Here’s the thing about productivity: it’s hard to get and it’s easy to lose. You can struggle for hours to hit your stride and just when you think you’ve nailed it down, you get tagged in a Facebook video of a goat falling down a slide and you’re right back where you began.
Whether you’re in the process of trying to get your small business off the ground or you’ve been successfully running it for decades, productivity is key. Without it, no one would ever get anything done and we’d all be out of a job. That’s why we’re here with this handy list letting you know how to be more productive.
Take a Break, Have a KitKat
Okay, maybe give the KitKat a miss but don’t skimp on your breaks. You might think that staring at your screen with a single-minded determination to complete each and every task on your to-do list is the only way to get through your workload, but you’d be wrong. In fact, it’s been pretty well proven that taking breaks is one of the best ways to increase productivity.
When you refuse to have a break, you run the risk of burning out, losing focus, and getting distracted. With short, frequent breaks that allow your mind a few minutes of respite to relax and recuperate, you stand to get a lot more work done, and at a much higher quality than if you’ve spent four hours with your eyes glued to a screen.
One of the most well-documented break techniques is the Pomodoro technique. It suggests that you work in 25-minute bursts, separated by short, 5-minute breaks. After an hour of work, permit yourself a longer break and then start fresh.
Work It Out
You’ve may have already read our recent post about how to keep your mind and body in shape when working long hours. In that post, we mentioned the importance of fitness when it comes to keeping yourself healthy, and we weren’t kidding.
Running a small business is a time-consuming job – believe us, we know! – but don’t allow yourself to slip into the belief that you don’t have time to work out. Failing to get your heartrate up on a regular basis isn’t only damaging your body, it also means your levels of productivity are taking a big hit.
Taking time out of your day to hit the gym or go for a run might seem counter-intuitive to getting the maximum amount of work done, but regular exercise promotes healthier sleeping patterns that leave you feeling more relaxed and energised at the start of your day. It also pumps up your endorphins, meaning that a morning jog can boost your mood for the rest of the day. And, if you needed yet another reason, it increases the flow of oxygen to your brain, making you ready and raring to go when it comes to making those all-important business decisions.
Make Use of the Bits and Bobs
Picture this: you arrive at your office, sit down, and tell yourself that you’re going to spend the next two hours getting that big, looming task out of the way with absolutely no distractions. Then you open your laptop and spend the next three hours replying to ‘urgent’ emails and making tweaks to projects that people have promised you will ‘just take a minute’ when what they actually mean is ‘will take a minimum of 20 minutes’. Then you go to a meeting or two and all of a sudden it’s the end of the day and really you’ve done… nothing.
This eternal struggle of all of your time being sucked up by meaningless tasks can be solved with one simple technique – using the bits and bobs of time that are scattered throughout the day. This is especially handy when it comes to replying to emails. Instead of sitting at your laptop and spending a large chunk of time that could be dedicated to something more pressing, you could bang out a reply to an email:
- While you’re waiting for the kettle to boil;
- While you’re waiting for the train to arrive;
- While you’re sitting on the train with nothing to do but stare mindlessly at other people;
- While you’re waiting in line for coffee;
- While you’re waiting for your toast to pop up from the toaster; or
- While you’re waiting for a meeting to start.
You might have noticed that the key word in most of the above suggestions was waiting. You spend a surprising amount of time every day doing nothing but waiting – stop wasting that time and start using it to your advantage.
Don’t Waste Time Repeating Yourself
We don’t mean in a literal sense, though the less time you spend verbally repeating yourself is more time in your pocket, but in a technological sense. As any business owner knows, sending and replying to emails and creating documents is a part of business. Thankfully there’s an incredibly easy way to streamline this sort of repetitive work: templates.
Sure, you won’t be able to create a template for every single situation and scenario, but investing the time now to create a few simple, easily customizable templates could serve to save you a lot of time in the future.
Spent a bit of time thinking about the emails you send most frequently – they might be following up on quotes, canvassing for new clients, or reaching out to existing customers. While each of these emails will require a personal touch here and there, but bulk of it will remain the same. By having email templates in place, you’re making your own life much more efficient.
The same goes for documents, whether it’s a letter of introduction or a place to store your client information. Having templates in place eliminates the need to either duplicate old documents and remove the existing content or start completely from scratch each time.
Templates also allow you to delegate work quickly and easily. Including a clear process in the template document will mean that anybody who opens it up will have easy-to-follow instructions straight away, allowing them to get on with the work without the need to ask questions.
Make a Schedule. Stick to the Schedule
While we might not be 100% sure just exactly what the #1 cause of derailed productivity is, we can take a good guess: other people. That’s right, our beloved coworkers and customers are making it near impossible for us to get our jobs done.
They’re not doing it on purpose, of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that idle chit-chat, overrun meetings, and unscheduled phone calls are surefire ways to make the time pass with no work to show for it. The way to combat this is simple: make a schedule and stick to it.
If you have a one-hour meeting booked in for 12PM, have a one hour meeting. If you have a 10-minute catch-up with your team scheduled, have a 10-minute catch-up with your team. This sounds easy, but it’s incredibly hard. However, if you stick to your schedule you’ll find that you’ve got a lot more time in the day.
One way to enhance your schedule is through chunking. Chunking is a method that guides you to divide up every one of your tasks, whether they’re to do with your business, your finances, your relationships, or your health, and “chunk” the aspects together into common groups. From there, you will be able to see what is the most important to you, and that will inspire you to move forward and solve that problem efficiently, instead of wasting time being unsure of which task to tackle first. To find out more about the process of chunking, give Tony Robbin’s article a read.
Take Advantage of Today’s Tech
We’re pretty fortunate today to have so many high-tech low-cost solutions at our fingertips. Taking advantage of such technologies can free up valuable time spent on redundant processes and help you focus your attention on growing your business. Accounting, email communication, social media, admin, sales and marketing – there are plenty of tools that can help automate parts of all these business systems.
Even if you’re not ready to dive into the various software and online platforms on the more serious end of the automation scale, you can definitely take advantage of what’s on your mobile. Granted, some of your mobile apps are more of a distraction than a helping hand, but if you look in the right place, you’ll uncover a treasure trove of apps designed specifically to save you time when running your business.
- IFTTT. If This Then That is an app that automates your life. If you post a Facebook update, then it will also be tweeted. If it’s going to rain, then you’ll be reminded to bring an umbrella. If you have an event, you’ll be texted with the details that morning. Whatever you think will make your life easier, IFTTT can do it for you.
- Docusign. If you’ve ever felt the stress of a project being put off or an important document not being able to be sent through because it’s waiting on a signature, Docusign is the app for you. Not only will it save you heaps of time by allowing you to sign and send off documents at a moment’s notice, it will allow you to move the business process along seamlessly without ever having to take your mind off your current task.
- OfficeTime. Raise your hand if you’re bored of sifting through timesheets and trying to work out how many hours has been spent on each individual project. With OfficeTime, you and your employees can record their billable hours on the go and the app will create the invoices for you, all based on the data you input, leaving you with more time to focus on smashing your goals for the week.
- Timeful. Seamlessly merging your calendar with your to-do list, Timeful takes away the time you spend wondering when you should go pick up your niece’s birthday card and what time you should return that parcel by doing it all for you. If you’re looking for a way to optimise your day, Timeful is it.
So, are you feeling productive? We hope so, and we hope these tips will help you take your small business to the next level. If you adopt even one of these tactics as a habit, we’re confident you’ll see an increase in your productivity.