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In the times when your business gets busy, it’s natural to long for more work/life balance. Too often, however, balance comes at the expense of cutting back on income producing activities. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way!
Instead of simply working less, look at your overall business strategically, and find ways to make the work that you do more efficient so you don’t wind up earning less, simply for the sake of balance. Here are some tips:
- Review your manual processes. For example, do you have to manually enter customer information each time a customer places an order? Is there paperwork that you are filling out over and over again? Are there business information packets that you always have to stop and make? Consider ways that you might streamline these processes by keeping information in an electronic database (for easy copy/paste or import), making packets in larger batches, or storing filled out documents electronically so they can be printed when needed. Take some time to write down all the manual processes that you regularly engage in, and then see if there are ways you can make those manual processes more efficient.
- Use technology. There are many technology tools that can help you work more efficiently. Use a simple autoresponder like Constant Contact to automatically send emails to all of your customers without you having to type in each address. Store documents in the cloud (using a service like Dropbox) and share folders so people can access the information they need themselves, without you having to stop and send those documents. Use Google Calendar and sync the calendars on your phone, computer, and iPad so appointment information is always handy no matter where you are and you don’t have to take time to reschedule appointments because you forgot about something on your work calendar. If you are not familiar with technology tools you can use for your business, turn to friends or colleagues who are comfortable with technology and ask them which tools they use.
- Learn keyboard shortcuts. If you’re still clicking menu buttons when you want to copy and paste something, it’s time to learn some keyboard shortcuts. According to Brainscape, you can save an average of 8 days per year simply by using keyboard shortcuts instead of mouse clicks. Just Google “keyboard shortcuts” to find shortcuts for your computer.
- Re-evaluate your office layout. Some business owners waste a lot of time simply because their office space isn’t organized well. If you have to walk halfway across the building each time you print something or want to throw something out, you may be well served by rethinking your office layout. Spend a week writing down each thing that makes you have to stop, such as getting a print-out, finding documents that aren’t handy, etc. Then, think about how you could rearrange your space to make the most-used items more convenient.
- Get organized. Brother International Corporation conducted a survey that found that 76 hours per worker per year are spent looking for things. They determined that over $177 billion is wasted annually looking for misplaced items in the office and on the computer. If the thought of getting organized overwhelms you, start small. Set up a filing cabinet and start by sorting the papers on your desk (and getting them put away.) Think about the files you use the most that are currently a big mess on your computer desktop or My Documents folder, and set up folders on your computer for them. Train yourself to put things where they belong, rather than leaving them out, and reward yourself when you follow through regularly.
- Plan ahead. Often a lot of time is wasted when people are together and trying to figure out what to do. So if you are in charge of leading anything from a business meeting to a class party, set up a schedule or agenda ahead of time, and pre-distribute it. That way everyone comes to the meeting knowing what will happen, in what order, and what they need to bring. The result is often shorter, more productive meetings that bring results.
Balance is definitely important, but you don’t have to sacrifice income to achieve it. Instead, look for ways that you can improve your operational efficiency. Your business will be much better off in the long run.
How do you achieve work/life balance in your business? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!