Time is finite. There are only 24 hours in a day and most of these are spent not working. So, when we are working, how do we ensure that the time is being spent productively?
It’s about identifying, and avoiding, the productivity killers that are wasting your precious time. Here are the top 6 that I believe affects most people. Have a read and see if you can identify with them!
These come in many forms, but I expect your mobile phone is high on the list! Its beeps, vibrations and flashing capture your attention and takes you away from the task in hand. You are permanently switching gear when you look at it and digesting the information it gives you.
The last time I looked at my mobile, I was in the middle of preparing a financial report, to be interrupted by a text from Domino’s pizza – now, I like a 2-for-1 pizza deal as much as the next person, but it unnecessarily side-lined my thoughts for that moment.
And don’t get me started on the number of GDPR emails that were distracting me either!
I am sure that you suffer the same, so, if you can bear to be away from it, then switch off your mobile phone and put it in your draw – at least whilst you are trying to be productive.
Distractions can also come in the form of internet browsing. For example, if you use Edge as a browser, then the home page is often set to the news and as I look at my browser as I write this, there is a scrolling list of news (Heinz to change the name of their salad cream to sandwich cream – whatever next!), but again I am shifting gear to digest this unnecessary information.
Finally, also high on the list of distractions is your team. If you are nearby, your team are likely to need you to answer questions, look over work, take phone calls…. therefore, if the work you are doing requires focus, you may need to remove yourself from this situation either physically or mentally. Take yourself off to a quiet room, put headphones in and make your team aware that you are not to be disturbed for a while.
- Unnecessary meetings
In my opinion, most small businesses don’t have enough meetings – they often assume a passing comment or discussion is enough to cement an action. And sometimes it can be, but sometimes there are good reasons to have a proper sit-down meeting.
However, it can go the other way and you can find yourself having too many meetings! Avoid having meetings for meetings sake and stick to the ones that are necessary for the successful running of your business – a finance meeting once a month with your accountant, an operations meeting and a sales/marketing meeting.
If you do need to have a meeting, follow these top tips to ensure the meeting is concise and constructive:
- Appoint someone to run the meeting
- Have an agenda
- Have a set time for the meeting
- Record the outcomes and actions
Doing more than one thing at once… we all try and do it – answering emails when in an unnecessary meeting, or reading emails whilst writing a blog – but how effective are we when we are doing this? If the task you are doing is important, then doing other things whilst you are trying to get the work done makes absolutely no sense. It is tempting to do, sometimes you may think “oh that won’t take long, I’ll just do it quickly”, but multi-tasking can reduce the quality of your work by drawing your attention away, the jobs can in fact take longer than they should and you increase the risk of errors as you try to complete more than one task at a time.
Avoiding temptation to multi-task takes serious self-discipline, and whilst multi-tasking can have its place in your working day, your best output will be when you are disciplined and remain focused.
- Your physical well-being
If you are tired, hungry, annoyed, frustrated or anxious, your productivity is going to drop off a cliff. The solution is simple: eat well, take a break and get some sleep J. It’s a bit more difficult in practice, but it makes sense that if you look after yourself, you will be in a much better position, both mentally and physically, to work and be productive.
If you took 5 minutes break once an hour to breath and meditate you would achieve much more throughout the day. As I type this I can almost sense the readers snorting their disbelief – like that’s going to happen! But I challenge you to try it and see if it makes a difference.
- Your optimal performance
We all have that certain time of day where we are fully focused and on the ball, and a time when we just can’t get it together. By learning when this is, you can make the most of this optimal time and switch off when things are just too difficult.
In the past, I have been sat at my desk at 7pm struggling to solve an issue, thinking I must sort it out before I go home – but actually, the next morning at 8am, after my body and brain has rested, I solved it in five minutes! So, find your most focused time and then schedule the tasks that need your attention during that time.
- Watch out for monkeys!
Many small business owners run out of time whilst their employees run out of work. Most small business owners are not known for their delegation skills, so when a problem arises it is often tempting to just do it yourself, rather than empowering your employees to carry the problem and deal with it.
These problems are the monkeys, and spotting when someone is trying to pass you one, is a skill we all need to develop. A good read on this topic is in the Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/1999/11/management-time-whos-got-the-monkey
There are only so many hours you can work in a day, but if you are conscious of productivity killers you can maximise your productive time and get more done.
How we can help?
The Organised Business is all about building a better business that doesn’t rely on you, runs like clockwork and that can contribute more positively to your life. Module 05 of our course The Foundation Programme is all about organising yourself to get more from the time you have.