By Susan Guillory

We all want to be more productive, but who has time to actually do it? You do, my friend. Here, I’ve built a 12-month calendar, each month with a single activity you can focus on to increase productivity this year. So get cracking!

January: Check Your Email Less

Okay, let me just confess that I’m not good at this. But I will be. There’s a lot of advice about how frequently (or not frequently) you should check your email. Check it twice a day. Don’t check it in the morning. Use whatever system works best for you, but the point is: check it less frequently.

Checking email every few minutes derails you from what you’re working on. Also, when you check it a ton and respond promptly, you’re setting up the expectation that you will always respond within 5 minutes, and that’s not something you want on your shoulders.

February: Automate Something

There are tons of software programs that automate things you’d normally do manually, so pick one or two and count your time savings:

  • TwitterFeed: automatically publishes your blog content to social media
  • ActiveCampaign: sends an email series when a trigger happens, like someone signing up
  • Zapier: automates lots of different processes, like adding new customers to your CRM

March: Use a Digital Calendar

If you’re still writing your appointments into a paper agenda, it’s time to step into the 21st century. I love Google Calendar because it syncs to my phone and devices, and I can invite people to events. I even use it as my to do list, so I’ve got time blocked off to work on projects each day.

April: Delegate Something

I’m all about delegating work. If you suck at something or it takes you too long to do it, hire someone else. Marketing, accounting, and design are good places to start. Then use that time you created by working on growing your company.

May: Get Out of the Office

How does this make me productive, you’re wondering. You’d be surprised at what getting out of the office and clearing your head can do for you. If you’re stuck churning over a problem or are looking for fresh ideas, take a walk outside.

June: Clean Your Desk

We really learn to ignore the piles of crap on our desks, don’t we? This month, organize everything. Throw things away or file them. There’s no sitting and gathering dust allowed. 

July: Clean Your Desk(top)

Do the same thing to the files on your computer — organize your desktop. Delete what you don’t need. Rename files to make them easier to find, and organize them in folders that make sense. Look into a cloud storage to make your files accessible from anywhere.

August: Pick 3 Priorities a Day

If you get overwhelmed with what to work on each day, try this: at the end of one day, make a list of the top 3 things you need to get done the next day, in ranking priority. Once you get these items marked off your list, you can move on to the ancillary stuff.

September: Use Project Management Software

I don’t care what kind of business you run: you have projects. And it’s easy to let things slip through the cracks if you’re not on top of all the details. Project management software like Basecamp helps you stay organized with to-dos, and you can assign them to members of your team.

October: Organize Your Finances

Don’t wait until tax time to categorize your expenses, check in on past-due invoices, and otherwise get your accounts in order. If you don’t use accounting software, you should. FreshBooks is affordable, and you don’t have to be an accounting whiz to figure it out.

November: Stay Off Social Media

Now, I’m not completely restricting you from looking at cute cat videos, but don’t do it while you’re supposed to be working. It’s a huge distractor. If you need to manage your accounts for your business, do it, but put on blinders so you don’t fall into the social media black hole. Save that for quitting time.

December: Pick a Productivity App

Think about what areas you’re still struggling with being productive in, and find software or an app to help. That might be customer relationship management to keep track of sales and conversations with clients, popup software to help you get more email addresses, or payroll software to streamline paying your staff.