As business owners, we understand more than anyone that time is money. There are only so many hours in a day, which means it’s critical to utilise those hours as effectively as possible.
Increasing productivity can help you get more done in less time, but it’s not just about the volume of work produced. Effective time and project management can also improve work-life balance as you’re not putting in as many hours a day into work. Additionally, using efficient productivity techniques can improve the quality of your work as well.
Increasing productivity is a learned habit that takes time and practice. Below are 19 productivity tips you can gradually incorporate into your daily life to get more out of your business.
#1. Understand your work habits. Track time spent on tasks.
First step in increasing productivity is understanding where your deficits are. For example, you could be efficient at completing tasks but spending double the amount of time writing up a follow-up report.
In order to identify where your productivity is taking a hit, spend a week taking notes on your daily work habits, and track the time you spend on each task. Once the week is over, you’ll have a pretty clear idea of where you could save or invest more time.
#2. Remind yourself of your big picture goals.
Having an understanding of your goals in a specific period of time can help you identify what you’re working towards. Without a clear goal, you risk doing mindless work for the sake of doing it.
The goal could be increasing revenue by 10%, winning a big contract or successfully training a team of employees. Whatever your goal, write it down and put it somewhere that’s visible from your desk. Reminding yourself of the reason you’re working can help you stay on track and give your work meaning.
#3. Set smaller goals for shorter periods.
Having a big picture goal can set the framework of your work, but setting smaller goals for shorter periods can help you keep track of your progress more effectively. For example, your goal for the week could be to finalise the hiring of a new employee. Your goal for the day could be to send the final employment contract after making the necessary changes.
A great way to keep track of your smaller goals is to make a plan for the day each morning. This is a habit shared by many successful entrepreneurs, and it’s as easy as setting aside five minutes in your morning routine to write down what you want to achieve that day.
Once you’ve identified your goals, prioritise your tasks accordingly. Give the highest importance to tasks that directly relate to your goals, and the highest urgency to tasks that are time-sensitive.
#5. Be ruthless! Drop tasks that are not important.
OK, don’t take this too literally. But increasing productivity sometimes requires you to make difficult decisions that ultimately help achieve your goals.
Sure, you can’t just abandon all tasks that are not directly relevant to your goals. However, when there are tasks with no positive or negative consequences (other than the nagging feeling it produces for you), or tasks that require a disproportionate amount of time and effort for little reward, be cutthroat and drop them.
#6. Say no.
Similarly, learn how to say no. When you know your goals and priorities, you understand more than anyone what you need to be spending your time on.
Say no to unproductive meetings, long meetings, email chains, and tasks that can be done more efficiently by someone else (provided it’s their job).
#7. Make a habit of creating to-do lists.
Even the most organised and productive person can still forget things. As a busy business owner, you’ll inevitably forget a task that you made a mental note to get to later in the day.
Consistently using a to-do list is a habit that might take some time to form, but it’s one of the most efficient ways to keep on top of your work. While there are many ways to keep a to-do list like handwriting in a notebook or voice-recording, I recommend using an app that allows you to move around (or flag) the list items according to priority.
#8. Create achievable plans.
Setting daily plans and to-do lists are great for increasing productivity but could have an undesired effect if they’re impossible to follow or complete. Cramming too many tasks and finishing each day with unticked items can demotivate and disappoint you. Try to find the right balance between pushing yourself to achieve more and setting realistic plans.
#9. Focus on one thing at a time.
Multitasking is overrated and unproductive. When multitasking, it can take longer to complete the tasks that you could finish more quickly if you take them on one at a time. Additionally and more importantly, multitasking can produce poor quality results as you’re having to divide your focus.
Increase productivity and improve quality of work by completing one thing at a time before moving on to the next. And when working on a task, make that task the only thing you’re thinking about. The next task will still be there whether you’re concerned about it or not!
#10. Lose the idea of perfection.
Not everything you work on needs to be completed to perfection. Sometimes we get so caught up on producing quality work that we find ourselves agonising over one tiny detail until we get it perfectly right. More often than not, these details are not important and can’t be noticed by anyone else but us.
Increasing productivity means you need to learn to differentiate between the details that are worth dwelling over and those that aren’t.
This is where tracking the time spent on each task becomes useful. If you notice that you’re spending half an hour to construct two paragraphs for an email, it’s probably time to reevaluate your priorities.
#11. Reduce email communication to a minimum.
Emails eat up a lot of time in our daily work hours, and poor email communication methods are probably the number one unproductive habit that most of us have. Reduce unnecessary back-and-forth emails and declutter your inbox so that you can focus on doing actual work.
#12. Follow the 2-minute rule to avoid procrastinating.
Putting off simple tasks can have a snowball effect as they end up piling up and sit in the back of your mind throughout the day to distract you from focusing on other tasks.
If a task takes less than 2 minutes to do, do it immediately. For those keeping to-do lists, you could get the task out of the way in the time that it takes to add it to the list.
#13. Utilise “spare” time.
Not every task needs to be done at the desk. Use your commute to respond to emails or return phone calls. Getting these nagging tasks out of the way before you even arrive at work can free up a lot of your time which can then be spent on other important tasks or give you an early finish.
#14. Determine your own schedule instead of being reactive.
Being productive sometimes means being stubborn and sticking to the schedule that works for you. Taking on everything that comes your way as they come can make you lose focus and end up wasting time. It also means you’re merely putting out fires instead of being proactive.
Once you set a daily plan, try to stick to it as best as you can to avoid letting ad hoc tasks dictate your schedule. For example, if you have set times during the day to check emails, then leave incoming emails until it’s time to check them.
#15. Turn off notifications.
Following from the previous point, turn off email and other notifications. It can be tempting to stop for a moment to check your messages and emails, but each time you check, it takes additional time to get back your focus when returning to your task.
Set aside time to check your emails and messages so that you can still be on top of important communication without letting it distract you.
#16. Limit the time spent on time-wasting websites.
The best thing about the internet is sometimes also the worst thing. Everything is just a click away! That includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit and the news. And once you start reading something, it’s hard to turn back.
Fortunately, there are plenty of Chrome extensions that help you to stay focused by restricting the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting sites. (In fact, the Productivity category of the Chrome web store offers a lot of helpful extensions that can help increase productivity.)
#17. Take proper and regular breaks.
One of the simplest ways to increase productivity is taking proper breaks. Taking breaks can help you maintain physical and emotional health, prevent “decision fatigue”, and restore motivation among other benefits.
While it might sound counterintuitive, regular breaks can help you perform better and improve concentration. So, allow yourself to take time to stretch your legs or make coffee, and encourage your team to do the same.
#18. Distribute and delegate work.
You may have the capacity to do ten people’s jobs, but that’s not the best use of your time and skills. Instead of dragging out a big project by trying to do it all by yourself, distribute work according to your team members’ roles and skill sets so that you can complete the project more efficiently while producing high quality results.
#19. Guide your team to be productive.
In a work environment where you frequently work with other people, working productively isn’t entirely achievable by your efforts alone. It needs your coworkers or team members to be on-board to create a productive environment.
As a business owner, guide your team to increase productivity by helping them learn positive work habits. You could also put in place communication guidelines that set email and meeting rules. Even better, you could offer productivity workshops as part of your team’s professional development.
Lack of productivity is one of the biggest (mostly) avoidable problems that stunt business growth. For example, studies have found that people generally spend a third of their work time reading and responding to emails. And while we can’t all be 100% productive all the time, we can put in some measures like above to practice and improve productivity and efficiency.
If you want to further explore how your practice can improve productivity for higher quality output, talk to the K&W consultants about reviewing and streamlining your business processes.