting back into a routine when you just don’t feel like doing anything. Whether you are running your business full-time or it’s still a side hustle while you pluck up the courage to take the leap of faith and run your empirefull-time, these tips are for you.
1. Be realistic
If you have taken time out and struggling with the early start or late finishes, look at doing things, to begin with, that won’t sap you of energy and make you hate being back in the driving seat. Perhaps you could just check your emails for the day, respond to any that don’t require much and make notes to follow up for the rest of them. If you are a one-man-band, your clients/customers will have received your OOO (out of office) autoresponder informing them of your absence, so won’t be expecting a response before your return. Any that you cannot resolve immediately upon your return, why not drop them a line to say that you are back in the office and will be in touch again in X hours/days. PLEASE be realistic with your response time, do not add more pressure to what you already have on your plate.
2. Accountability Partner
This might be something that you have in place already. Book a call/zoom meeting where you can meet up with your accountability partner upon your return. You can look at what you must do right now, you can both map out what that looks like and the timeline in checking those items off. An accountability partner is there to support you and vice versa. Think of them like a sounding board. Accountability partners can also bring clarity to your business. Try to choose a person/friend/colleague who is going to be honest with you 110%, nobody wants a people pleaser, you should be the same for them, complete honesty, and transparency from you for their small business. If you cannot find an accountability partner, you may want to do some research for a Mentor or Coach. This will usually be a paid service, ask around as many entrepreneurs swear by their Mentor/Coach.
3. Be kind to yourself
Running a business can be extremely stressful especially when you are working all hours, to keep money coming in. Reach out and ask for help where you think you need it. Outsource what does not fit your skillset, which may be sending out contracts or packing orders. Keeping costs low will be something to take into consideration, but as soon as you can please do. Take regular breaks and stay hydrating. Lack of fluids can cause headaches and fatigue, that is where mistakes can happen which can be detrimental to your business, so be careful.
4. Lists, lists and more lists
If you have been reading my blogs for a while, you will know I am a fan of lists. Create ato-do list and focus on the top three tasks for the day. This way, you will be eased in nice and gently. I feel that it is such a good feeling crossing through completed tasks. I am not sure if intentional, but I always want to do more thereafter.
Sometimes to find inspiration we need to take a rest for a bit, it is only when we are refreshed that we can look at our personal and business lives and see what needs to be done.
As you can see, there are multiple techniques to get back into the routine of running your business. You could try one or all or develop your own plan for getting back into the swing of things after taking a break.
Some have already had their half-term break, how about you? My children were at home last week and as I work from home, it meant juggling it all between preparing meals, shouting to turn off the lights in empty rooms as well as handing out cash left, right and centre.
Working from home has its positives and negatives. How can you stay focused when you have endless questions, uninvited discussions and the likes? I survived, my sanity is intact and here are some tips of what I did.
Before the half-term break, I updated my scheduler to reflect when I would be available for new client calls. I blocked out times where I knew my home would be booming with traffic and focused on early mornings or late in the day. This way I knew there would be less noise, and I can inform the kids to disturb me for an hour or so. For potential clients to book calls, I use Dubsado and I really like it, I also get to pre-qualify them to see if I can in fact assist. All my services are on the website so usually, I can.
Set your expectations
Are you a morning person, or an evening person? Whatever time you feel that you are at your most productive, do that. Busy does not always mean productive. When you worked in the office, how much of your 8-hour day was full-on working mode and you smashed every item on your list? You work for yourself now and although you can smash every item on your list, you are not required to do it all in one sitting.
Find that balance
If you have young children at home, they will want mummy/daddy time whether that be making/eating lunch together, watching Coco Melon or doing some Arts & Crafts. Carve out some time in your day to do that. You could finish your day a little earlier or start your day a little later, depending on client work. If you plan to put your OOO (out of office) on, give your clients a heads up with as much notice as possible. If they have important work or a pending project, request a quick meeting a day or so before you head off so everybody knows where they are at. You want to switch off and switch off completely, not worry about what you have outstanding.
Outsource during holidays
This is something new that I offer for those that want it, we can talk about it further if you wish here. One of my clients provides me with some dates that their own VA support is away throughout the year, and I will step in and cover so the support is never lost. I think it is a genius idea.
Stay in your zone of genius and do what you love. If you currently use a VA, ask if they have any recommendations on others within their community, that would be happy to step in should you need it. I have heard of clients having a couple of VA’s doing different things and it works very well.
Be kind to yourself (and your children)
Lastly and I guess the most important of them all, be kind to yourself. I know as parents, we wear that invisible cape because we are essentially heroes for our children and our clients but be kind to yourself. If you need to take numerous breaks to deliver high-quality work, then do that. You don’t want to burn out and then take even longer to recover or maybe you then need even longer to get back in the saddle. Remember you cannot pour from an empty cup.
Take regular breaks, eat well away from your desk and if you have time that you end your day, please do so. Our wellness is just as important as the work and please don’t lose that thought, you matter too!
Saying no is one of the most difficult things to do when you are a small business owner. I learned very early on that saying yes to everything was not serving me well. I had business coming in, but was it bringing me joy or making my heart sing? Most of the time yes, but sometimes I had to ask myself whose business was Format Services, mine or theirs? I get that you want to impress and deliver EVERYTHING, sometimes it is not always possible.
One of the most freeing and powerful things I ever did was to learn how to say no. Learning to say no led me down a path with so much more opportunities. Please understand that saying no does not make you harsh or rude. You can say no without coming across as rude. You could let clients know:
- You don’t offer that level of support
- You don’t have any capacity to support him/her at the time
- You only work with X
This is not you placing yourself in a box at all, ultimately you are choosing your joy over stress.
The image of a business owner that we have in our heads is usually somebody who covers every role within the company. We always feel that we must deal with everything and every person who shows interest in the product or services that you provide. Saying yes to every opportunity can bring you overwhelm and so much worry, so when you find yourself in that position just ask yourself if this opportunity is for you.
Be unapologetic when you decide to not work with somebody, you might not be able to help or even have the capacity. It is quite nice if you can refer them on to somebody else, who you know can support their needs. The industry is huge as we know, and you may well have somebody in the community whose title may be the same as yours but offer very different services. My referrals usually come from word of mouth and it’s nice to recommend others within your community to clients who require a specific service or product.
You will be very surprised at how much smoother things run when you aren’t taking on unnecessary tasks and roles. Focusing on clients and projects that fall within your ethos and messaging, is so much more fulfilling for you.
If after this you still struggle with saying no, just think of it as you are closing one door and opening another. Saying no will open your schedule to more fulfilling opportunities. I am very big on energy and if during a discovery call the energy is not there, I listen to my gut and won’t move forward with any Terms & Conditions if I envision issues very early on.
Remember time is money, the power in saying no allows you to control the client relationships that you have. Not everything thing is for you and that’s OK. Learn to set boundaries from very early on, this will help you big time.
I bet you’ve been wondering if outsourcing to a virtual assistant is a good idea, haven’t you? You are wondering if it’s going to be worth the investment and just how much time you will have freed up by hiring somebody?
Time is money, and your time is precious. Outsourcing can certainly save you time and I will go over the benefits of outsourcing your workload to a Virtual Assistant. This will involve showing you the value of this option, even if you do have much of a budget for their services.
On one hand, I have come across many potential clients who have turned their nose up at having a Virtual Assistant, many have said ‘I can do that myself, ‘automation does that’ and my favourite ‘I don’t have the budget for one yet’. On the other hand, I have come across clients who have hired me hesitantly, because previous support has not worked out as they had envisioned, because the quality of work has been poor or deadlines have been missed etc.
I will always enter a new working relationship as transparent as possible. I am not a techy VA so I won’t be drumming up an all-singing, all-dancing website or dissecting your analytics because I can’t. I don’t want to sell dreams that I can do X, Y, Z and then not deliver. The best form of advertising is word of mouth, and my reputation is important to me.
I want to share a couple of reasons why outsourcing your work is beneficial to any small business owner.
Virtual Assistants can save you time, a lot of time. Business owners can outsource several tasks which will enable you to put your time and energy elsewhere within the business. If you are ‘time poor’, outsourcing your diary for instance will work wonders for you. The time you save, you can put that into scaling the business with new ideas, strategies and executing them one by one.
A Virtual Assistant is not a full-time member of staff, you can reap the benefits of an assistant without the costly overheads. The list below outlines where you can save:
- There are no agency/recruitment fees to pay
- You don’t have to pay sick leave, a pension, NI or holiday pay
- No computer/laptop equipment to provide
- You will only be billed for hours booked
- No need for training costs or software licences
Entrepreneurs will often, start alone and building alone can feel like a lonely place. Delegating bits and pieces that are not your strengths will propel you forward faster. A VA will have the right skill set for your needs and having somebody on hand that you can bounce ideas off can be helpful. Your VA will be able to take on any task and do it effectively with very little or no support from you.
Your VA can also support business growth by recommending and/or implementing new processes, that may be beneficial to your business. That extra pair of hands is worth its weight in gold.
Trying to juggle multiple projects on your own will lead to you feeling stressed, frustrated, overwhelmed and unwell. You cannot afford to take time off, because it’s just you steering the ship. Offload those troublesome tasks that you can outsource to your VA and they will handle them with ease. Remember your VA comes armed with a wealth of experience and knowledge, relax and let go. Just imagine being able to find that harmony with running your profitable business and family life.
If you have made it this far it’s clear that if you are a fed-up business owner, outsourcing can save you both time and money. The benefits are worth investing in, how many hours can a Virtual Assistant save you a week?
When you look at the goals you want to reach for your business, it becomes clearer that a Virtual Assistant should be on your list no matter where you are in your business journey. Most Virtual Assistants work on retainers, whereby you choose how many hours you would like for them to be available just for you every month. Otherwise, if you would like to work on an ad hoc basis, that is also possible. The possibilities are endless and there is a package to suit every entrepreneur. You can check out my rates via the website and book a call if you are ready to outsource. You will not regret it.
People have always said they don’t know how I can get so much done, in such a short space of time. I guess over the years of being a Team Secretary looking after a team of 12 Actuaries to being a Medical PA for one of the top Neurologists in the UK, I had to organise myself to be able to confidently organise others.
Although I have learnt so much, here are some simple techniques you can use too, to get organised and become more productive.
The first thing I recommend you do is to take a look at your desk. Is everything there mandatory in your day-to-day dealings with your clients, and yes, I am talking about that takeaway coffee cup too.
On my desk I have:
- 2x monitors
- Wireless Mouse
- Wireless Keyboard
- Pen Pot
- Filing Tray
Sounds very minimal, that’s because for me a cluttered desk = a cluttered mind!
I understand that we are very much trying to save the environment and printing is a big no, so where you can, please do electronically store your documents. If however, you do have to print or receive hard copy documents, grab yourself some trays which you can stack and file away documents in this order IN | PENDING | OUT
- IN – Things that have just come in
- PENDING – Things that you are working on and/or require further action from you/somebody in your team
- OUT – This means completed. Once complete you can set aside time daily/weekly to completely file this away in client files, or any other filing system that you may have
It is worth noting that if you no longer need the document(s) and it does not need to be filed, place it in the shredder. Alternatively, if the paperwork does not contain any sensitive information, use it as scrap paper instead of purchasing new notepads or post-it notes.
Ring binders will be helpful for your various client work, utilities, insurance info etc.
Try to limit the number of personal items you have in your desk area, that includes your mobile phone as they can cause distractions. You could put up some shelving to showcase any family photos, awards, quotes etc. Alternatively, how about a cute noticeboard that you can pin important reminders too.
Give everything a home
Place all your everyday items within easy reach, anything that is not required on a daily basis, place in a drawer close by but still within easy reach just in case you need to access quickly.
Keep it simple
Working from home has become our ‘new normal’ and sometime soon we may well head back into the office/co-working spaces but until then, let’s keep it simple. You don’t need to break the bank and splash out on lots of new things for your home office, keep it simple and house what you need. The only two items that must be reviewed is your chair and your screen. Ensure your screen is at a good level to avoid any neck and shoulder pain. Also, your chair should give you good support, I learned the hard way by investing in a chair that was more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. I now have a chair that gives you an active seating position and improves your posture.
You have to be focused on the space that you have. At a glance, I can see everything that I need. I don’t want to be a detective looking for a client document buried underneath thousands of receipts, that has been on my to-do list for forever and a day. The thought of it gives me anxiety and I hate the feeling of stress for no reason.
Start your working day with ease and by reading this far, I know you have already been thinking about how you can improve your home office space. You are already on your way towards a more productive workspace.
If you are still stuck or don’t fancy decluttering your space yourself then reach out. Organising is my thing and would love nothing more than to help you to do just that. Alternatively, if you are wanting to outsource something more, let’s get connected here.