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Anita Campbell

CEO of Small Business Trends

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7 Ways to Improve Productivity

November 13, 2014

Your time as a business owner or manager in a fast-moving business is equally valuable. Your company’s time and productivity is also valuable. Here are seven productivity hacks focused on getting the most out of each day.

They say cash is king in a startup or small business. That’s because many businesses outrun their cash, leading to disaster.

Well, if cash is king, then time is queen. Your time as a business owner or manager in a fast-moving business is equally valuable. Your company’s time and productivity is also valuable. Here are seven productivity hacks focused on getting the most out of each day:

  1. Create a “day plan”

    Nothing is more frustrating than to reach the end of the day (or, yikes, the end of the week!) only to find you didn’t accomplish the most important things. I’ve found this often comes from not having one to three things in mind that you set out to accomplish that day. Distractions are everywhere. Take control of your time, and don’t let everyone else’s urgencies supplant your priorities.

    You do this by starting each morning with creating or reviewing your goals for that day. Call it a to-do list; I call it a day plan. Whatever you name it, identify those things in the morning, to plan out your day. Five minutes spent on this will give you remarkable focus for the day.

  2. Get it out of your head and on your calendar

    No, I don’t take credit for this idea. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, is famous for the concept of getting to-dos and activities out of your head and onto paper. The concept is based in science. When our brains are cluttered, we are less able to concentrate on and deal with anything. Unclutter our brains, and we are more productive on the things we do concentrate on. I find it’s good not to just create to-do lists to get things out of your mind, but to actually schedule blocks of time on your calendar to handle them.

  3. Implement automation and workflow software

    People who work in large corporations have the advantage of systems that automate the most laborious and repetitive work. In small businesses, we don’t have most of that unless and until we seek out and implement solutions. Tools like CRM and marketing automation software are more available than ever on the market, and they are more feature rich with each passing month. Yet a relatively small percentage of small businesses use them.

    Workflow applications are an even newer and less utilized category. Software such as Knack, KISSFlow, and ZohoCreator can automate chunks of your business if you take the one-time effort to implement them. These are best for automating repetitive workflow rather than managing one-time projects. Stop hunting through emails and chat windows, and get into a more efficient process.

  4. Identify the 20 percent of your 80/20 – like yesterday

    The Pareto principle really is true in business. We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule – how 80 percent of our profits are driven by 20 percent of what we do. The important question is: do you know what that 20 percent is? That comes from knowing your business – especially your financials – inside and out. You may have to track KPIs (see list here) and analyze data relating to them for a while, to understand what really makes a difference. Crack the 80/20 rule, and your business’s productivity and results will soar.

  5. Work in batches

    We are more productive when we can get into assembly-line mode. That’s because we spend less time looking things up, gathering our tools, and orienting ourselves. If you can batch similar tasks into one block of time, you almost certainly will gain speed and be more efficient.

  6. Track time – and turn off the Internet

    It used to be that business people had to contend with phone calls interrupting them all the day long. These days it’s more likely to be email. An even worse culprit is social media sites and the Web in general. Most of us, even those who run online businesses, don’t need to be connected eight hours a day. Use a time-tracking tool like Toggl in your organization for a short time, simply to drive home this point. You may be shocked to learn how much time is frittered away with surfing. Have your employees use it to see for themselves. Surfing and social media may be fun, but how much can you enjoy it if you’re hyperventilating over all the work still on your plate?

  7. Use a Notes tool

    A notes application like Evernote, Microsoft’s OneNote, SimpleNote, or even Google Keep can organize many details, in many different formats and media. They are a tremendous productivity tool that can help you avoid wasted time hunting through emails or, worse, the mental clutter of trying to remember things you don’t have time to address right now. If you need to organize a lot of information from multiple sources for a project or to do daily activities, a Notes tool can be a valuable organizing tool that saves hours every week.

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