It’s a story as old as
time business. “Oh, I’ve got so much to do, but so little time!”
Productivity is on everyone’s mind, especially small businesses in today’s crowded, ultra-competitive, uncertain business landscape. Getting things done (GTD) is important, and so is getting them done very quickly.
You’re expected to do everything — from strategic planning to marketing to sales, even customer service. You’re expected to have the pulse of your market and truly know your customers. As you build new products and services to stay ahead of the competition, you’re also expected to add value to your employees’ lives — great amenities, fair compensation, and friendly workplace culture. Simply keeping up is a feat worthy of the greatest legends. Like I said, “so much to do, but so little time.”
Whether you are a solopreneur or part of a small team building your dream like us, you are likely juggling multiple roles and responsibilities. Staying productive is difficult. In this blog, we share 5 tips to increase productivity so you can better achieve your small business goals.
Setting goals is key to achieving success in any endeavor, including the world of business. Goals serve as a guide to keep you on the course each week, each month, and each quarter. They prevent you from getting distracted by ad hoc meetings, running away on tangents, and spending time on unimportant tasks. Besides providing future direction, goals also help guide everyday decision-making within your business and reduce stress for your employees. Ta da! Productivity soars.
Make sure your goals are measurable, achievable (a little stretch is good, but be realistic), and known to all within the organization. That helps put everyone on the same page — working toward the same outcome. When employees know where they should focus the bulk of their time each day, they’re better able to prioritize their workload and manage their time.
Last but not least, we should review the progress of our business goals with our team frequently — every week — so everyone knows what needs attention and stays motivated to achieve objectives.
The know-it-all, do-it-all, one-person-army solopreneur exists only in our imaginations and PR news releases. It’s a nice image, but you know it’s not true. Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates are not all-powerful demigods running around doing everything themselves. Like every successful entrepreneur over the ages, they’ve leveraged the power of delegation to grow from humble beginnings to the big businesses they are today.
If you’ve done it all so far and you’ve done it well, think of all you could do and how much faster you could grow with just a few more hands on deck. As your small business grows and as you hire new employees, running everything by yourself is simply a shortcut to burnout. To truly take your business to the next level, you have to learn to delegate.
Delegation done well is a win-win for you and your employees. The first (and obvious) step in effective delegation is finding the right people for the task. The other critical element is providing clear, detailed instructions and communicating desired outcomes while giving your employees the freedom to do it by themselves without micromanaging.
Sounds tricky, right? Giving employees the training to get a job done and the autonomy to do it is the real force multiplier when it comes to delegation. You’re not just getting a list of tasks done. You’re equipping employees with business-critical skills and leveraging every brain in your organization to find the most efficient way to get things done. It’s not micromanaging where it’s your way or the highway. You’re building trust so everyone on the team is motivated to be as productive as they can be.
It sounds counterintuitive, but the key to getting more work done is taking breaks from work. Having enough time off to rest, relax, and recharge is an essential part of being productive — not to mention that it’s also less stressful. The research seems to agree — taking breaks has been shown to have a positive relationship with productivity and well-being.
True, it’s not as obvious day-to-day, but you still feel it. Think of when you hit a block on a problem and stepped out for a walk (like I did when writing this article). Sometimes not thinking about the problem for a few minutes is all you need to shift perspective and solve it from a different angle. Short breaks peppered throughout your workday can boost your energy level, decrease exhaustion, and amplify focus so you get more work done.
Longer breaks — holidays and vacations — are equally essential to boosting business productivity. They help you (and your employees) unwind from the punishing daily grind so you come back to work rejuvenated with more enthusiasm to get things done.
Happy employees are more productive. Giving generous time off to your employees is a tried-and-tested method to reduce anxiety and stress in the workplace, which means they are more focused and productive when they are at work. Consider blocking time off on your calendar so folks know when to reach you (and when not to).
Speaking of calendars, at least a third of our workday goes into scheduling and managing emails. That’s time you can put it to much better use. Starting your day with a messy inbox diminishes focus and saps your strength, so it’s easier to fall behind on your work. That is why staying organized is a big deal.
Effective inbox and calendar management involves strategies such as planning your workday, building an email routine that works, using rules and folders to automatically organize your inbox, and blocking time for deep work. It sounds like a lot to do, but it really isn’t. Consistency is key. (Plug: Titan makes it easy.)
Encourage your employees to build an efficient email routine and put it into action every single day, and a few weeks later, everyone has more time to GTD. And there are fewer distractions too. Pair that with a collaborative tool such as Asana or Trello so your team can work together on projects and tasks, and everyone knows what needs attention at any moment on any day. The clarity for the win!
No matter what productivity strategies you apply, you’re still a small business with limited resources. Your best resources — your employees — are still human. Even when everyone’s being as productive as they can be, you may still have a backlog of to-dos. And you will inevitably say “so much to do, but so little time.”
Let’s introduce the humble “no.” It’s a simple word but ultimately what the success of your small business depends on. Using “no” to your advantage is not easy. Most people default to nodding their head to keep the boss happy, but reframing why saying no is important can help make it a habit for everyone in your workplace.
Saying no to something essentially means saying yes to something else that is better for the growth of your business. In many ways, saying no is actually more important. It helps you prioritize and focus on what matters to your business.
Say no to tasks that are not mission-critical, to ad hoc meetings that never end, and when your calendar is full — all to avoid burnout. As you build your product or service, use no to establish a clear, competitive offering for your business. Use it strategically to keep your team focused on common goals.
As a small business owner, how do you stay productive while wearing multiple hats? Share your best tips with us on Twitter! 🙂