Turn off your phone, and other surprising productivity hacks.

May 17 2019 | PayPal editorial staff

You can’t magically add hours to your day, although you might wish you could when you have to ship orders and update your website and it’s pushing 10 PM. But you can make better use of the hours you have, especially when you’re losing time to last-minute tasks.
To get “in the zone” when you’re speeding through your to-do list, try these simple tips. 
 
1. Tackle the easiest tasks first. 
This is the “low-hanging fruit” approach. Standing in the way of more-important and more-difficult tasks on your to-do list are probably some low-level but necessary tasks that don’t require as much time and focus. Put yourself in the best frame of mind to tackle the big things by breezing through the smaller items first. You’ll enjoy the psychological boost of knowing you’ve reduced the size of the list. 
 
2. Do one thing at a time – and do it well. 
It’s tempting to save time by juggling 3 things at once. While your brain may be able to switch between tasks quickly, it can’t really effectively do more than one thing. Instead of using your brainpower to switch between tasks, increase your efficiency by doing one thing all the way to the finish line then move on to the next task. 
 
3. Turn off your phone. Shut off your email.  
If the idea of disconnecting throws you into a panic, you’re not alone. But even just an hour of “shutdown” time can give you back the minutes you lose when distracted by a ringing phone and email alerts. A great thing to do is schedule disconnected time so you know it’s coming (another way to give yourself a psychological boost).  
 
4. Set your own deadlines.  
There’s nothing like missing a due date for a tax bill, or ramping up too late for a holiday promotion, to make you wish you could travel back in time a few weeks. Since that’s not possible, an effective option is to build real deadlines into your schedule. This may sound obvious, but introducing self-imposed deadlines can put a fire under you so you don’t put off important tasks. 
 
5. Change where you work. 
It can be painfully easy to procrastinate when you’re at the same desk you sit at daily, with the same co-workers and employees. Liven up an afternoon by taking your laptop somewhere: a library, a colleague’s office, or a co-working space. The change of scenery – and the fact that there’s nothing to do but get to work – can boost your energy. If you work from home, getting out is even more important.  
 
6. Ask for help. 
If you’re not getting everything done and you think you’re unproductive, maybe you’ve simply taken on more than you can handle. Find some tasks that you can delegate, or call in some favors for some short-term relief. Maybe your bookkeeper or accountant can take a portion of your financial to-do list; perhaps a fellow small-business owner can help you critique some website designs. 
 
You can also get help from tools. Dan Corcoran, owner of screen-printing business Forward Printing, wants to spend his day crafting quality printed T-shirts that wow his customers. Corcoran sends out customer invoices with PayPal Invoicing, saving time that he and his employees might have had to spend calling customers and taking payments by phone. 
 
7. Get organized for tomorrow. 
Spend a few minutes at the end of each day thinking about what’s at the top of tomorrow’s to-do list. Do you need to assemble some income records for a meeting with your tax planner? Are you visiting a trade show and need a plan for which vendor booths you’ll visit? Get tomorrow’s to-do list started tonight so you don’t feel overwhelmed in the morning. 
 
8. Stay healthy and well rested. 
It may feel like you’re being more productive when you work around the clock, but the quality of your work is likely to suffer. Entrepreneurs are especially prone to burning the candle at both ends, skimping on sleep to do things like check emails late at night, and knocking back too much coffee to stretch out the workday.
 
The catch is: if you’re not getting enough sleep and that’s causing you to feel tired or run down, you’re likely not maximizing your productivity either. So instead, redefine ‘high productivity’ as what you can reasonably deliver while still giving the business your best work.
 
About PayPal for small businesses. 
For nearly 20 years, PayPal is proud to be a partner and platform for over 19 million merchants as they launch, scale and grow. From getting paid online to fast funding, learn how our payment and credit solutions can also help your business. 
 
The content of this article is provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent business, tax, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision. 

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