Woman at work considers her tasks as she makes notes on sticky notes.
Small business owners often find themselves with more tasks than time. Focusing, being realistic and automating tasks can help you be more efficient with your time. — Getty Images/ xavierarnau

Working this weekend? You aren’t alone. According to a recent survey, most small business owners work 40-49 hours a week, with 81% logging time after standard work hours and 89% working on weekends. Make the most of your time with these productivity tips for entrepreneurs.

[Read more: Get Back an Hour — or More — a Day with These Productivity Tips]

Learn what time you’re most productive

According to sleep specialist Michael Breus, Ph.D., your peak productivity times depend on your chronotype (are you a morning lark or a night owl?). You can do more harm than good to yourself and your business by forcing yourself to work early in the morning when you're naturally more alert at night. It can be equally as inefficient to stay up late when you focus better early in the day.

Understanding your body’s natural rhythms as well as your own energy peaks and valleys can help you design a workday that works best for you.

Block out time for tasks

One productivity secret used by many CEOs is “time blocking,” which is setting aside dedicated blocks of uninterrupted hours on your calendar to focus on a task. During this time, don’t take meetings, phone calls or answer emails. There are many tools that can help with this, including Apple’s “custom focus time” setting and tools like Todoist.

Be realistic

One common mistake business owners make is underestimating the amount of time they have to dedicate to a new project or idea. To see where your time goes, you can audit your days and reprioritize as needed:

  • Write down tasks for the upcoming week.
  • Estimate the amount of time each task will take, including breaks.
  • If you have more estimated time than hours in the week, prioritize your tasks.
  • Record the actual amount of time it takes for you to complete each task during the week.
  • Use the results to adjust next week’s schedule

With actual time-on-task data on hand, you can see where you can increase productivity, which tasks can be outsourced and how much time you can use more efficiently during the day.

One common mistake business owners make is underestimating the amount of time they have to dedicate to a new project or idea.

Focus on one task at a time

Avoid multitasking. The American Psychological Association said research found that the brief mental block that switching between tasks creates can cut productivity by up to 40%.

Try single-focus techniques like Pomodoro, in which you work on one task for 25 minutes, then break for five minutes. Try apps and tools like Momentum or the Pomodoro app to keep track of your work time and break time.

[Read more: This Week on Entrepreneur: How to Make Your Small Business More Productive]

Automate and delegate

Identify opportunities to automate or delegate repetitive tasks.

  • Marketing tasks: Automation platforms can take care of the manual processes associated with emails, advertising, social media posts and other related tasks. Explore HubSpot, SalesForce, Constant Contact and others.
  • Invoicing and payment tasks: Try turning to Quickbooks, Paypal or Stripe to speed up sending invoices, logging expenses, collecting payments and running reports at tax time.
  • Human resources tasks: Outsourcing hiring, payroll and other human resources tasks can help save you time. Look for companies like Gusto, Calendly and other meeting tools in Outlook and Gmail to help set up interviews, meetings and team syncs.
  • Data entry, website maintenance, scheduling and note-taking tasks: look for virtual assistants for hire on Upwork, or use one of the digital assistant apps.

Be speedy

Make sure that your computer, internet connection and typing skills are up to speed. Losing internet connection mid-brainstorm is sure to stop productivity in its tracks.

And, if you can increase your typing speed from 30 to 60 words per minute, you’ll halve the time it takes to create a new document.

Know when to sleep on it

When your brain is tired, you are prone to mistakes, and even simple tasks take longer. The next time you struggle with a problem, consider sleeping on it and see if the answer doesn’t present itself in the morning.

In general, know your own limits. Productivity relies on your body and brain functioning at the highest capacity. Make sure you are eating well, sleeping enough, hydrating, exercising and getting the emotional support you need.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published March 03, 2022