How to get more out of your work day

By August 7, 2018September 5th, 2018Performance, Processes & Procedures


Being a small business owner is, for many, a hard slog. It feels as if there is never enough time in the day and there is always a fire or two to be fought with the result being many business owners end up feeling burnt out, stressed and miserable which can lead to  health issues and relationship drama. So, what can we do to resolve this?

The simple answer is to be more productive! What follows are my tips for getting more out of your day so that you’re not only crushing goals at work, but you’ve also got time for the things that matter – family, holidays, hobbies, health and fitness, relaxation … the good stuff!


This is perhaps the best tool for taking control over your working life and one that I swear by. Use the calendar not just for booking in meetings, but use it to block out time for actually getting work done. You can also use it for any personal things you need to attend to – for example, I’ve got some time to meditate booked in every day because without the time blocked out it will invariably get missed for something else that seems more important at the time.

Top calendar tips:

  • Use categories to colour code your entries so you can see where you’re spending your time at a glance.
  • Include travel time between meetings out of the office.
  • Block out time each day to attend to “emergencies” including email triage.
  • Be protective of your time, say no to pointless meetings.
  • Review your calendar, including the next few weeks, briefly every morning.
  • Book meetings for the part of the day you’re least productive (for me that is afternoons).


Email is a tricky beast and one that most people seem unable to master with Tim Ferriss describing the email inbox as the to-do list created for you by other people. Let’s take back control.

First up, if you’ve got a zillion items in your inbox, take a deep breath and follow these steps to achieve the holy grail of modern working life – Inbox Zero.

  1. Block out a morning to clear the inbox.
  2. Setup folders for everything* (e.g. one for each client) including one called “Work in Progress” (marked as a favourite).
  3. Pick out anything that requires action and move it to the Work in Progress folder.
  4. Sort the inbox by sender and file everything important. Do the same for sent items.
  5. Before deleting any junk email be sure to hit ‘unsubscribe’ so it doesn’t turn up again next week.
  6. Anything in Work in Progress move back to the inbox.
  7. Look at each item left once and either:
    1. Resolve it now then file it, or
    2. Just file it, or
    3. Block some time in your calendar to resolve the item and then move it to Work in Progress (until it’s completed).

Now you have an empty inbox! Keep it that way by clearing everything out as soon as possible. Please note the ‘work in progress’ folder isn’t to be used as a dumping ground and it needs to be checked daily, it should really only be for items that you’re not able to resolve immediately for whatever reason (e.g. you’re waiting for a client to respond).

More email tips?

  • Unsubscribe from everything (except for our newsletter, obviously).
  • Don’t engage in email ping-pong – either pick up the phone or save your response for the end of the day.
  • File everything, including sent items, daily.

*There is a school of thought that says filing and folders is old-school given the search functionality of most email programs these days. That’s fine, but for me personally, I find the folders work best. Each to their own!


Far too often you accept a meeting request because it’s easier than saying no. Let’s put a stop to that – your time is precious and most meetings are a complete waste of time. It’s important that any meeting you attend has a clear purpose, each person attending really needs to be there and each person there is fully present (and not playing with their phone/tablet/notebook).

Top tips:

  • Only accept meetings you really need to attend.
  • Always set and send an agenda beforehand.
  • Always ask for an agenda if it’s not your meeting.
  • Keep meetings as short as possible – better to cut the meeting up into parts than let it drag on unproductively.
  • No phones/tablets/computers at meetings unless required for a presentation.
  • Always send a summary/action email after the meeting (if it’s your meeting).

To-do lists

This may seem obvious, but actually writing down what needs to be done can be hugely beneficial. Writing what needs to get done down tends to make it more likely to get done and it stops you from forgetting. Plus, crossing things off a list is hugely satisfying.

Personally, I tend to run two to-do lists, one for what is on today and another ‘master’ list for ongoing projects that aren’t necessarily happening today.

  1. Master list kept in Asana. Handy app that is free to use and allows me to create projects and set deadlines. It works in both a browser and on your phone meaning that if something pops up out on the road you can easily add it in. This is for bigger projects and less for the day-to-day.
  2. Paper note-pad for the day’s tasks. Dead simple. Each morning make your first task is writing a list of what needs to get done today and cross each one off as it’s completed. Easy, effective and satisfying.

Final thoughts

The above is just my take on being productive at the office – everyone will have their own preferred way of doing things. What’s important is that you find what works for you and that you stick with it. It’s all too easy to let overwhelm consume you and have your productivity suffer as a result. Being in control means you’re less likely to be stressed, better able to make decisions and far more likely to be able to enjoy your evenings and weekends with the people who matter most.

If you’ve got issues in your business you don’t seem to be able to get on top of why not get in touch? Not only do we provide a full suite of bookkeeping and tax services here at Generate, but we’re also able to help with business coaching, strategy workshops, business plans and much more. You name the problem and I’m sure we can help.