Most owners of small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) face a constant bombardment of decisions to be made and fires to be put out, but is that really the most productive use of your time?
Most owners of small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) face a constant bombardment of decisions to be made and fires to be put out, but is that really the most productive use of your time? Often, the answer is no. "One of the most common mistakes SMB owners make is spending their day reacting instead of creating and optimizing," says Leslie Barber, a small business engagement officer at Intuit QuickBooks and co-owner and co-founder of NutraBella, a maker of prenatal nutrition products. "I often felt like I was playing defense instead of offense every day."
To avoid that pitfall, Barber recommends starting the day "assertively." Identify at least a few tasks that will move your business forward and get them done before turning to your more mundane challenges. "It will set the tone for the entire day and give you the mindset of playing to win instead of playing not to lose," she says.
One of the easiest and most effective productivity boosters for SMB owners is cultivating the ability to delegate, something easier said than done for many. Business owners often do things themselves that they shouldn't do because they're insecure about having someone else do it, or they believe they can do it quicker or better.
That just signals poor management skills, argues Mike Faith, CEO of Headsets.com. Taking the time to properly train others to do nonessential tasks is a great productivity booster. Not doing so limits your own growth potential as well as that of your business and your employees, he says. Josh Komenda, CEO of 2pointb, a developer of cloud-based management platforms for transportation operators, agrees. "High-quality employees and teams are motivated by getting things done and feeling like their best skills are being fostered and put to use," he says. "If you set a low standard for productivity, you'll likely lose the most important and powerful people in your organization."
These SMB owners and others offer a variety of tips that have helped them boost their own productivity levels and may do the same for you:
- Figure out how you're currently spending your time and commit to increasing your "playing to win" time by 10 percent.
- Get a colleague or an outside consultant to shadow you at work and help identify your most significant productivity blockers.
- At the end of each day, write down two or three things to attend to first the next morning to help boost your business.
- Write down clear and specific goals, with "do by" dates, and hold yourself to them. "It's OK if they change—they almost surely will—but if you're on a concrete path, your approach will be organized, and you'll think about what it really is that you should be doing," Komenda says.
- Be on time for meetings and insist your staff do the same. Most meetings should have an agenda, specific objectives, and a finish time. Free-form meetings should be the exception and are better done in an informal setting, like over lunch or drinks.
- Track your proactive productivity results, so you can see the impact they're having on your business. "Positive results will encourage you to add another 10 percent to your proactive time," Barber promises.
This article was originally published on Inc.