8 Tips For Higher Productivity
1. Work LESS, and Take a Nap
It might seem backward, and for most Americans "being busy" and putting in long work days, working overtime, etc. are seen as positive things. We seem to all have difficulty with MORE not equaling BETTER... but it's something we all have to understand as business owners and certainly as consumers as well. Many large companies have tried strategies that range from shortening the workday by several hours to offering "napping areas" around the office. And, generally, across the board, these strategies have proven to actually increase productivity. Quality over quantity is usually the goal, occasionally it's not applicable, but working shorter hours, without feeling tired and drained, will lead to higher productivity. Taking care of your health, your sleep, your eating habits, etc. are all important aspects that are often overlooked! Don't be fooled by the "MORE is MORE" mentality! I first noticed the problem with "overworking" in college when I was always up for social activities on weeknights while my friends were either not able to go out, or not able to do something social AND maintain good grades. It frustrated me a lot as I watched them spend 5 hours "studying" which meant - maybe 1 hour of studying, 4 hours of Facebooking, Instant Messaging, Googling, texting, basically, anything but actual focused studying. I looked at my own habits, which I have many others to thank for, which differed greatly. I spent an hour or two each day in the library, where I would work for far less time, but without distraction. And at the end of the day, they were not producing more work, better work, or getting better grades (generally speaking). No one with an 'hourly work mentality' will be successful. I have no proof, facts, figures, nothing except my own observations that tell me this. Whether it's school, career, personal life, working "smart" and efficiently is what personal experiences have shown will lead to success.
Which is the perfect segue into...
2. Remove Distractions!
I don't know if this is a problem for everyone, but it has been for me at times, especially while doing computer work! Someone messages me, the phone rings, the dog barks, an offer pops up and takes my attention away from my task at hand, and lands me in a place I didn't have any intention of going! Now, one out of a hundred times, this MIGHT lead to a new idea or some kind of inspiration, and maybe it's a call from a potential client, but more often than not, it just means simply - non-productive distraction. To combat this, I start and end each day/week/month by writing:
1. My priorities for the day, week, month
2. What specific tasks MUST be completed that day(...)
3. Then, a "check-list" or just, a list, of what I actually did accomplish at the end of that time.
I know, it sounds overly simple, but the more research I do, and experience I have, the more I see that when it comes to productivity, OVER-simplifying is hard to do. This is particularly true for start-ups, self-employed, and small business owners who have time and budget constraints, perhaps another job, and any other personal obligations.
3. Automate and Outsource
When it comes to automated and outsourcing marketing options, there seems to be a new one everyday. In fact, FXBG Marketing was created to help relieve that "social media" burden from business owners, while maintaining their "voice," vision, and local information. While we don't personally have our own automated system, part of what we do is find you the best system software and practices so that your business is professional, accurate, up-to-date, engaging, and essentially, productive! Trying to do all jobs as the business owner, might be a necessary place to start... but over time, start keeping track of how many hours you spend each day, week, month on certain tasks. How much income are those tasks producing? Maybe none directly, even, but they're still essential aspects of the business. This is where automated programs and outsourcing becomes key to the financial success of any business.
4. Centralized Database
Cloud, Dropbox, or any other central database for Graphics, Brochures, Logos, even Accounting information, Company Resources, Etc. are amazing things! And if you look at just about any successful business on any scale, they are using one of these systems. Especially once you start taking on more employees, and/or outsourcing media and marketing opportunities. Having to send graphics by email every time someone needs one, or trying to download them from sites you've posted them to might seem like a "good enough" solution, but trust me, if your business is growing, it won't be good enough for very long! You also can lose a great deal of quality when doing things in this way (especially when it comes to formatting and graphics) and sometimes, those small touches as far as formatting can go a long, long way! Don't lose that precious time you spent perfecting that visual - save it, make it available, and of course, accessible!
5. Know Your Options!
Being aware of your options, doesn't necessarily mean using them. It means weighing the pro's, the con's, and finding a balance for YOUR business needs. Many businesses are so quick to dismiss any "salespeople" or direct marketing materials, thinking that just based upon the fact that THEY are looking for YOU, means that it's not a sensible option. The thinking behind those types of mentalities must change if you want to grow!
For instance, if your business is ALWAYS in need of... airplane tickets, or printer cartridges, maintenance, IT support, trash removal, just about anything...., it's time to start looking into your options. If you're selling gifts and clothing out of a boutique, chances are, you're not thinking about office supplies as a "big deal." That is... until you have a customer in front of you, and you're running out of receipt scrolls! This is not a good look! And it's 100% avoidable. There are companies out there that will constantly monitor your business supplies, find you the best prices and promotions on those supplies, and then send them to you when necessary! Now, perhaps at this stage in your business, the cost of hiring someone to do this doesn't make sense. But, again, AWARENESS of the options is what counts! Because a day will come - whether it's a seasonal influx of business, or a sudden growth spurt, unexpected "busy times" come up, and knowing your resources is essential to any highly productive person, brand, business, household, everything. We make it our business to sift through the options for you, and often even come up with comparison charts so that you can see what types of services can really help your business grow, versus ones that might be completely useless in your particular field.
6. Don't Be Afraid to Get Cheesy
Inspirational Quotes, Stories, Memes, Etc. get spread around the internet so quickly that we tend to pass them over just as quickly. But.... don't. Allow yourself to get "cheesy" sometimes. Get online, and search for inspiration, innovation, creative entrepreneurship, whatever it is that gets you feeling "pumped." Some of the best ideas I've ever had have sprouted out of some taboo "make your own happiness" type of inspiration. It's the ability to look at a quote, a couple of words even, and find meaning that applies to you or speaks to you in that moment.
Success doesn't happen because of a great idea or some type of "creative genius," lurking within us. Opportunities falling into your lap that will implement and capitalize on these "genius" ideas, without any work on your end, are pretty much guaranteed NOT to happen. What is the quote? "10% Inspiration, 90% Perspiration," or some variation of that saying, is true -and can be helpful at moments of frustration.
If it's meaning resonates with you. For me, it was that.... Yes, it takes a lot of hard work, a lot of ground work must be laid to create a solid foundation for any business, but if you're just working yourself into the ground, that is not likely to lead to success either. Perseverance, for me, is continually finding new ways to increase productivity, build your business, and accomplish your goals as quickly and efficiently as possible. Constantly creating new ideas, trying them out, researching, talking to people, visiting new places, trying new things, using the endless information available to us online is great, but it's not enough. Resources are on the nearest bookshelf, and inside each person you meet.
Everyone needs a vacation. It's just how we're made. Companies encourage employees to take vacation. Why? Because it's been shown to increase productivity and rejuvenate the "spark" between you and your business. But, at the same time, they generally want you to wait a year to take that vacation. So, only take them when needed, but still take them. Remember when the end of summer would come when you were a kid, and the idea of a new school year held promises of .... perfect grades, great friends, new organization methods - color coded binders, notebooks, planners - it was (usually) exciting to go back to school after a whole summer off. And if not exciting, usually far less daunting. Remember that some time away from your loved ones, the comforts of your home, even your pets - almost always creates a renewed sense of appreciation and energy for these things. So, for those of you who have your own business, you know it's like your child, relationship, or anything else of value in your life, and the whole "distance makes the heart grow fonder" is true in work as well as at home. Especially when that work is something (like your personal life) that you're deeply invested in - mentally, emotionally, physically, financially. And, as with everything else, sometimes there is no replacement for just taking a break, or gaining a little distance.
Even business owners who do take vacations or breaks of any kind, a tiny fraction of them are actually able to disconnect 100% from their business when they do get away. Which is why the next one is important...
8. Employees: Training and Trusting
As your business grows, this aspect of your business will determine its' ability to grow - or not. Micro-management is probably the worst thing a business owner can do. If you read back through this article, or even look at other people's advice, suggestions, etc., you will notice a common theme. Being able to lead and delegate is not something just anyone can do well. And especially in our own business, it can be extremely hard to trust someone with the reigns sometimes. But, having one, two, even three trusted employees can take awhile to find, but recognize their value to you. If you're training and screening applicants properly, you should be able to leave for two weeks, leave a plan behind, and turn off your phone and computer. If you can do that, and your business is flourishing when you return, you've succeeded in "growing" your employee-employer relationship. And, ultimately, whether it's employees on payroll, a business partner, or outsourced work, finding these solutions is vital to the productivity and growth of any business.
-Anne Morgan Pates, April 14, 2017
Anne Morgan Pates was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She attended Chatham Hall Preparatory School, Sewanee: University of the South, and University of Mary Washington. She graduated with a B.A. from U.M.W. in English Literature. She has worked in local real estate and marketing for seven years.