This week we are talking about improving productivity, efficiency and how it relates to business growth and profitability. We are breaking down some actionable steps you can take to increase your productivity as it relates to growing your business! Let’s dig in!
What we cover in this episode:
- 1:09 – Introduction to productivity and business growth and profitability
- 2:28 – Start with your to-do list and prioritize
- 4:36 – Mapping out your to-do on your calendar
- 9:37 – Focus
- 16:18 – Batching your work
- 20:14 – AGILE workflows
- 29:43 – Share productivity hacks
Start with your to-do list & prioritize
When you own your own business, there are so many things going on that it can be difficult to remember it all. Productivity and business growth and profitability should be top priorities. It’s helpful to have a written to-do list somewhere. Whether it’s getting it down on paper, on your computer, using an app, etc., choose the option that is the most productive and easiest so that you use it regularly. Doing this consistently takes time, effort, and organization, but can reduce stress by getting it all in one place. By getting all of your to-dos on one list, you can think through everything you need to accomplish and prioritize your list to make sure you’re doing the most important tasks first.
Once you have listed everything and prioritized what needs to happen, it’s time to sort through and prioritize those tasks. Consider your why and your strategic plan for your business. Which of your to-do items will get you closer to your monthly, quarterly and annual goals? You can then break those tasks down by day, week, or month. Again, this is personal preference and you can break it up however you want. By creating a daily to-do list, it can help you stay on track. If you get distracted, your list can bring you back to what you want to accomplish.
By starting with a to-do list, you can assess and make sure you are focusing your time and energy on things that really need to be happening. There is always busy work that comes up no matter how hard you try to avoid it, but refocusing your time on revenue generating activities or other tasks that can move you toward your goal is crucial. The next step is to map it out and put those things on your calendar.
Mapping out your to-do on your calendar
After you’ve prioritized your to-do list, begin mapping it out on your calendar for your day or week. Your list is just that – your listing of items. It doesn’t give you a sense of how long it’s going to take you to actually do each of these things. We all tend to be very optimistic when it comes to what we think we can accomplish. By allocating time in our calendar, this practice allows you to be more realistic with your to-do list.
We put many things on our to-do list and sometimes it feels endless. If we just write out a laundry list of things we need to accomplish, but only cross off 2 of 20 tasks, we are left deflated. But if two of those items are things we’ve had on our list for a month and we keep putting it off, it can give a sense of relief.
By putting your to-do list items on your calendar, you can also make sure that phone calls, your morning routine and other potential scheduling conflicts don’t interfere with this dedicated time to knock some of your to-dos out. If you’re interested in hearing more about setting up a morning routine and ensuring it’s on your calendar, listen to episode #10 – Ongoing Monitoring and Motivation.
Another important consideration is that you also may be waiting for someone else to finish a component of a project before you can wrap it up. Communication is key so everyone knows priorities have shifted and your to-do list for the day or week may need to be reorganized. When you have a team, communication allows you to reprioritize your time so you aren’t expecting something that isn’t happening.
Focusing time and energy on one task or one area helps immensely in productivity. While multitasking sounds good in theory, if we allow our brain to focus fully on one task from start to finish, we can usually accomplish it in less time, with less interruption and we will feel better about being able to cross it off our list and have the ability to move on.
One thing that Jaime discusses is turning off email notifications on your phone and computer. Emails are not urgent. If something is urgent, you will get a phone call. We put pressure on ourselves to respond immediately and each email can pull you out of what you’re supposed to be doing and becomes very time consuming. You can also block off time to address emails. If you’d like to communicate this to people, so they understand you may be a little less responsive, you can turn on an autoresponder. Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Work Week, uses this strategy and sets aside two times during the day to check email. Here is an article that provides two email autoresponses you could use if you’d like to implement this time saver.
Try to stay focused on a task until it is complete. If you work on three projects throughout the day, you haven’t accomplished anything, you have to return to all of them. If you complete something 100%, you will feel more accomplished by the end of the day and can cross that off your list. This will give you a sense of control and help you not feel that you’re at the mercy of any email that pops through.
Batching your work
A concept known as batching goes hand-in-hand with the focus component we just discussed. We are always looking for ways to improve our own efficiencies. In a recent podcast of Online Marketing Made Easy by Amy Porterfield featuring Michael Hyatt, they discussed batching work. As a long time listener of Amy Porterfield’s podcast, I know that she is a big proponent of batching. This is a great resource and one you should take the time to listen to if you’re interested in finding efficiencies through batching.
Essentially, batching means that you divide your work by topic and spend focused time completing that one task. By batching, you avoid jumping from one thing to another and spend a chunk of dedicated time on one task or topic.
There are different mindsets and flows you must find for various tasks. The example we use in this episode is billing vs. a creative task. The end result will be much more productive if you are able to sit down and focus fully on a billing task for a full 4 hrs rather than jumping between a billing and creative task, never fully finishing either of them. Every time you have to pick a task back up, it takes time to find where you left off and get back into that flow.
Batching can also reduce stress, because by focusing your time and energy on one thing, you can check it off your list and move on. Again, this and focus go hand in hand, but by being very intentional about how you batch, you can create much more clarity and organization in your business and your life.
In the software industry, they have been using a project management process known as “agile methodology” to complete software development. Agile is all about being flexible and able to move quickly in a bigger picture. In the business world, we can apply some great components of this methodology – mindset, flow, value and quality.
Historically, the software industry used to create large plans and then take 2-3 years to execute. The plan would be laid out so far in advance that by the time they were done, the end product was obsolete. So, they changed the way they did it, by incorporating changes as innovations, processes, and new requirements presented themselves. This technique allows the ability to be adaptive.
When we look at the mindset of this agile technique, it forces us to think bigger picture with the end product or goal in mind. As small business owners, we are so involved in getting through the day to day that it’s hard to step back. Put time aside to think about the business. Meditation and journaling can be helpful to integrate into your daily routine so you’re not holding everything in your head. Write it down and move forward. Meditation allows you to clear your mind and journaling can help you figure out what you want to do with that day and get control of your time. Since meditating, Jaime noted she has been able to clear her mind and know what she needs to do. “I am able to do it, delegate it or decide it’s not important.” She has used Headspace, an app that our leadership team uses that takes 5 minutes to complete a meditation.
Flow and continuous improvement of processes is the next component of the agile methodology. You must be willing to update and improve processes as you work toward the end goal. Inspire your team to be looking for improvements, services, processes to gain clients, serve clients better.
Adding value and quality are the last two considerations of the agile approach. Make sure your to-do list is focused on what will add the most value to you and your business. Focus your time and effort on the tasks that will help you reach your revenue goals, improve your procedures or whatever else is on your strategic plan for your business. By keeping the value in mind, you will ensure that by the end of your week, your accomplishments will be focused on quality and not just quantity or the hours you put in.
Share productivity hacks
The last tip we want to give is to collaborate with your team. Share articles and ideas! For example, we share the podcast from Amy Porterfield mentioned earlier with our team and we were able to improve the way we approach and schedule our weeks, giving us more control of our time and allowing us to focus on the value of what we are doing.
If you’re getting your whole team to be more productive, that’s a win for everyone. No one wants to feel like they didn’t accomplish anything for the day or week, so your team will be appreciative. The business will benefit from that collaboration and accomplishment, moving the business forward as a group effort.
We are talking about improving productivity and efficiency and how it relates to business growth and profitability. We recommend starting with your to-do list. By getting all of your to-dos down in one location, you can then prioritize those tasks as they relate to the goals you have for your business. It is important in this first step to put the tasks with the highest value or rate of return at the top. What will help you get closer to your annual, quarterly and monthly goals? Those need to happen first.
Then we recommend charting out your to-dos on your calendar itself. This helps you to dedicate the time to getting those things done, as well as gives you a better sense of the time it will take to accomplish everything on your list.
Next, we talk about focus and batching your work. By incorporating these tactics, you can make the most of your work time and ensure that you are completing the things on your list 100% rather than jumping around from task to task.
Jaime touches on agile workflows, which are common in the software industry, but can be related to the business world and brings some helpful methodologies in efficiency and flexibility to ensure you are reassessing as you move toward your end goals. Lastly, we recommend collaborating and sharing tips to improve efficiencies with your team. Everyone likes the feeling of being productive and it helps everyone get on the same page if you’re able to share new tactics as you discover what works.
Links mentioned in this episode: