Many small business owners report “wearing too many hats” as their number-one bad habit, according to a 2015 survey from business tech company, Brother International. Respondents say they overload themselves with too many responsibilities and want to kick the habit.

Running a business means having a wide variety of items on your to-do list, but focusing your energies can help you accomplish what is most important. Try these steps to streamline your work life and get more done.

Know where your time goes

Most people are surprised to learn how they actually spend their time each day. A quick visual exercise can help make this clear and put you on the track you want. Draw a circle and cut it into “slices” to represent how you spend your time each week. For example, if you spend 10 percent of your time on bill-paying and 5 percent on phone calls, draw “slices” to represent that time spent. This may seem silly, but it is very instructive and the outcome may surprise you. Don’t worry about making this too exact; even a rough estimate will be very instructive. Pinpoint the tasks that can be delegated, such as bill paying, collections, marketing and other non-core tasks and then delegate them. Redo this exercise until your circle has a few large slices instead of many tiny ones. Chances are this will be good for business.


Focus on what you do best

Every entrepreneur has innate talents that contribute to company success. The more you can focus your time on what you do best, the more productive you will feel and the more you will accomplish each day. Your natural strength may be the talent on which you founded your company, or it may be problem solving or another talent that is important to business success. Whatever it is, dedicating more time to the tasks that come naturally to you will boost efficiency. Create a list of your natural talents. If you are struggling, ask the people in your life who know you best for their thoughts.


Use tools

Even the most focused people can benefit from structure to keep on track. Research from Google in 2015 found that 81 percent of the fastest-growing companies actively seek out new technology to help them get more done. Set timed alerts that let you know when you should turn your attention to a particular item on your to-do list so you can fully immerse yourself in one task at a time and not have your attention siphoned off by worrying about when you need to handle other things. Mobile apps are available that can help with this. For example, Swipes, a to-do list app, allows you to prioritize business and personal tasks so you can work on a single task at a time. Teams might use a collaborative app such as Asana to group tasks by project and streamline communications.


Manage your tech

Technology can boost your productivity, but the most effective entrepreneurs control how they use it. A steady stream of emails and the buzzing of your phone can hurt your ability to immerse yourself in a task. Just knowing you’ve gotten a message or email is distracting even if you don’t deal with it right away, according to 2015 research from the University of Florida.

Smartphones allow you to choose which alerts you want to get, so turn off all of those that aren’t necessary. (Go to the “Notification Center” under “Settings” in the iPhone or “Sound & notification” under “Settings” in Android to have a granular view of your apps alerts). Avoid starting the day by looking at emails; it will likely sidetrack you. Instead, start your day by immersing yourself in bigger priorities and set aside specific times throughout the day to deal with emails. Researchers overwhelmingly find that interruptions hurt overall productivity, so set aside specific, “interruption-free” hours in each day when you focus.


Get sleep

Lack of sleep has been shown to impair short-term memory, decision-making ability and attentiveness. Most sleep experts recommend sleeping seven to nine hours to improve creative thinking and sharpen the ability to respond to unexpected challenges. When that isn’t possible, entrepreneurs take short naps during the day to reenergize — even a brief nap of five to 15 minutes can improve cognitive performance, according to a 2010 study from Flinders University in Australia. Consider having an end time for your use of technology each day, since the light from screens has been shown to make it difficult to get to sleep.


The demands of running a small business lead many entrepreneurs to bite off more than they should chew, but sticking to these strategies may help you compartmentalize your time better and work more effectively. Assess your habits and the habits of your team, and look for ways to implement these ideas in your workplace.

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