How to be a task minimalist to make your small business better

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my husband to upload some documents to a shared Google Drive folder so I can access them. Here is what he did:

  1. First located the documents on his hard drive by manually looking inside some folders.
  2. Created a temporary folder on his desktop.
  3. Copied the documents to the temp folder.
  4. Then copied the entire contents of the folder to the shared Google Drive folder. 

I was like, "Um, was the creation of that temp folder on the desktop necessary?" He could have saved the documents directly onto the Google Drive. It's just one small extra step, but every little step adds up, especially for small business owners who are often pressed for time. So it's good to take a closer look at exactly how you're completing your tasks and simplify the process where you can on a regular basis. Here are some suggestions. 

Look for repetitions

If you have a lot of repetitive tasks and those tasks often involve clicking on your mouse mindlessly, it's a dead giveaway you can automate or bulk-perform the tasks. 

For example, do you do regular copying and pasting between documents? Here are some examples of how to do it between/within Google Sheets. Go ahead and insert the formulas. Your wrist will thank you! 

Do you find constantly emailing a large number of documents? Upload them to a shared folder for people to access on their own. You can set it up so that every time a new document is added, people with access to the folder will get a notification automatically. 

When you create a new document, do you store it on the desktop and move it to another folder/drive when it's completed? Create a document in the cloud folder and work in it directly so your documents will be always backed up and you no longer need to move them around. 

Do you hire a casual help regularly and you need to train them? Write a detailed manual to reduce the training time. 

Have you noticed that you look for the same information on the internet regularly? Make a note and save it somewhere you can access offline. I used to encounter errors when I tried to connect to the public wifi and end up using cellular data while I googled for troubleshooting. Finally, after a few similar encounters, I decided to make a note and save it on my phone. 

Find a simpler way

Sometimes, the way we've always done something isn't the best way. When you spot any inefficiencies, don't ignore them and make some changes!

Here is a story of a director I know. She likes writing letters on a piece of paper, like the kind used by students, and have them typed up by her secretary. It wasn't because she didn't know how to use a computer. 

She took time away from her secretary who could have been doing something more useful. Her handwriting wasn't neat either, so I'm pretty sure it was laborious to decipher the contents. Typing is often faster than writing by hands, and spell-checking would have been easier if a word-processing app was used, so she was adding more work to herself, too. 

Can you see how many extra tasks were created just because she insisted on writing the letters by hand? Let use this anecdote as a reminder to explore simpler, more efficient ways to conduct business. 

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you and vice versa

If you want to reduce your tasks, you should also help others do the same. Do some Google search before you fire off the emails asking general questions. No one wants to receive more emails than necessary. Also, search your email folders before asking people to forward you that message again. 

Respect others time and effort and ask the same treatment for yourself. There is a school of thought that more service is better than less. But you can end up devaluing your service if you always provided more than what was asked. Don't sell yourself short. 

In a nutshell, you should be frugal with your time and effort. Don't do more work than necessary, and upgrade your work methods when necessary. If you stick with the program, you will become better at spotting inefficiencies which will help you run your business in a more time- and cost-efficient manner.