If you struggle to maximize productivity in business, you aren’t alone. 72 percent of small business owners are overwhelmed with their responsibilities, according to a recent Alternative Board survey.
What’s more, even if you accomplish all the tasks on your to-do list, does your hard work produce the end results you desire? Not always.
For example, a young college student decides to start a business. She advertises by designing and creating flyers. She then delivers the flyers to a neighborhood of individuals outside her target audience but has no increase in business. She put the time and effort into marketing, but she was not productive.
How, then, do you master productivity? How do you complete the tasks at hand, and how do you ensure those tasks achieve a desired end result? Here are some habits that can help:
1. Schedule your time.
Scheduling your entire day may sound daunting, especially if you’re not a plan-it-out type of individual. That’s fine. You don’t have to sit down and figure out what you will do with every single hour of your day.
Start simple. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey recommends creating a list of activities. Label them: urgent, important, not urgent, not important. Start with tasks that are urgent and most important first. Then move on to less important tasks. Though it sounds like common sense, it is easy to get caught up in unimportant things and miss those tasks that will help your business grow. Also consider putting technological distractions at the bottom of your list. Scheduling, or prioritizing, your time helps you ensure that the things that will really aid your business come first.
2. Set achievable, specific goals.
Where do you want your business to be in five years? What do you value? Increased income? Improved products? Customer satisfaction? Consider your definition of success. Then set goals.
Keep in mind the words achievable and specific. Some individuals will set a broad goal: “I want to make more money.” Without specificity, it may be difficult to achieve such a goal. There’s no clear sense of direction. Others set goals that are possible but far too lofty: “I want to be a millionaire in my first month of business.” These types of goals can lead to discouragement.
Sit down and set specific, achievable goals: “I will increase my profit margin by 10 percent by attending three trade shows this year. At each trade show, I will talk to at least one hundred people. If I am unsuccessful, I will consider a new method to grow my business.” See how specific this goal is? Often, specific goals have a set time frame. They are quantifiable. Note also how the example of 10 percent is realistic. Consider what is achievable. While it doesn’t hurt to shoot for the stars, make sure you are capable of completing the goals you set.
3. Work smarter, not harder.
While it is essential to have a good work ethic as you build your business, a little resourcefulness goes a long way when it comes to managing tasks in an easier, quicker way. For instance, a young man in Gilbert, Arizona, worked for his dad’s business welding the undersides of buckets. Wanting to use his time more efficiently, he designed a semi-autonomous robot to do the task instead. This freed him up for other jobs, and the robot improved production time by 400 percent. Are there options that can help you accomplish business-related tasks in a more efficient manner?
4. Eat right. Exercise. Get enough sleep.
You may be tempted to forgo proper nutrition, sleep, or physical activity in order to get more work done. However, eating right, exercising, and getting at least seven hours of sleep each night has been shown to improve cognitive function, mental health, and capability. For example, a Brown University study showed that adults in better health are able to work longer. Another study showed that proper nutrition can decrease fatigue. There are so many positive benefits to incorporating these elements into your life. Though doing so takes time, you will maximize what time you have.
5. Read books and do your research!
In order to work smarter, you must have knowledge. Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk read every book in his elementary school library, including the encyclopedias. Famous brain surgeon Ben Carson struggled in school until his mother required him to read two library books every week. To be most productive in business, you have more knowledge in your business field.
So do your research. Read or watch videos to gain new insights relevant to your business. A good habit to improve productivity might be to read one book per month.
Consider the popular example of a person who doesn’t use an instruction manual. So much time is wasted in figuring out the task when a little research might have saved the individual hours. Building good research habits will enable you to save time and avoid learning the hard way.
6. Hold yourself accountable.
When you create a schedule of items to achieve, make it a habit to review that schedule at the end of each day to see how you performed. Be honest with yourself. If you wasted time, commit to be better.
Holding yourself accountable enables you to see where you fall short in productivity and allows you to make adjustments to improve.
7. Have an action partner.
Along the same lines, hold yourself accountable to someone else. Talk to a spouse, family member, or friend about your personal goals. While it may seem odd, it works! If you are not comfortable with this, hold yourself accountable to a higher power or pet. Even keeping a notebook of how you did on your goals helps you increase your accountability.
Got some new perspective on how to more efficiently manage your business now? We hope so. In looking to increase productivity and success, remember to
- Schedule your time.
- Set goals.
- Take care of yourself physically.
- Acquire knowledge.
- Be accountable.
When you apply these seven habits as you grow your business, you will find you are better able to complete the tasks at hand and achieve your desired end result.
And you just may find you are no longer part of the 72 percent.
Do you have any other ideas for increasing productivity? Please let us know in the comments below.
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