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Multitasking the Sane Way – 10 Tips to be a More Productive Entrepreneur

Multitasking the Sane Way

Whether you’re a full-time entrepreneur or you’re starting a new business on the side, you typically find yourself filling multiple roles and juggling a variety of tasks. On Monday, you’re the CFO; on Tuesday, you’re the CMO; and on Wednesday, you’re the VP of Engineering. Does this sound familiar?

In spite of the many research studies that indicate multitasking worsens most people’s ability to get things done, you still find that it’s a necessity in your busy line of work.

Become a “Super Task Manager”

Have you heard the term “Supertaskers?” According to research published by Jason M. Watson and David L. Strayer from the University of Utah, only 2.5% of the population are effective multitaskers. Performance of tasks performed simultaneously is degraded for the majority of people.

I know many of the entrepreneurs who are reading this are thinking – yep, I’m a supertasker! If you think so, here’s a test from David Strayer that enables you to confirm your theory.

Multitasking is inevitable at times, so how do you survive in our multithreaded world? For the majority of the population, we recommend you become a “Super Task Manager,” rather than a multi-tasker. This doesn’t require genius-level, supertasker brainpower, just a bit of discipline.

Do you want to become a “Super Task Manager?” Follow the tips and tricks we’ve outlined for you today and you’ll be on the road to success.

1. Do a Daily Brain Dump

I don’t care if you won last week’s Jeopardy match; I still believe when it comes to remembering things to do, your memory is terrible. Not to mention, when you keep your to-dos in your brain, it creates stress and doesn’t leave room for creative thoughts.

Every day, when you start your workday, record all your tasks into a to-do list; this is your brain dump. Consider this the birth of your important assessment of daily tasks. This begins the process of deciding what’s most important for moving your business to the next level.

LifeTopixAgenda

LifeTopix App

2. Grasp the Needle-Movers

Your business has goals – whether you want to increase profits, grow sales, widen awareness or increase customer satisfaction. Decide which of your tasks will move the needle toward those goals.

80% of what’s on your list is probably busywork and 20% of those tasks are needle-movers. Think about your long-term goals and outcomes and get these needle-moving tasks to the top of your priority list.

3. Be an Obsessive Compulsive Scheduler

When you schedule everything you need to do, you know exactly how many tasks, meetings, etc. you can fit into your daily schedule. In fact, research says that mental fatigue is reduced by better control of work scheduling.

When I say schedule everything – I mean EVERYTHING – not just events. Include your to-dos in your schedule; add meetings to your calendar; add lunch to your schedule; even add social media time to your calendar. Do you want to watch “Dancing with the Stars” or “Monday Night Football?” Then schedule it, as well.

What’s the best way to schedule everything? The LifeTopix app is a great app for recording and scheduling a variety of different types of things, while on the go. Many LifeTopix customers are busy freelancers, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and real estate professionals.

4. Learn to Let Go

Entrepreneurs typically like to take control of everything in their business, but sometimes they need to let go. Now that you’ve assessed and prioritized your tasks, you have a fantastic idea of what can be delegated.

Cloning yourself is not realistic, so if you have a team of employees, take the time to train them to complete tasks that are not highly strategic to your business or hire people who are up to the task. If you’re a solopreneur, outsource business tasks or items in your personal life to make more time for your business.

5. Hack Distractions and Interruptions

The problem with distractions and interruptions is you lose your momentum. Some small business owners and entrepreneurs manage distractions by blocking out their time to focus. However, distractions indicate your business is healthy and thriving because you’re supporting various employees, prospects and customers. Being accessible to answer questions and provide support keeps the business moving along at a healthy pace.

One simple hack to effectively manage these distractions is to record your thoughts (whether through audio or writing) at exactly the point when you left off each time you’re interrupted. This way, you’re not taxing your brain by trying to remember where you left off; and then you can easily switch back to the task at hand.

TooManyTabs

Too Many Tabs

6. Get Online-Savvy

Using the Internet for research and everyday tasks is a necessity for freelancers, business owners, solopreneurs and entrepreneurs. But many don’t realize there are helpful tools, such as browser extensions and add-ons, to manage open pages and prevent online distractions.

Entrepreneurs typically have numerous tabs open on their browser. “Too Many Tabs” on Chrome and Firefox is a helpful extension/add-on that arranges your tabs in an easy-to-read format and also allows you to suspend tabs to release memory, which improves browser performance.

Another helpful tool to manage online distractions from advertisers is AdBlock, which allows you to surf the web without seeing the ads. And now, with iOS 9, developers have provided a variety of ad blocking apps to work with Safari on your iPhone or iPad, which are available at the Apple App Store.

7. Take Advantage of Background Tasking

One of the great advantages of modern computing is the ability to run processes in the background. You can run reports, compile code, run virus checkers, and more while you do other important work. By now, you understand what can run in the background and what cannot.

Like computers, we, as humans, can also run processes in the background. We quickly understand what type of tasks we can do simultaneously and when we must focus on a more complex single task.

Smart multitaskers make use of waiting time, such as doctor’s appointments, public transportation rides, long lines and while commuting (safe tasks only, such as Podcasts!). They also know which types of tasks can run in the background while they’re completing important projects, such as running a sales report while making cold calls.

8. Utilize “Thinking Time” in the Background

Everybody needs leisure time, and sometimes this time can be used strategically. When you’re playing golf, running, hiking, biking or knitting, take this time to think deeply about your business.

For example, imagine you’ve been invited to the opera, but you secretly have a distaste for opera music. You can use this time to think intensely about your business. Sometimes, stepping away and putting yourself deep into thought is a great way to find a new perspective, set goals and to unleash your creativity.

9. Harness Your Willpower

Have you ever noticed that your willpower is stronger during particular times of the day? Typically, your willpower is strongest in the morning, and you really propel forward when deadlines are quickly approaching. Take advantage of those times to get things done.

Moreover, much of willpower is simply about forming desired habits. According to research from the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes approximately 66 days to develop a new habit – and then it becomes automatic.

For example, if you have a habit of watching YouTube videos first thing in the morning as a form of procrastination; instead, focus on making a to-do list for at least 66 days in a row. Once this habit is solidified, you’ll never think about those silly cat videos again.

10. Resurrect Good Meetings

Being a “Super Task Manager” requires that you make the most of meetings. How often have you attended a meeting where participants are secretly responding to email, tweeting or completing work? They’re attempting to effectively multitask, but ultimately they’re performing two tasks at the same time very badly. This is a sign that the wrong participants are in attendance or the meeting is unnecessary.

Providing a good agenda is the best way to conduct useful meetings. Currently, a popular agenda format called TTOG is being used to improve the state of meetings. TTOG stands for Topic, Time, Owner and Goal. Essentially, it ensures that the subject, time spent, task owners and goals are clear to the participants. Once these guidelines are established, you and the team can move onto your important tasks.

Your Turn

With these simple hacks, I believe you’re on your way to being the “Super Task Manager” you wish to be. Good luck, and please share your multitasking and time management tips and thoughts.

8 Tips and Resources to Help Small Businesses Thrive

Small-Business-Thrive

Starting and owning a small business can be demanding. At LightArrow, we have first-hand knowledge of the challenges that entrepreneurs, founders and startups face. Today, we’re sharing some of the top 8 problems that small businesses face and tips for overcoming these challenges.

1. Grow On a Shoestring Budget

No matter what type of business you’re in, marketing is essential to grow your business. Plus, having a website and a social media presence is crucial for small business success. A website is the core of your marketing efforts and social media builds credibility, generates leads and improves your website’s rankings.

Many startups and small businesses are on a shoestring budget, but this shouldn’t stop them from effectively marketing their products and services through a website. Building a website without a web developer on staff may seem daunting to non-technical entrepreneurs, but it can be easier than you think.

To get started with a website, research content management systems such as WordPress to find one that’s appropriate for your skill level. Take advantage of resources such as Lynda.com to learn how to properly set up a website. Research effective information architecture techniques to ensure you’re delivering material in a way that’s easy to consume.

Once your website is built, add new content to it regularly through a blog or forum that’s suitable for your audience. Drive traffic to your website through Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and Social Media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Quora and LinkedIn.

Investing time and energy into social media is crucial, but many new business owners believe that it isn’t necessary for success. However, social media is vital for building brand and awareness. And in fact, according to Hubspot, 71% of people are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals.

2. Improve Your Working Capital

In order for a business to thrive, it needs working capital and proper money management is among one of the top qualities of successful businesses. It’s important to calculate your working capital needs by finding the difference between current assets and liabilities.

In some cases, you might find your sales are not what you expected and working capital might be an issue in order to keep your business running. Or, your business is able to use cash on hand to fund operations, but it needs more cash to invest in advertising, product development, software, inventory or other resources in order to grow. If working capital is an issue, consider using an online provider of business loans, such as Kabbage to grow your business. They offer loans ranging from $2,000 to $100,000 for small businesses.

3. Build Good Customer Relationships

80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers. -Gartner

Never underestimate the power of your satisfied customers. Happy customers are your best salespeople. And, just like in any type of relationship, communication is the key to success. Timely follow-ups after purchases to check customer satisfaction, to offer free content for customer empowerment and to provide rewards through programs can increase customer satisfaction.

However, managing these types of follow-ups can be difficult so many small businesses use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. If you’re a freelancer, real estate agent, single entrepreneur, or if you run a microbusiness, you can utilize LifeTopix to manage your follow-ups with customers. You can learn more at: Successful CRM Recipes for the Small Business Owner.

If you require an automated and cost-effective way to communicate with existing customers, you can utilize an email marketing platform suitable for small businesses, such as MailChimp, Aweber or Constant Contact.

With email marketing software, you can create personalized welcome programs for new customers and nurture programs for potential customers. If you use Ecommerce, you can automate customer retention programs by integrating your email marketing with your Ecommerce platform.

4. Use Time Management Techniques

When you become an entrepreneur or run a small business, you say goodbye to the 40-hour work week. You’re on call 24×7 and good time management is vital for success and it also prevents burnout. Goal setting, planning, prioritization, delegation and focus are time management tactics that are vital for a successful small business.

When setting goals, they should be S.M.A.R.T. For example, they should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. Once you’ve decided on your goals, record them and put an action plan into place.

An action plan or follow-through strategy should include projects, tasks and the necessary resources. Define the work that’s required to reach your goals. Break the work down into tasks and assign those tasks to the resources who are available.

Effective entrepreneurs and small business owners have mastered delegation. They understand that some projects and tasks don’t require their supervision. They’ve learned that they can delegate these tasks to others in order to focus on strategic goals, relationship building and priorities.

Finally, focus is very important for entrepreneurs. Customer requests, advice from investors and advisors, employee demands and changing markets are just a few of the distractions that leaders balance every day. It’s important to stay on a clearly defined path and to avoid running off of course. Take advice from lean startups and get laser-focused your priorities and eliminate what’s not essential.

5. Hire the Right People

Hiring the right people for your small business or startup can be challenging. It takes a unique personality and set of skills to thrive in a lean, small business environment.

Consider that the people you hire will be working close together so they need to fit your company culture like a glove. They need to be willing to push up their sleeves and do the work themselves. It’s best to hire people who know how to do the job, not just how to manage the right people. Generally, they should have a wide variety of skills, rather than to be focused on a specific, niche area.

Startup and small business hires need to know what to do and when to do it without being asked. Hire senior employees and team them up with junior personnel.

Most recruiting firms are cost prohibitive for small businesses. Stay lean by taking advantage of your own informal and formal networks, LinkedIn and local job boards to find employees. Attract new employees by offering incentives that larger companies cannot, such as flexible work schedules, work from home days and stock options.

6. Improve Your Online Reputation

Online ratings can make or break a business. How often do you check Yelp before you visit a restaurant, salon, yoga studio or other business? Do you check the rating of an app or other product before you download or purchase it? Consumers regularly use online reviews to check the quality of a business or product before purchasing it.

The best way to avoid negative ratings and reviews is to have open communication with customers and solve their problems before they write negative comments. You should always provide a way for them to easily get in touch with you and subsequently deliver exemplary customer service.

No matter how wonderful your product or service might be, there will always be someone who won’t like it. It’s just the nature of doing business. When a negative review surfaces, it’s important to do everything possible to win that customer over.

Monitoring and responding to reviews is essential to keep ratings up. For example, I left a 4 star review on Yelp for an establishment that provides food and mentioned that the quality of the food had decreased. The manager contacted me directly and asked me specifically about the issue, provided coupons for free food and his note was friendly and kind. After this, I raised my review to 5 stars.

Check review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Reviews, and Yahoo Local reviews regularly. Respond to every review for sites that allow it, including both negative and positive reviews. In addition, you can set up Google Alerts to notify you of any online activity about your business.

7. Compete with Larger Companies

Many small businesses are competing against the big guys, who have enormous marketing budgets, connections with top public relations firms and can hire the best talent. Nonetheless, you can still succeed if you maintain focus. Focus on a specialty that the bigger companies are spread too thin to cover. Devote your time and resources to that niche and grow when the timing is right.

As a small company, focus on your pricing models. It’s possible that you can provide better products and services at a lower price than the larger companies if your company is running lean.

Above all, big companies tend to lose touch with their customers. Be a customer-centric company. Go above and beyond to ensure your customers are satisfied. Like I said before, your customers are your best salespeople; therefore, this strategy will pay off.

8. Optimize the Supply Chain

Recently, I discovered the small clothing company, American Giant who became an overnight success when Slate ran the article, “This Is the Greatest Hoodie Ever Made.”

What’s exciting about American Giant is they have redefined the supply chain by selling their products directly from the warehouse to the consumer, thus, investing in the quality of their clothing and passing the savings to their customers. Essentially, they’re shadowing the same model that software manufacturers have followed for years, which is direct-to-customer. They’ve removed unnecessary steps in the supply chain, which eliminates overhead costs associated with most clothing manufacturers.

The lesson learned? Don’t be afraid of creatively solving problems related to your supply chain. For small businesses to thrive, it’s vital to deliver quality products or services to your customers in a timely way. By identifying, reducing or eliminating non-value added activities in the supply chain; you can optimize profits and gain a competitive advantage.

Your Turn

What are the biggest challenges facing your small company? How have you overcome these problems? Please share your story or ideas in the comments below.

10 Amazing Quotes and Lessons Learned from Successful Entrepreneurs

Business Leadership

Nobody ever said that entrepreneurship is easy. Customer acquisition, fear of failure, building a brand, money management and balancing quality and growth are just a few of the challenges that small business owners and entrepreneurs face every day.

One method to follow when you get frustrated or think you’ll never succeed is to research the strategies of successful entrepreneurs, start-up founders and inspirational leaders. Here, we compiled 10 quotes and lessons learned from some of the most successful modern entrepreneurs and leaders.

Eric Ries

Eric Ries is the author of “The Lean Startup,” and is one of the founders of IMVU.

Eric Ries

Ries’s quote reminds entrepreneurs that sometimes it’s necessary  to take a “test and learn” approach. Experimentation is a valuable tool for determining the efficacy of a new product or service. Don’t be afraid to perform business experiments. Some experiments might pay off; others might fail. Nonetheless, you’ll gain valuable insight and data.

Aaron Levie

Aaron Levie is one of the founders of Box, launched in 2005. Box is a file sharing and cloud content management service.

Aaron Levie

I discovered this quote when reading “The Way I Work: Aaron Levie, Box” at Inc. Magazine. It reminds me that startups must move at the speed of light. They don’t have time for bureaucracy, politics and pontification. Entrepreneurs must invent simple solutions for complex problems. When nonsense slows them down, strong leadership prevails.

Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh is an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He is the CEO of the clothing and shoe online retailer, Zappos.com.

Tony Hsieh

Zappos is known for their incredible culture and happy employees. What I find inspiring about Hsieh’s quote is that he understands and embraces the intangible value of happiness. This quote is a great reminder that employee happiness and engagement leads to profits and success.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk is an entrepreneur, investor and engineer. He is the CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors.

Elon Musk

Success takes time; it doesn’t happen overnight. Many entrepreneurs are innately impatient, and this can actually be an amazing quality because they push their employees to success. However, if entrepreneurs are too impatient, they might give up before seeing the success they deserve.

Bel Pesce

Bel Pesce is an accomplished author and has launched several startups, including Ooyala and Lemon Wallet. She is the founder of the FazINOVA school, a private business school founded in 2013.Bel Pesce

This quote is from Pesce’s TED Talk entitled, “5 Ways to Kill Your Dreams.” It’s a great reminder that it’s human nature to become complacent when you’re experiencing success. Pesce’s quote reminds entrepreneurs that it’s necessary to keep pushing even after they’ve reached their initial goals.

Chip Conley

Chip Conley reached success by building Joie de Vivre Hospitality, which is a boutique hotel and restaurant company based in San Francisco. He is an accomplished author and inspirational speaker. I encourage you to watch Conley’s TED talks. They are both inspiring and educational for business leaders or anyone else who wants to find joy in their lives.

Chip Conley

Conley has discovered the importance of emotional intelligence and how it enhances leadership ability. This quote reminds entrepreneurs to examine emotions when making decisions — data, facts, risk and complexity are not the only factors to consider.

Reid Hoffman

Reid Hoffman is best known as one of the founders of the social networking site for business people, LinkedIn.

Reid Hoffman

This quote reminds business leaders that at times it becomes necessary to re-invent to stay relevant. The competitive landscape changes, the market shifts or new opportunities present themselves, which makes transformation inevitable.

An example that immediately comes to mind is the shift from print to digital media. The Atlantic is a great example of a company that successfully made a transformation. The magazine was founded in 1857. They embraced a digital-first strategy to stay relevant in a dying print magazine industry and are currently successful, reporting revenue highs in Q1, 2015.

Sara Blakely

Sara Blakely is the founder of Spanx a highly-successful hosiery company.

Sara Blakely

This quote is a great reminder that entrepreneurs can learn from anyone. Business owners and leaders should take every opportunity to learn from customers, mentors, employees or peers and to embrace the knowledge that’s gained. Being open to a new point of view or perspective can be gold.

Jimmy Wales

Jimmy Wales is most well known as one of the founders of the Wikipedia.

Jimmy Wales

I first heard this quote when watching a 60 Minutes Interview. Morley Safer asked Jimmy Wales why he passed up billions by making Wikipedia a nonprofit. I was intrigued by his humbleness and by how he’s embraced the meaningfulness of his work. The lesson learned? Never lose sight of why you created your business. Find meaning in your work.

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington is most well known as the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. She is a successful author and speaker.

Arianna Huffington

In her book, Becoming Fearless, Huffington discusses the challenges of being assertive and aggressive, specifically for female leaders. This quote is a great reminder for business leaders — especially those who are introverts. When it’s the right time, speak up, be assertive and conquer your fears.

Make the Leap

As an entrepreneur or business leader, what’s holding you back? The next time you need inspiration, think about the ten ideas you read about today.

  • Test and Learn
  • Move at the Speed of Light
  • Embrace Happiness
  • Be Patient
  • Push to a Higher Peak
  • Tap into Emotions
  • Constantly Re-invent
  • Never Stop Learning
  • Don’t Lose Perspective
  • Be Fearless

Is there something you liked about this story? Is there a quote that inspires you? Let us know in the comments.