You probably know the old saying “work expands to fill the time available.” It’s true! The number of tasks you have to perform as a seller often expands faster than sales volume, leaving you with little time to get essential tasks done. And what about time for your personal life?
Time management is one of the most essential skills that you can learn. A great way to get more work done is to learn some “productivity hacks.” These are simple strategies or processes for reducing your workload to increase your free time.
Effective productivity hacks can help you better control your time and, more important, your business. They can also greatly improve your quality of life.
Here are some of the best productivity hacks that work for me:
Check your email only once or twice a day
Constantly checking your email and responding to each message can keep you from getting work done. Instead of watching your inbox, check it only at specific times, perhaps once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Do the same for your Facebook or LinkedIn accounts. Remember that most “urgent” emails are not.
Perform urgent tasks before checking your email
If you have something important to do (such as order fulfillment or site maintenance), complete that before checking your email. Almost every email can wait—the message might be considered urgent by the sender, but that doesn’t mean it is essential for you to respond to it immediately.
Have separate email accounts for yourself and your selling site
You can schedule a specific time to check the customer service email account. (For example, is there a good time to be sure that orders get out with that day’s delivery?) That way a few customers will not distract you from offering good service to all your customers.
There’s no reason to grab the phone every time it rings. Set the phone to go directly to voicemail, and check it after you get other tasks done. If you’re expecting an important phone call, you can leave the ringer on and check caller ID before responding.
Batch your phone calls, instant messages, and emails
Simply set aside specific times in the day when you will be responding to social media, email, or phone calls, and let colleagues and family know when they are. Schedule the batch time after you’ve completed most of your other work.
Turn off social media and instant messaging
Instant messages, texts, and notifications can be a distraction and a time waster. Just like emails, most are not urgent, and you don’t need to respond instantly. Turn them off until after you get your work done. Again, let friends, family, and coworkers know when you will be responding.
Limit meetings and phone calls
Most meetings, whether in person, by conference call, or via Skype, are a waste of time. They can go on for hours with few results. Try to limit your correspondence to emails or social media, if possible. Only schedule calls or meetings when you have time. If somebody proposes a meeting, ask if you can take care of it in another way, such as by email. Something else you can do is to only give your personal phone number to friends or family. That can keep business associates from calling and distracting you.
Kick the multitasking habit
Multitasking doesn’t really help you accomplish anything well, as you’re scattered from one thing to the next. Concentrating on one task at a time is faster and more effective, as you can focus your best work on one job. A good way to avoid multitasking is to have a plan to complete one task, take a break, and complete another task. You’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment!
Schedule your day
Many sellers end up with no extra time in their day because they do not have a schedule. So try to create a basic plan for your work day. For example, I get more done by mimicking a standard workday of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I also get more done by scheduling large tasks early in the day and small busy work later on.
Have a set time to quit
Try to stop working at the same time every day, no matter what’s going on. Don’t stay late at the office or continue to work at home because of problems or crisis. Remember, there’s bound to be some kind of challenge — that’s what life is all about! You’ll be better able to deal with those issues in the morning with a clear mind.
Take advantage of automated time-saving solutions
These include email managers, automated websites, and other tools. Automation can save time, if you take advantage of it. For example, eBay will automatically relist your items. That way you only need to deal with follow-up if an item sells. Most of your website’s functions can be automated. But make sure your have data room companies to make sure all your information is safe.
Create a separate home office space and declutter it
If possible, have a separate room that’s just for your business. That way you won’t see distractions, such as the laundry, the TV set, the video game console, or the dirty dishes. Try to move everything non-work related away from your office space. You might consider renting office space away from home if you can afford it.
Work offline by disconnecting from the internet for periods of time
This might not work for everybody, but it can help some people avoid distractions. Simply unplugging the connection lets you avoid instant messaging, email, and other distractions. Some people use timers to give themselves a specific amount of net-free time. I prefer unplugging until I get a task done.
Hire freelancers to help you
Ask an expert to take care of time-consuming chores you don’t like to do! Think of the free time you’ll create. I increased my writing productivity by hiring proofreaders to take care of editing chores. If you don’t like to do your own web design, writing, or some aspect of your work, check sites such as Elance.com or Upwork.com to see if you can pay somebody to handle it for you.
Outsource your work
If your workload is too much, there are many ways to outsource some of your chores. There are virtual assistants who can perform a wide variety of tasks for you, including customer contact. If shipping items becomes a hassle, Amazon.com’s Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) will handle your customer service chores, including returns. All you have to do is list the items and ship them to Amazon.com’s warehouse.
Drop shipping enables you to increase the variety of goods you offer without having to store more physical inventory or handle shipping tasks.
These are just a few of the great productivity hacks I’ve discovered. Try implementing these and looking for more until you can discover what works for you. You can reduce your workload by using time management and working smarter to get your tasks done.