Be an Expert of Efficiency

You can become an efficient entrepreneur with these helpful tips for improving productivity, impressing clients, delegating the right tasks, and more.

Are you wondering how to keep all your goals, projects and tasks moving forward effectively? This article is going to help by sharing with you some simple, effective, and efficient steps to move you forward! I should know because of 10 years of working in Corporate Quality Engineering for one of the world’s largest carpet manufacturers and now being a business owner since 2006. I serve countless business professionals helping them focus on their goals, leverage just-in-time resources, and grow their Chattanooga, TN community connections. All this targeted support has improved my willingness to focus on helping you achieve your goals. Let’s make things happen!

idea concept using light bulbs

Deadlines & Scheduling

learn how to hit your deadlines

Taking the time to work out a schedule and set firm goal deadlines will help you, your staff and business stay on track and make your clients happy. And we all know that happy clients are so much easier to work with and for. I would love for you to take a moment and look at some of the things I have learned with all my experience in the business world.   

Stay Organized by Using Lists

Our brains tend to place a little more urgency and importance on the things we deem worthy of writing down. An added bonus is you have reference to guide your daily activities. This is why my first tip to you is to write things down. Write down the estimated due dates, even if you don't have specific dates yet. Write down what you need to do, any calls or emails you need to make, and anything else important that's needed for you to deliver on the work. Order the tasks by due date and prioritize them so you know where to start.

Make sure the 'why' of your actions is top of mind when setting your priorities. Experts emphasize that you set your intentions at the beginning of your work day and usually no more than three main goals. If you get more than three done, you are #winning!

Don't Be Afraid to Communicate

Most deadlines are not set in stone if you're planning in advance of a due date with some time buffer built into the project deadlines. Coordinate with coworkers, employees, and stakeholders to make sure everyone is aware of potential delays. This one communication step builds service integrity for yourself, your company and your brand. Don't be afraid to be realistic with your deadlines and even overestimate with extra time to achieve a task, especially if you feel there is a complexity to a project and it could cause a problem. 

Also don't be afraid to ask for help. You are only one person. You will need to lean on others to help you complete some things or run interference on other unrelated scheduled projects or tasks. Recognizing this ahead of time instead of waiting until you're falling behind can be the difference between successfully meeting deadlines or missing them.

Break it Down into Manageable Steps

No matter how big or small the task is, break it down into bite-sized steps. In our business we often have large goals that we need to accomplish. Some of these projects, tasks or goals can be so large that we can't see how we are ever going to get them finished in time. But by taking the large tasks and making them into smaller daily to do lists makes them seem easier and we feel like we have gotten more work done during the day. Who doesn't want to feel good?

Consistency of action is the key. Keep moving the incomplete tasks forward and work on them first before taking on another project or task. If you take one positive step every day in the direction you want to go, at the end of the year you will have accomplished 365 steps toward your goal! 

people meeting at a table

Effective Meetings

how to make the most of everyone's time

It's time to learn the ugly truth about running a business meeting, because they can take up so much time of what might be an effective day of work. All to often you are in a meeting that runs longer than it should or even worse a meeting that could have been an email. So take your time and be sure that what you need to discuss is actually worth having a face-to-face meeting. 

Create a Standard for How Meetings Will Be Run

I am going to let you in on a few ways you can have a great meeting. Be sure that your objectives are clear and that you state them at the beginning of the meeting. A meeting agenda can keep you on task. This lets others see you have put thought into the reason for the meeting and you have a clear plan for how the meeting should go. Next, you might consider standing up if you're leading the meeting. By doing this you will be more likely to keep the meeting moving along as planned and not run over. End with a review of your meeting agenda. This will ensure you address your objectives with building an action plan; this is important because this gives everyone present a clear idea of what they need to accomplish. And finally, wrap up the meeting in a clear and precise way with a quick review of next-action steps. You don't want to leave people guessing if it is alright for them to leave and get back to work. 

I also recommend you send the agenda with any updates for next-action steps to the meeting attendees. This will create a checklist and task responsibility for follow up if the work is ongoing.

Eliminate Non-Essential People from the Meeting

By having the decision makers in the meeting you can ensure that decisions can me made then and there.  If a situation comes up and one of your key-individuals can't be there make sure that they send in someone who can speak for them or at least take notes and report back to them so they can have all of the information they need to make those important choices.

Ditch the Boring PowerPoint Text Slides

Visuals are good - but bullet point lists on slides that you, as a presenter, read through are not. Meetings should be a place to brainstorm, review ideas, get new ones, etc. PowerPoint text only slides hinder the creativity of meetings. Text only slides are boring and not that visually appealing. They can make a meeting seem to drone on and on. There are products out there to help you make your meetings pop. Check out our YouTube Playlist: Helpful Business Apps. See what you think about using one of these apps at your next meeting. We'll be adding apps to our playlist, so we hope you'll subscribe to our YouTube Channel for more ideas.  

people meeting at a table

Optimal Office Space

how to find your perfectly productive business home base

Where you work is important - it sets the tone for you as a business professional, gives you flexibility with the opportunity to leverage resources to grow, and determines how effective you will be as you get your work done. We have all thought about working from home at least once in our lives at this point. But are you really prepared for what all that would entail? If you are thinking about taking this path in your work life take just a minute and let me help you understand all of your options, and whether this could be the right choice for you. 

Option #1 - The Home Office

PROS:  A home office can have it's advantages....

  • No Commute
  • Greater Flexability
  • Your day can be less stressful
  • Save money on travel and clothing
  • Improved work/life balance
  • No one looking over your shoulder
  • Avoid workplace drama
  • Live and work where you want
  • Own or lease office equipment for tax write offs

CONS: Unfortunately, it also has some drawbacks...

  • People can search the Internet and find where you live
  • Can be lonely
  • Hard to shut down your work day
  • Difficult to form work relationships
  • No clear separation of work and home life
  • It's a challenge to collaborate with other business professionals
  • May have more interruptions
  • Hard to be perceived as a professional
  • Have to purchase, lease and maintain office equipment

To me an efficient home office space is like a unicorn. It's elusive and almost mythical. While there are some people that make it work, there are a great number who crash and burn. This can cause people to give up in their dream. Don't be one of these cases, take time to look at all of the options. You want your business to be a success and you want it on your terms. It is possible. You may need to have a space outside of your home to call your own when you really need it.

Option #2 - Virtual Office with Conference Room Access

PROS:  A virtual office space can have it's advantages.... 

  • Low operating costs for fully furnished private meeting rooms with beverage service which can be booked online, ready when you are, no invasion of your client's privacy
  • Easy access to support staff on an as-needed basis who keep your business information confidential
  • No commuting, correspondence received at your business address can be mailed/shipped to where you are
  • No relocation issues, even if you might be working on the move
  • Flexible work times for both you and your clients, keeping costs low
  • Business street address access
  • Access to copier, scanner, fax, shredder, postage/shipping services and more

CONS: Unfortunately, it also has some drawbacks... 

  • You may feel isolated and need to be reminded you have help
  • You think you cannot share "company knowledge"
  • You think there is no ability to track employee productivity 
  • You think it's hard to meet as a company because you don't own the space
  • You may lose out on promotions because your technology helped you filter digital communication
  • You may lack "teamwork," because you need to communicate differently than face-to-face

Virtual office space is great for someone who is working on the move, starting their business in Chattanooga, TN or wants to save on business expenses. Doing this can give your business a physical street address, a professional presence in the business community, office related services such as a mailing address, professional meeting space and more. This can give you the freedom to work from anywhere but still manage to have the great professional appearance when you meet with potential clients. You won't be forced to meet in coffee shops, restaurants, or public spaces to have private business conversations.

Option #3 - Purchase Office Space

PROS:  Purchasing your office space can have it's advantages....

  • "Fixed costs," with locked in rates for a period of time
  • Tax deductions
  • Additional income (rent out extra space)
  • Permanence
  • You control property access
  • You furnish the space
  • You choose the utilities and support services like housekeeping, Internet, equipment, etc.

CONS: Unfortunately, it also has some drawbacks...

  • Lack of easy flexibility with market fluxuations 
  • Requires larger initial capital
  • You pay for remodeling
  • No guarantees
  • You pay and manage utilities individually
  • You manage office support services individually...Internet, housekeeping, furnishings, equipment, postage/shipping, etc.

Making the choice to buy or rent the office space for your business is a hard one. When trying to make the right choice for you and your business there are so many options to think about.

Down payments or deposits, flexibility or equity, and control or no control over the property. Having a space to call your own is great and gives your business a presence in the world. But remember with all of the time and commitment that come with owning a business be sure to take your time and don't make rushed decisions in all of the excitement. Many businesses fail in the first year and sustained growth is the goal. Planning and thought have gotten you where you are today and that is what will keep you going strong in the future.

Option #4 - Rent Office Space

PROS:  Renting your office space can have it's advantages....

  • Low financial commitment 
  • Prime property
  • Tax deductions 
  • Easy to move out after fulfillment of the rental agreement
  • Some utilities may be included with the office space

CONS: Unfortunately, it also has some drawbacks...

  • Broker fees
  • No equity build up
  • Rules for use of the space 
  • No control (common area maintenance, rent prices, changes to building, etc.)
  • Make sure you understand where your responsibility begins and ends for the space

 When you want to rent office space for your business or you want to make a change to your current businesses location, take your time and think of all the requirements you want to space to meet. Make sure it has the correct amount of square footage. Does the existing layout work for you? Is there access to parking?

If you're renting space in Downtown Chattanooga, parking is a big concern.  It seems like you never get a spot where you need one, and if you have a meeting you want your clients to get to you without having to hike for miles. Consider who the business neighbors are and what happens in the surrounding blocks of the building. Will there be large groups of people trying to park for conventions or public events? Is there convenient street parking for easy in and out if you have to grab a document for your next meeting? Just take a few minutes and look at all you need and get in touch with a professional who can help you find what you need.

man being productive on a laptop

Productivity Tips

learn to maximize your minutes every day and get more done

There are only so many hours in a day, and too much to do. Set goals for what you want to achieve and plan ahead to make the most of every precious day you have. We all have things that we have to get done in an average day. So take the time to sit down and make a plan that works for you. 

While we are talking about being more productive, I want to offer you some advice and ideas on how you can make yourself more productive and get more done than you thought you could.

Value Your Own Time

Don't be afraid to let people know you have an appointment after this meeting and you will have to end right on time. Don't bend over backwards and reschedule your whole day just for one appointment. Value yourself and your time and others will too.  Reduce distractions, spend less time on the phone, and stay focused. Sometimes this may see impossible, but believe me you can do it. There are so many apps or techniques to help you learn how to manage your time and get more done that you don't have a reason not to try one.

Prioritize and Conquer

Knowing how to prioritize your work can affect your success.  The biggest challenge for managers and leaders is how to prioritize daily work. Everyone has different ways of managing projects and deadlines. In this section I will give you a look at what I do to make everyday a success and get things done.

Make a to-do list.

  • Keep it all in one place, not scattered around on a bunch of post-it notes or in your own head.

Order your to-do list.

  • Make sure that you have it in order from most to least important.

Post your to-do list.

  • Put your list somewhere that it is in plain site and you will see it all day.

Avoid multitasking.

  • Yes, AVOID multitasking. You may think to you are great at it but no one really is. This just makes it harder for you to give the tasks your whole concentration.

Avoid unnecessary tasks.

  • Even the best of us find that one thing that you could do really quick just to know if out of the way. But don't! Add that to you list for tomorrow.

Set realistic deadlines.

  • This one is very important.  You have to keep things real. You are not super human, don't set goals that you will never reach.

Set your break time.

  • This one may be the most important. You have to take a break. Breaks let our brains breath and rest. You might think that you can go strong all day but there is nothing wrong with taking a quick 15 minute walk outside or just around the office. There is no reason to work so much that you get burned out. Plus, you'll have better health is you take a walk and clear your head.

Put away distractions.

  • Clean up your work-space, your desk top and put your phone away. It just takes a minute to remove things that can make you lose your focus and then you fall down the rabbit hole for 30 minutes. When that happens you have to pull yourself back in and that can be harder than starting from the beginning. 

Get Organized, Improve Communication, & Keep Your Sanity

Doing these simple things can help you stay on top of your schedule. When you know when and where you are supposed to be it helps you be more reliable. Taking these simple steps can make your day go by easier and let your clients and customers know they can depend on you.

Organize your space.

  • Purge - Empty, shred, and de-clutter. Take a moment and look around get rid of anything you have not used in months.
  • Work Zones - Make spaces for different types of work ie. computer work and non-computer work.
  • Good Labeler - Make sure it is easy to use. Label baskets, bins, and drawers.
  • Clear your desk - Remove everything and clean it completely, and put back only the things you use and need.
  • Organize your desk - Now that you have cleaned and gotten rid of all the clutter its going to be easy to get organized.  Get bins and desk organizers, remember to use that label maker. 

Organize your appointments.

  • Move to modern - Most of us carry around a calendar everywhere we go. The great thing is a digital calendar will remind you with an email and a pop-up event reminder.
  • Set a routine - Set a time that works best for you morning, noon, or night and add the next days info. You can do this daily or weekly, but set a strict time and stick to it.
  • Add new information right away - Don't wait to add something new thinking that you will remember it.
  • Plan ahead - Set your appointment times so that you can arrive early.
people working together on a chart

Decisive Delegating

get more done by getting more people doing things

Delegating can be scary - you have to trust that someone else will put the quality and compassion you have into the project.  While that can be difficult, it's often necessary for you to be able to get work done.

When you delegate it allows employees to grow and be more productive. Delegating is also an effective way to encourage your staff to learn new skills and goal setting.  While it is true it also helps you develop your own coaching and mentoring skills. 

Outsource Projects to Independent Contractors

Use sites like Upwork to find and hire talented individuals for one-off projects. Build relationships with people that can be trusted to do the job and work with your objectives in mind. There are some risks, but the rewards can be great. Independent contractors are a popular choice for small business owners who don't have a need or want to hire traditional employees. But just like any business there is a need for work to get done, and you can't do it all on your own. Making the choice to get outside help is a big one to make, so I am going to give you some of the positive effects it can have for your company.

Save Money - Yes, its true you usually pay Independent contractors more per hour, but you don't have to pay all the other expenses, i.e., unemployment, social security, and medicaid taxes.

Increased Flexibility - Using an Independent contractor can give you access to skill sets that would normally cost your company much more when hiring that person to join your company.

Training - The only training you have to provide is learning your policies and your on-boarding process.

Hire a Virtual Assistant / Business Concierge

They work with you to take over simple day-to-day annoying or repetitive tasks to free you up to focus on more important things. Business Concierge support can help with insider information for all kinds of tasks and community connections. Virtual Assistants help make you successful. Plus they provide additional benefits through their own connections. I know that it can be hard to let go of some tasks that you fill should be personal and up to you, but taking some of these tasks and giving them to a virtual assistant or business concierge is a great way for you to stay productive...

  • Bookkeeping
  • Online Research
  • Database Entry
  • Manage Emails
  • Social Duties
  • Personalized Services
  • And so many more...

Move to an Office with Management Built In

Many business owners that are moving into an office for the first time don't realize all the day-to-day things that have to happen to keep the lights on and functional - trash, cleaning, coffee, water, toilet paper, etc. If you hate managing your office space or you're not making money by managing your office then consider moving somewhere that has these amenities built in.

Renting your office space in a building that offers these services is great because you can stay focused on the money making work you need to do and the staff that come with the office can do all of the "little things" you would never think of like making copies, managing your guest correspondence while you travel, take care of dry cleaning, and more. Sometimes we don't take the time to think about how the office stays so clean or how the break room is always stocked. Think about managing all the time to manage multiple support vendors and utilities. But when you strike out with your own office you understand that someone somewhere had to deal with all of those and now it is up to you or is it?

business man meditating while his papers fly away

Reduce Stress

how to use your down time effectively to recharge

Business owners like to burn the candle at both ends - but it will catch up to you.  Chattanooga has so many great ways to unwind - you need to take advantage of them. From hiking to museums you never have to feel cooped up. We also have some of the best restaurants around. If you are new to the area and want to get out and meet new people then just take a stroll across the Walnut Street Bridge and visit Coolidge Park. You just never know what you might end up doing in this wonderful city we call home. We've been working on our YouTube Playlists for exciting experiences to become more familiar with Chattanooga and all the great things that happen in our gem of the South. Make sure and click the bell to get current updates.

The Myth of Work / Life Balance

Professionals are always chasing the myth of balance in their work and home life. The simple truth is that life is full of curveballs.  Some days your home life is more demanding and needs you, and other days your work life has to take precedence. The true balance lies in making the most of the moments you have and making an effort to find more moments.

While work is important so is your family and your health. If you don't take some time to work on those then they can both fail and that is never good. Just remember that email will always be there tomorrow, so take a few hours and just relax or go play in the yard.

Unwind in Chattanooga

Chattanooga is full of food and fun and events that you can enjoy with your family, friends, coworkers, and clients. The Chattanooga Zoo, Tennessee Aquarium, and Rock City are just a few that you could go to on any day and have a great time. And while your clients came to have a meeting with you, maybe they would like to have a chance to relax and get to know you in a less formal setting. 

Here are some great additional happenings in Chattanooga:

  1. A Guide to the Chattanooga Market
  2. 5 Ways to Stay Active & Fit in Chattanooga
  3. Advantages of Work & Play in Chattanooga
  4. A Local's Guide to Chattanooga: Top 10 Must-Do's
  5. 5 Best Overnight Stays in Chattanooga
  6. 3 Steps to a Winning Morning in Chattanooga
  7. Chattanooga's Just Desserts!
  8. Chattanooga's Best Places to Eat Outside
  9. Top 10 Chattanooga Restaurants