We’re all looking for ways these days to do more with less, and the world of small business is no exception.
The end goal might be to just to claw back more time for yourself and improve your work-life balance. A substantial boost to your productivity will give you back some of those precious hours to invest in the things that matter most to you. That might be your family, your recreation time, or even launching a new side project.
We bring you eight simple ways to boost your productivity, without compromising on quality.
1. Work Smarter, Not Harder
Despite the popularity of concepts like the four hour work week, most of us are still working anything from forty to sixty hours a week. The fact is, much of that time is not spent on world-beating ingenuity, but rather just regular administrative tasks.
Think of some of your most boring, repetitive, time-consuming tasks for example. If you are bored out of your eyeballs by it, chances are someone else has been too.
For every mind-numbing task out there, there’s usually a ‘hack’ or a short-cut that someone out there has thought of and posted on the web. Even if that hack is as simple as delegating it to someone else (see what we did there? … Smart, not hard.)
2. Employ the 80/20 Rule
Otherwise known as the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule suggests that the vast majority (80%) of your results will come from a small proportion (20%) of your actions.
This principle, widely recognized throughout the business and management sphere, can be applied to almost any aspect of the business, where it more often than not holds true.
These examples might sound familiar:
• 20% of your customer complaints take up 80% of customer service response effort (the rest are handled relatively quickly);
• 20% of your products generate 80% of your sales;
• 20% of your marketing channels will source 80% of your leads.
The secret to applying the Pareto principle to productivity lies in restricting your efforts to activities that will make the most difference to your organization in the long run. Eliminate or scale back the rest.
3. Make Technology Work for You
Humans have an interesting relationship with technology. When we aren’t wringing our hands over robots taking over our jobs, we are inventing ones who can do everything from mow our lawns to be our pets.
However, it’s strange how technophobia… or sometimes just aversion to change… can lead us to avoid simple technological alternatives to manual, repetitive tasks, even when it would save us hours and hours of our time.
Examples abound, from tools that allow you to schedule social media marketing activities right up to the use of speech recognition software like Dragon to eliminate the need for typing. It’s amazing what you can find once you start looking.
4. Eliminate Distractions
Ever tried to work in a noisy office environment, or with an email alert going off every 15 seconds? Not good.
As David Rock notes in his book ‘Your Brain at Work,’ it can take a whopping 25 minutes for the average worker to return to their task after distraction, adding to an incredible amount of lost time every day. The same goes for home workers, who typically find even more to be distracted by in their environment.
You will be pleased to know though that there are about as many proposed solutions for distraction as there are distractions themselves.
Some of these include the Pomodoro technique, where you try to work uninterrupted in blocks of 25 minutes, or products like Saent, which launches an app on your computer that restricts you to programs used for work and blocks distractions like social media notifications.
Do you have a to-do list that just grows longer and longer, to the point where there are more things are on your list at the end of the day than the beginning? If so, you are not alone.
Procrastination often leads us to do the more enjoyable tasks first, leaving the heavy lifting until last or not at all. In this way, the offending task gets passed over from day to day, while you focus on a whole heap of things that might seem urgent but are actually not that important.
To get the most out of your day, try doing the most important thing first. That way, even if nothing else gets done, you will have moved yourself a giant step forward for the day.
If you are someone who regularly runs late because you can’t locate their keys/watch/phone/car/child/significant other, this tip is for you.
Although a messy desk is supposed to be a sign of genius, this doesn’t always work for you when you absolutely must find that inspired idea you wrote three weeks ago on the back of a napkin at lunch.
Or, the taxi receipt that is the only proof to your boss you actually went from Point A (boring work venue #1) to Point B (more boring work venue #2), rather than Point C (your house) or Point D (the casino).
It’s funny how clearing your desk (or your inbox for that matter) can have the miraculous effect of also clearing your mind. Sometimes the sheer act of organizing yourself can hit the ‘reset’ button on your productivity.
They say decluttering is the route to freedom. Why not embrace it?
7. Wake up earlier
There is actually a very simple solution for getting more out of your day. It involves waking up earlier and making the most out of your pre-8 am routine.
According to Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning, having a regular morning routine can transform your life. There are plenty of supporters for his message. If the night owl in you is cringing at the thought, don’t worry. Try starting your day purposefully, at whatever time works for you. Having a routine might be just the kick-start you’re seeking.
If the night owl in you is cringing at the thought, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Try starting your day purposefully, at whatever time works for you. Having a routine might be just the kick-start you’re seeking.
8. Use Travel Time Wisely
There are many ways you can use your travel time to increase your productivity.
If you aren’t driving, there are lots of options for making the most out of travel time. Get the jump on emails and scan popular blogs to catching up on essential reading.
For those for whom driving is a must, look no further than podcasts or audiobooks. Both represent an excellent opportunity to make learning something new about your industry every day a real possibility.
Hint: For an advanced productivity tip, why not try listening to them at 1.25x or 1.5x the normal speed?
Being more productive doesn’t necessarily equate to working harder. With just a little creativity, you can find yourself working fewer hours but producing more work of better quality, leaving you more time to focus on the things that matter most.