Productivity Hacks for Those That Do It All: Small Business Owners

Have you ever had one of those days where you’ve been heads down for hours, just working like crazy and when you pause to evaluate all that you’ve accomplished, you find that nothing really dropped off your must-do list? If so, you’re not alone. It’s a tough pill to swallow but being busy doesn’t necessarily equate to being effective or productive.

It may be tempting to think the path to productivity is to tackle multiple tasks at once. For example, listening to a conference call while writing a report. 

The more precise word for this behavior? Multi-tasking. People often brag about their ability to multitask but honestly, it’s a myth. Multitasking is as real as a unicorn. There’s no such thing as doing two things at the same time, at least not well and not without added stress.

It may sure seem like a great idea. ‘I can get twice as much done!’ But the output and outcome are never quite that. In fact, when you multitask, you invite more mistakes and take longer to complete the original task had your focus been on only one thing.

Do not fear. Multi-tasking might not be the productivity silver bullet you hoped for but there are actions you can take to help make the most of your valuable and limited time.

Some of the most common barriers to productivity small to midsize business owners face:

  1. Taking on too many tasks
  2. Effective planning and organization
  3. Prioritizing work-life balance

The life of a small business owner can be ‘hecktical’: not enough time and too much to do. Instead of putting too much on your plate, try these actions instead:

Prioritize and delegate. Make a list of tasks and prioritize them based on their importance, urgency and pay-off to the business. Will completing this task move you forward or is it just a status-quo endeavor? This distinction will help you avoid taking on tasks that are non-essential and surface which to-do items are suitable to delegate to others.

Say ‘no.’ It might be a muscle you don’t flex very often but learning to say no to unnecessary tasks or activities can help you focus on priorities and avoid overcommitting yourself.

Set goals but make them realistic. It’s great to be ambitious that quality no doubt has contributed to your success. But take care to set goals for your business (and yourself) that aren’t too lofty. Going ‘too big’ can lead to overwork, burnout and even resenting your clients!

Use technology: Digital productivity tools can help you organize, prioritize, and manage your workload, day and business more effectively. Project management software, apps that track time and help you focus, and scheduling tools are abundant, and many options are low-cost, if not free. And hey, anything that helps make your to-infinity to-do list shorter gets bonus points.

Take breaks. It may seem counterproductive, but taking breaks throughout the day can help boost productivity. When you work non-stop on a single task for a long time, you might find your attention waning. According to a University of Illinois study, researchers found that the longer we work on a task, the harder it becomes to focus. Next time you have to tackle something that’s going to take a solid chunk of time, use that new calendering or focus app and schedule regular breaks. Taking time to step away will help increase productivity, performance and lower stress.

Outsource tasks: This can be a tough one for driven, high performers. But acknowledging you can’t get everything done on your own isn’t a sign of laziness or failure — it’s actually a sign of leadership and wisdom. Consider outsourcing tasks that are not critical to the business or that are outside your expertise. Offloading some of the less important tasks can help not only free up some of your time and resources, but can also give you breathing room to focus on what’s really important — the core business.

Set boundaries. As the person who founded and runs the business, setting boundaries might not compute. You might be thinking ‘Boundaries? I am the business.’ But it’s that very reason why boundaries are so critical.

Without some line of demarcation between you and the work, you can burn out and that’s not doing any service to yourself, your clients or the business. No one else is going to (or can) do this for you — it’s up to you to protect your biggest resource (you) and the relationship you have with your employees and clients.

Here are examples of boundaries you can set with yourself:

  • Establish a work schedule and stick to it
  • Start saying ‘no’ to tasks and to-do’s that aren’t core to the business
  • Resist the urge to take on more client work when you’re already maxed out

No one has to tell you that running a business is not without its challenges. But it should also bring rewards and joy.

Whether it’s eating breakfast every day, scheduling (non-negotiable) personal time or delegating tasks, just like setting boundaries — if you don’t do it, no one else will.

As a successful business, realize that taking a break might be the biggest and most beneficial productivity hack at your disposal.

The LenovoPRO Community is packed with business leaders. We know there are some outstanding, tested and proven tips out there for being productive. Sound off in the comments below and share what’s worked (or what hasn’t) for you when it comes to taking care of business and yourself.

 About the Author

Stephanie has worked in the B2B tech space for more than 20 years for brands such as IBM and Oracle, as well as on the agency side at Uncompany, The Favorite Co., Ogilvy and Mather, Leopard and other agencies. Stephanie believes in putting the reader first and won't rest until she's communicated a motivating, "Why should I care?" message. When she's not writing on behalf of her freelance clients, in her spare time, Stephanie's working on a novel and the occasional poem.

Click to connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn


  • Some of these are obvious, some will work.  

  • Haha, you saying taking breaks was obvious? Haha I never would have thought of that Smile (jk)

  • These are all really good bits of advice, even if some are rather "obvious" otherwise.