MacGyver would have killed it as an entrepreneur.
In business – particularly in startups – resourcefulness rules. Everyone I know who has successfully bootstrapped and started a company is really good at getting a lot done with just a little. A friend of mine who started a church told me that one time he actually took a roll of duct tape and split it down the middle so he could get two rolls of tape out of one.
When I started our company on a card table in my living room, I was violently allergic to overhead. I looked everywhere I could to find inexpensive ways to provide elegant solutions. And now that we are up and running, that vibe hasn’t changed much. I still have the allergy, but it’s not quite as severe. We still use duct tape, but we now order it branded.
If you can relate at all to my allergy, here’s some good news: There has never been a better time to find great, inexpensive productivity solutions that provide excellent, elegant workarounds. Here are five that I highly recommend (most of which we use). And for the record, I don’t have any business relationship with any of these solutions. They are just really effective, elegant productivity hacks that cost (almost) nothing.
1. Get an assistant
You might be skimming past this point right now because you think you can’t afford an assistant.
Thanks to awesome technology, you can now have a virtual assistant who schedules meetings for you.
Holly on our leadership team just “hired” her assistant a few months ago. Her name is Amy Ingram, and she schedules Holly’s phone calls and appointments. The best part? Amy works for free, because Amy is a robot.
A company called x.ai created Amy for busy people wasting countless hours emailing back-and-forth about scheduling meetings. Amy has been a huge help to Holly already. Meet Amy, or her counterpart Andrew, at x.ai.
I’ve also heard of Genee, which is a similar calendar scheduling tool to Amy with a bit different functionality.
You might be an entrepreneur who needs much more help beyond scheduling meetings. If so, check out eaHelp.com. This company started about the same time we did, and they have built an amazing team of US based virtual assistants that can add hours back to your day. You can hire a virtual assistant for just a few hours a week or full-time, depending on your needs.
2. Use a virtual booking tool
At our office, all of our consultants function a bit like entrepreneurs. They don’t have full-time assistants and are always looking for automated ways to create efficiency. One of the biggest time-wasters I see them struggle with is scheduling meetings. Virtual booking tools (along with Amy and Genee, above) are a great way to help streamline your scheduling.
A few awesome booking tools to check out:
- Calendly (Holly on our team uses this along with Amy)
- YouCanBook.me (Sarah and David on our team like this one)
These programs each have slightly different functionalities, but all of them allow you to customize your scheduling preferences to alleviate email scheduling overload.
Tip: This type of solution has been particularly helpful with our sales team. We respond to anyone writing into our site within 60 seconds but cannot always schedule a meeting that quickly. Tools like Calendly and YouCanBook.me have made that possible without injecting overhead into the company.
3. Open-source your meeting agenda
Have you ever gotten to a meeting and someone said, “So what are we supposed to be talking about today?” Make your meetings more effective with using list building tools for your meeting agendas.
Our team uses Wunderlist most often for collaboration, which is a free, cloud-based, collaborative list tool. Our team uses it for, brainstorming, task management, and even keeping track of our favorite restaurants near our office. My wife and I use it for a shopping list. The capabilities of adding sub-tasks, assignments, and calendar appointments make it much more than a to-do list.
Wunderlist has made our leadership team meetings much more effective. Any member of our leadership team can add topics, challenges, or tasks to the list throughout the week. Then, by Friday morning, we have a real-time agenda for our meeting. This allows everyone to come to the meeting with ideas since the agenda has been updated with important issues throughout the week.
While I originally adopted it because it was free, I still use it now because it’s the best solution I’ve found.
4. Snooze your emails
Boomerang is a gmail add-on that allows you to schedule emails that you write now to be sent at a later scheduled time and to deliver an email back to your inbox at a designated time.
Inbox for Gmail is an email app that has “snoozing” built into it. If you don’t want the email in your inbox now but need to come back to it at a later date, you can tell Inbox for Gmail to bring it back into your inbox at a certain time or even place.
Inbox for Gmail and Boomerang can help get you to a zero inbox much faster than anything else I know of.
5. Utilize Calendar Blocking
No matter the size or type of business, meetings are a necessary evil. And when meetings stack up, it can be hard to set aside time for working on your business without being at your business.
You might want to try calendar blocking. It requires discipline, but I think the productivity reward is well worth it.
Try scheduling your recurring meetings together in blocks of time certain days of the week. This will help you focus, be present, and avoid the loss of productivity that shifting between projects brings.
Do hard work first. Spend the first two hours of your day working on your hardest challenge right now, then shift to something else.
Schedule 1-2 hours, at least once a week, for long term thinking, visioning, and planning. As the CEO, this rests squarely on your shoulders. The tyranny of urgent tasks is always going to be calling you away from the non-urgent, but all important task of looking out on the horizon for what’s next.
Focus on channeling your mental and emotional energy to focused times throughout the week instead of being distracted by the urgency email can often bring.
They say time is more precious than money. Whether you are just starting out or in a well running business, implement these hacks, and you’ll improve productivity without adding overhead. That’s saving time without spending money, and that will be an advantage that will set you apart from the competition.
This article was written by William Vanderbloemen from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.