As a small business owner, time is not on your side. It's no secret small business owners are notorious for working long hours. You have the daunting role of working 'on' the business and 'in' the business. Working on the business is where you chase your core passion and grow the business. Working in the business is all off those small tasks that need to get done like answering emails, conducting administrative tasks like payroll, billing and accounting and other responsibilities core to running a business.

With all of the different items to juggle, you will be tempted to multitask. Although multitasking is occasionally championed in popular culture, it can be detrimental to your business and sanity as an entrepreneur.

Stop thinking you can multitask successfully

Our brains are just not built for working on multiple dissimilar tasks at once. If what you're working on requires some level of thought and attention then it's not possible to split the streams of information and cognition separately and equally. Working memory can only hold between five and nine things at once, and by cutting different tasks, it weakens the ability to have those encoded into short-term memory, which means it won't be transferred to long-term memory. If you can't remember it, you lose it, which means you're going to drop the ball on lots of separate things eventually. As tempting as it is to do everything at once, by focusing on the task at hand you'll get more done faster and intake a higher caliber of recall and understanding.

Organize and batch work

So what's the answer to multitasking? Take the time to organize by priority and batch your tasks. Organizing and batching similar tasks together will decrease the amount time you waste transitioning between projects and increase your productivity. How you do this will be unique to your business but here are some general guidelines.

Designate specific times to respond to emails: Free yourself from checking your email every five minutes and being in a constant mode of reaction to proactively chunking blocks of time to read and respond to inbound emails.

Set specific times for reading news and articles: It's important to stay up to date on the news that is relevant to your business, but today we are smothered by a seemingly never-ending supply of info. Dedicate a set amount of time each morning to catching up on the world and then let it rest until the next day.

Make a meeting day: Instead of having multiple meetings throughout the week where you have to intake a large amount of information and then rush off to the next task, see if you can hold all or most of your meetings on the same day. Carving out this large block of time will give you the mental space to be present for each meeting and allow for real conversations with your team as your mind is not drifting to the next task at hand.

Master the art of saying no

To actually eliminate multitasking you are going to have to learn to say "no" quite a lot. Multitasking is a symptom of the desire to accomplish everything at once. However, a lack of focus is the enemy of strategy. As Sun Tzu famously stated, "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."

If you put all your energy into implementing every idea at once, you won't have a clear path to victory because success requires a focused plan. Commit your time and energy only to the most important initiative at hand.

It's understandable to want to tackle every single item on your list at once. This will prove to be futile. My advice: focus entirely on a specific task, block out distraction, complete the task and then move on to the next item.

Published on: Apr 29, 2017