Tips to Improve Productivity

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Written by Miriam Lieber, President, Lieber Consulting LLC

If you are like most business owners, you feel like you could grow your business if only you had more time in the day. It feels like the more you get done, the more you have to get done. Productivity wanes because you are constantly putting out fires. When the work day ends, do you often wonder what you got done all day and how the day went by so fast before you got to number two on your to do list? If so, you are human and you are just like many business owners. In this article, I will discuss ways to increase productivity and gain more control over the daunting feeling of never having enough time in a day.  

DELEGATING & OUTSOURCING  

I know I often feel overwhelmed when I have so much to do and I realize that the number of hours left to get things done is growing scarce. This is when I stop and regroup. First things firsts – Prioritize the “to do” list. Estimate how long it will take to complete each item on the list. Assign each task a skill level. This will then help you determine if you can delegate some of your to do list items. Although you are probably thinking “I can do it faster and better myself,” it is critical that you allow others to participate in the task list, even if they are also tasked with many of their own to do list items. Building a team of capable participants and contributors to bottom line productivity is essential in growing a small business. There is nothing more important than developing your staff. In fact, you should be looking for your next leader and potential replacement if your intention is to grow.  

If there’s a task you simply can’t assign to others in your office, or you have very few people who can help, consider outsourcing. Find tasks that someone else can easily perform and outsource them. That is why many companies outsource things like billing, payroll, etc. Finally, delegating and outsourcing allow you to focus on the heap of remaining tasks. Build on your strengths by performing functions that speak to those strengths. This is true for everyone. Shore up your weaknesses with those who have strengths in your weakest spots. It creates a more balanced team and generates a feeling of success. Once you complete the items on your to do list, you will feel more confident and eager to become even more productive. This enthusiasm will show others around you what success feels like and it should motivate them too, a real win-win situation.  

CARVE OUT TIME  

Once you have delegated and outsourced, you will still need to carve out time to work on projects that require concentrated and uninterrupted time. This is typically done early in the morning or in the evening. Some people are simply better morning people and others work best at the end of the day. There is no right way – it is typically based on the way you are wired. Embrace this and work within your capacity. So if you have something to write or research, carve out time at the beginning or end of the day to get this done, even if it means working remotely or off-site to get the project started or done. It is simply a better use of time than trying to find time when you are constantly interrupted during the day. Further, with technology today, it is easier to work remotely, knowing what is going on in the office. Moreover, it is healthy for staff to find answers to problems themselves (apropos of the delegating discussion above), which they tend to do when you are not around.  

In addition to carving out time for projects, also consider scheduling dedicated time to respond to emails messages, etc., periodically (2-3 times per day at a scheduled interval), rather than throughout the day.  Distractions like emails, etc., are costly but if reserved for a specific time during the day, it can be done more efficiently. Moreover, as a leader and model for staff, you want them to see you as a goal oriented person who works in a methodical manner, to the greatest extent possible. 

SOFTWARE TOOLS 

Knowing that you need to prioritize and budget your time wisely, consider a scheduling device, whether it is your phone’s calendar, alarm or your software’s scheduling program (Scheduler) and more. Some find Outlook easy to use while others prefer Google calendar. There is even literature that says if you are more comfortable working with a paper calendar, do what it takes to stay organized and on point with whatever scheduling mechanism that works for you. I prefer the electronic version because it is easy to search for entries.  

In addition to your personal schedule, to ensure the staff is staying on task, especially if you are working on several projects simultaneously, use a project management software solution. One readily used solution is Trello, which is sharable and is easy to use. Other clients use Smartsheet and for more personal projects, search workflow management software or use Outlook. There are even APPs to help you stay focused (search “stay focused APPS”) by monitoring your distractions.  

Clearly, everyone is poised to become more productive. Taking time to devise a plan to improve productivity by setting goals for yourself and your staff will help you build a more successful business. Further, it will improve morale and overall company culture. Delegate and outsource to stay focused on functions that strengthen your strengths. Moreover, developing staff not only reduces your workload but it enables your employees to grow and become more accountable, making significant contributions to the bottom line. Finally, use software to assist in improving productivity and with all of these solutions, you should feel less overwhelmed, more accomplished and better prepared for growth.  

Miriam Lieber, management consultant and President of Lieber Consulting LLC. Miriam can be reached at [email protected] or 818-692-1626.

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