Simple Tips to Help Improve Your Business

These simple changes could make a world of a difference. Get advice and inspiration on how to start or grow your business.
The rule of two

Be a more efficient time manager by using the rule of two. Focus on the two most important tasks in your day, and you’ll become more productive. (These little rules of business etiquette will help you to get ahead at work.)

File and eliminate

Start a filing system and toss everything you don’t need. Eliminating will make it easier to locate the important papers.

Get a fast start

Limit your work-starting routine to 15 minutes. That is, don’t spend more than 15 minutes getting coffee, settling in, reading e-mails, checking messages, or looking at newspapers. You are often at your freshest and most productive at the beginning of the day.

Write two to-do lists

The first should contain everything that you need to get done soon. It should be a comprehensive list of short-, medium-, and long-term projects and work, and you should constantly adjust it. The second to-do list should be what you can reasonably expect to get done today, and today only.

Note your challenges

Take a few moments to assess the day’s emotional challenges. Almost as important as your to-do list is a “be prepared for” list. Inventory the tough phone calls, boring meetings, challenging customers, frustrating red tape, infuriating rush-hour drives, droning detail work, and other challenges you may face. (Try these effortless ways to reduce stress at work.)

Visualize your day

Try starting each day by closing your eyes for 10 or 20 seconds and visualizing how you want it to go.

Schedule some reading time

There’s not a job that doesn’t require at least some reading, be it about the company, the industry, the marketplace, the economy, the price of tomatoes, etc.

Keep essentials nearby

Stock up on the following: low-fat granola bars; bottled water; bags of slow-dissolving mints or candy (helps prevent needless snacking); supplements, including a multivitamin, B-complex, C and E vitamins, and echinacea (good for when cold season hits or you forget to take vitamins at home); tissues, and family photos.

Be aware of stress

Embrace the number one truth about stress: Only you create it. Take some deep breaths. Make a list of everything that needs to get done. It will help you to organize your day.

Prep for the day at night

Every night before bed, take five minutes to look over the day ahead. This brief look into the future will help you feel more prepared in the morning.

One step at a time

Take on just one new activity at a time. When you try to master too many new activities at once, you can easily feel overwhelmed.

Write down your stressors

Carry a small notebook with you everywhere. This is your “worry” journal. When you feel stressed, whip it out and scribble down everything on your mind at that minute.

Take breaks throughout the day

It will help clear your mind and relieve pressure. Something as simple as going to the water cooler for a drink may do the trick.

Stay scheduled

If you are always running late, sit down with a pencil and paper and see how you are actually allotting your time. Adjusting your schedule can improve your time management skills, thus causing you to be on time.

Don’t stew

Instead, take it out on a small ball you keep in your desk. Squeeze it, throw it in the air, or even take it outside and bounce, throw and catch it until you feel better.

Plan short- and long-term

Use a monthly calendar for short-term scheduling and a 6-month calendar for long-range scheduling. Pencil in all things that pertain to your goals, including classes you want to take, regular exercise sessions, social events, and family time.

Categorize

On a daily action list, categorize tasks: those that need immediate attention (you had better do them yourself), those that can be delegated, and those that can be put off. To avoid procrastination, tackle the toughest jobs first, breaking them into smaller, less daunting components.

Everything has to contribute to a goal

Free up time for the things you really want to do by simplifying your life. Let go of activities that don’t contribute to your goals.

Make use of wasted time

Reduce the waste—and frustration—of everyday delays. Wherever you go, take reading material or a portable music player. Then when you have to wait, you can make good use of or enjoy the time.

Worry

Set aside a half-hour toward the end of the day to worry. Psychologist Roland Nathan believes that having a formal worrying time cuts down the amount of worrying you do.

Be patient

Said one mom and wife: “I wanted everything done my way. I was unwilling to let go of any part of it until it was perfect. So I’ve had to learn to slow down. After a few years, I finally get it: Nothing happens overnight.”

Share your knowledge

Make a point of sharing your knowledge with young professionals as well as high-level executives. Both will remember you for your time and consideration.

Notice trends

Keep abreast of trends in your industry by joining professional associations, attending conferences, and reading newsletters and magazines. Take classes and attend training to learn from others in your field.

Network

Make networking with others in your field a priority. Schedule some time to meet for coffee or lunch or keep in touch via email and social networks.

Keep yourself going

Learn the importance of giving yourself pep talks, and keep the voice in your head positive. Stay focused, and be willing to work as hard as you need to.

Challenge yourself

Try to challenge yourself in new ways. Seek out complex work and new ideas to avoid boredom and repetition.

Take care of your health

Schedule that physical exam you’ve been putting off and make sure you get exercise and take care of any personal issues that are troubling you.

Keep positive

Hold the big picture in your sights. What’s gloomy for one can be a gold mine for another.

Reinvent

Create new products or services—or reconfigure old ones. Implement solutions that are valuable to your key customers.

Don’t do it alone!

Get support from family, friends, coaches, and fellow entrepreneurs.

Compare yourself to other companies

Perform an assessment of the market conditions to find out how you match up to other companies like yours, get clear on your financial position.

Ask for input

Get input from your employees and customers or clients. They probably have a lot of ideas for how you could grow, and it might not have occurred to you to ask them.

Look polished

Project a consistent polished professional image, in order to send the message to the world that the quality of your product and/or service.

Prioritize your tasks

Make a list with categories like, what must get done; would you like to get done, what can wait until another time.

Delegate

Take a step back and learn how to delegate. A great mantra is, “Don’t just do it, delegate it!”

Find and identity

Develop a brand identity which will resonate with the customer and reflect the key aspects of the company, including not only its products, but its culture and goals.

Be a visionary

Picture what you would like your business to be like.

Be committed to excellence

There will always be bumps in the road. It is a part of life and it is a part of business. The true test is how you and your company deal with them.

Be innovative

Find innovative solutions to solve your problems. There are a million ways to grow your business. Find the smart, innovative ways that are best for you.

It’s OK to make mistakes

Embrace your mistakes and learn from them.

Failure is progress

Realize that failures are merely steps in our progress. For example, Thomas Edison made over 10,000 light bulbs before he made one that actually worked.

Be prepared

Luck is the marriage of opportunity with preparedness. You obviously have the attitude part prepared—so the rest is actually doing the basic steps that lead to greatness.

Raise your prices

When pricing most business owners research their market, look at what their competition is charging, and find a happy medium between them.

Go for the luxury market

Find a target market that is willing to pay for premium prices. The luxury market is booming and every business should find a product to serve them.

Growth

Three ways to grow any business: Get more clients; sell existing clients more often; and sell existing clients more stuff.

Collaboration

Whether it is bartering or partnering with someone else, find the people who have what you need and is willing to collaborate with you. A true WIN/WIN situation can skyrocket a business!

|Reader’s Digest