Improving productivity in the office may seem impossible. You may even be to the point where completing even one task seems totally insurmountable. So what do the experts suggest?
FitSmallBusiness.com recently published the Top 31 Business Productivity Tips & Hacks from the Pros. If you have the time, I suggest reading through all the tips they provide. But, below are seven to get you started–including one expert tip from our very own Robby Slaughter.
- Stop multi-tasking and focus your time. Bob Adams, Founder, BusinessTown.com – There is no such thing as multi-tasking. It’s really just switching between tasks very quickly. It’s an incredible waste of time because it takes time to get up to speed with a new task. Instead take the opposite approach. Try to devote each day overwhelmingly to one critically important task. Sure, there might be urgent pressing issues that require interruption. In fact, you may want to devote whole days to getting through lots of pressing small tasks. But nonetheless if you can overwhelmingly focus most of your days on one really important task, you and your employees can really move your business ahead.
- Manage repetitive tasks. Bret Simpson, Director of Production, StickerYou – It’s shocking how many repetitive tasks we perform on a day-to-day basis without any second thought. Try to identify these tasks as quickly as possible and create tools to help yourself. With a little practice and some free software, you can build hotkey shortcuts for repetitive tasks, as well as customized push alerts from almost any input source with no coding required. This will allow you to focus less time on collecting data and more time acting on it.
- Combine deep work with your most productive hours. Teresa Bartaseviciute, Marketing Manager, Yolocal Security Marketplace – Deep work is a way of setting aside a certain undisturbed amount of time for the most difficult tasks. The goal is to eliminate any external distractions (phone, social media, etc.) and have at least 1-2h of deeply concentrated work. One research suggests that out of 8 working hours, average worker is truly productive just 2h 53min. Some might find their peak is in the morning, some might work the best in early afternoon, and so on. It is important to understand your working pattern and set aside 2 deep work hours for the time you are the most productive. This incredible hack helped me to do 6-8h work in just 2h and have the rest of the day for solving unexpected issues, giving more attention to my team, or working on new ideas.
- Use the 80-20 analysis. Lindsey Havens, Senior Marketing Manager, PhishLabs– One of the biggest traps that small business owners fall into is non-productive time. That’s why a great tool for any owner/manager is to evaluate your productivity by scheduling a monthly 80-20 analysis. This technique can help increase sales while cutting back on hours.The point of the exercise is to highlight the most important things you need to focus by figuring out 20% of the activities that are producing 80% of your desired results. Then look at the 20% of activities that are wasting 80% of you time. Once you find the overlap, you can eliminate things that are keeping you busy but offering no results.
- Answer every phone call, but don’t let it disrupt you. Robby Slaughter, Principal, AccelaWork – A ringing phone is death to your productivity, especially when you’re on a roll. But if you refuse to answer, then you have to suffer through a voicemail later (or deal with an annoyed customer.) Instead, answer the phone the moment it rings, and ask if you can call them right back. Set up a reminder for five or ten minutes. That lets you finish what you are doing and prepare to return the call. And it means you’ll be in control, rather than just reacting to what they have to say!
- Store templates for common customer FAQs. Jason Lavis, Managing Director, Out of the Box Innovations Ltd. – When dealing with clients, we often find ourselves repeating the same explanations and answers to questions again and again. It makes sense to combine individual customer guidance, with online content publication. For example, if a client emails with a valid question, rather than creating an email from scratch or picking up the phone, you can create a comprehensive answer of 1000 words or more. Spend a lot of time reviewing, editing, and polishing it. This new document can be used to create a blog post for your website, and kept in a folder, along with all of your other similar guidance emails. These answers can be used as templates for future client interactions, and each time the customer will see the effort that you’ve put in.
- Use email filters. Robert Russo, CEO, PromotionCode – Believe it or not, only about a half-dozen emails hit my inbox every day of the hundreds sent to me. For several years, I’ve spent my last half hour on Fridays adding new rules to Gmail’s inbox, and now I only receive exactly what I need to see. We encourage our staff to do the same every week since barrages of unimportant email are a huge time sink. The best way to implement this is to start with a whitelist rather than a blacklist so that unknown senders aren’t sneaking into your day until you’re ready to see them. Because our staff interacts with thousands of stores with several representatives each, these rules are even more time-saving for them, since they’re more likely to be copied on emails that they don’t need to read.
These inventive ideas can make a big impact. Give them a try!