Productivity Tips Business Owners

Productivity Tips Business Owners

As a business owner you are used to working hard. But is your hard work focused on the correct goals for your business? Are you clear about what your goals should be? And even with clear goals, how can you stick to those goals while responding to your customer’s needs? Read on to learn about our productivity tips business owners.

Productivity Tips for Business owners

The challenge is to work smart and be productive. There are simple but effective changes you can make to achieve this. So here are some ideas to get you started.

1)Decide You Want to Take Control

The first step in any change process is the commitment to do things differently. Aim to protect your time for productive work. Be prepared to challenge yourself and your team. This can mean saying no to enjoyable distractions like social media alerts. It can mean pushing yourself to spend more time on the tougher tasks you sometimes avoid.

2)Know Your Environment

And to optimise how you work you need to know how you work. Understand your environment, your challenges and your distractions. What work gets priority, which customers get the most attention, what response time is expected? What percentage of work can be anticipated and therefore planned? When do you work most productively? Is it the same time every day?

You can do this by simply reflecting at the end of each day. But by using a more structured approach, like keeping a TimeLog every day for a week, you can gain further insights. The data you gather will help you decide what needs to change to improve your productivity. Here is a link to our Be Productive TimeLog template.

3)Set Priorities for Your Business

To be truly productive, you need to be clear about what is important for your business. What are you trying to achieve; what are the priorities? Does everything link back to the overall vision and strategy?

By using the SMART approach to objective setting you can ensure that all planned work is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed. This can provide a purpose for every task list or project plan and clarity for everyone on your team. Read more about prioritising here.

4)Get Organised and Plan Your Week

Once you are clear about what needs to be done, develop a plan to achieve it. Have a yearly plan which feeds into the monthly, weekly and daily plans. Make your weekly plan on a Friday afternoon or first thing Monday morning. Use a “To Do” list if you find it useful but make sure it connects to your schedule so that tasks on the list are actioned and most importantly, completed.

Schedule the week using a structured approach that best suits your business and your customers. Different techniques such as batch working or timed working can help to maximise efficiency and productivity. Here is a link to our Be Productive Weekly Planner template.

5)Manage Email, Meetings and Distractions

Your TimeLog data will identify the activities that consume most time in your week.  Emails and meetings tend to be top of most lists while interruptions from colleagues can also eat into your time.

So here are some e-mail productivity tips to consider:

  • Working with email notification constantly switched on can result in the day being controlled by other people’s priorities. There will be days when you need to be constantly in touch. But ask yourself are there other days or time blocks when you can check your emails at planned intervals only.
  • Actively manage your meetings to increase the chance of productive outcomes by using a meeting process. This can include: 1) preparation beforehand, 2) use of a timed agenda during the meeting and 3) post meeting follow-up of actions agreed
  • Eliminate or reduce as many distractions as possible, even if sometimes those distractions are a welcome change from tougher tasks. But remember to be diplomatic when colleagues or clients are involved!

For more detailed advice on this check out our Email, Meetings & Managing Distractions productivity articles here:

Take Control of Your Inbox

Productive Meeting Skills

Tips to Maintain Your Focus

6)Develop New Skills and Techniques

Keep improving to make sure you stay productive in this ever changing world. Nowadays there are lots of free apps available that promote efficiency and collaboration such as Microsoft OneNote. Do some research or talk to colleagues and peers to get recommendations. Make sure you are using your desktop applications as efficiently as possible by learning relevant time-saving functionality and features.

7)Review, Analyse and Repeat

To maintain control of your time and sustain any improvement in productivity, it is important to review and analyse what you have achieved. Return to the Timelog to track what worked and what didn’t. Compare back to the baseline data you collected at the start. Improvements gained from protected blocks of time and fewer distractions can include: reduced email processing, shorter meeting times, higher task completion, increased output and productivity.

Be Productive

In conclusion, these business owner productivity tips won’t work every day or in every business. But I encourage you to take the ideas and develop improvements that will work for you. Send us some feedback in the Comments and keep checking this blog for more detailed articles over the coming months on many of the topics discussed above.

Be Productive after a Holiday

5 Ways to Be Productive After a Holiday

We spend a lot of time throughout the year trying to be as productive as possible. So we need to make sure we also get enough holiday and down time to balance this. And while switching off is fantastic, the benefit can be ruined by our struggle to get back up to speed when we return to work. We examined what we could do to makes sure we could be productive after a holiday.

Busy Week Before You Go

The week before a holiday is often the busiest week of the year. We actually become super-productive as we crack through our To Do list in an attempt to clear everything before we leave. We want to make sure that we have communicated with everyone and tied up any loose ends.

Holiday Blues after You Return

In contrast the first few days back from holiday can often be our least productive days. We find it really hard to tune back into our work. We can feel demotivated. We may still wish we were away and we don’t feel ready to resume the normal hectic pace. Even if we are happy to be back it can be hard to get our brains into gear. All those projects, details and issues that were so clear before we left can seem very blurred the first few days back.

So how can we take control and be productive after our holiday?

1. Capture Everything Before You Leave

Spend time thinking about the first couple of days back before you finish up. At this point you are really tuned into the finer details of every project or issue so this is the best time to record as much detail as you can. Prepare notes for meetings, jot down key points for reports, make draft plans for things your need to tackle that first week back. Expect to forget most of the knowledge in your head –  that is the purpose of your holiday after all!

2. Strategically Schedule Your First Days Back

Some people like to ease back into things with a low key schedule but I find the opposite works best for me.  I arrange a couple of key meetings so that I kick start myself back into a productive mode quickly. I don’t welcome this approach on the first morning back but by the end of the day I am glad.

Consider what works best for you, your role and your environment. But be prepared to challenge yourself if you need to. Try our Weekly Planner template to help you map out that first week back.

3. Capitalise on Your Relaxed Mind

If you have successfully switched off during your holiday your mind will probably be free from all the usually stress and clutter. Some of the best ideas come to mind when you can see things more clearly and objectively. So use this unique state of mind to do some creative thinking and planning. But be careful: you can sometimes be too free-thinking and unrestrained that first day back. Make sure you don’t upset anyone by speaking too openly or honestly!

4. Resume Your Routines

It can take some time to get back into productive habits when you first return. If you exercise on a regular week day try to resume the first day back to work. Enable your healthy eating habits by ensuring you have time to visit the supermarket before your first day back to set yourself up for a healthy week. Here are some tips about what foods you can eat to boost productivity What You Eat Affects Your Productivity

5. Be Nice To Yourself

If you can reward yourself for your productive return to work with an early finish time the first few days.  Maintain some of your holiday buzz by doing something you really enjoy like a cinema trip, a treatment or a (healthy!) meal out.

So have a great holiday and let me know if any of these tips work for you. And of course please share your own ideas and tips in the Comments below.

Main Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Be Productive Surprisingly Sunshine Can Help

Be Productive – The Sunshine Can Help!

Be Productive Surprisingly Sunshine Can Help

We are experiencing some fantastic weather this week in Ireland.  Here is a photo I took earlier at my local beach. The weather forecasters promise it’s going to last for a few days but in Ireland we are always a bit reluctant to believe them. The temptation is to down tools, stop work and get outside to make the most of it. Hopefully some of you have the flexibility to do that but many won’t be able to take time off at short notice.  But I bet you are already making plans to adjust your schedule so you can squeeze in some time to enjoy the sunshine. You may be getting up an hour earlier to take a walk on the beach, or starting earlier so you can finish early. Maybe you prefer to take a long lunch break and work later in the evening to allow for it.

CLEAR GOAL

But take a look at what’s happening.  Because you have a clear, tangible goal (i.e. get out into the sunshine) you much more ffocusedand productive while you are in work.  Have you set a deadline? Are you getting through more work in a shorter space of time? How are you achieving this?

Well a number of things may be happening:

  1. You are not allowing yourselves be distracted so easily
  2. You prioritise the items that are a real priority for today
  3. We take more control of our time and don’t let others distract us

PRIORITISE

And you know these are 3 great habits to use during a regular week (i.e. when it’s lashing rain and there is no rush to get home!!). Set a goal, decide a plan to achieve it, really focus when working on it, don’t let other people or things distract you and really enjoy yourself when you succeed. For more tips read our article on Planning & Prioritising in Business.

So what are you waiting for, stop reading articles online and get out into that sunshine! As ever please share any of your ideas, tips or tools in the Comments below.

If you would like further information on being productive or wish to book a Be Productive training session, please contact Moira or Ann on our Contact Form.

Productivity Defined

Productivity – How Can We Measure It?

Productivity is a hot topic these days. At  beproductive.ie we deal with lots of people and companies all striving to be more productive.  At a personal level most people discuss their productivity in terms of getting more done in the time available.  Keeping up with things. But let’s dive in a bit deeper and examine what productivity really means and how it can be measured.

Definition of PRODUCTIVITY

Collins dictionary defines Productivity as “the rate at which goods are produced”.  This definition is quite narrow and is expanded in the Merriam-Webster dictionary to “the rate at which goods are produced or work is completed”

When I chat to clients about what productivity means to them in today’s ever changing world of work their responses include:

  • Do more in less time
  • Do my most important work, with the least amount of effort, so I can spend more time doing what I love.
  • Achieve my goals and spend more time with my family
  • Make money while helping others, working with people I like, and not working overtime

So ask yourself the same question: what does productivity mean to you? What is a productive return on your time? What constitutes valuable work done?

inputs vs outputs

At the simplest level, productivity is a measure of Inputs vs Outputs. For example, in a small company that manufactures products, it can be easy to measure how many people are required to produce a certain number of products. We don’t all manufacture products but even at a personal level we all have “Inputs” and we all have “Outputs”. The challenge is to define what the Inputs and Outputs are in your role. Then you need a practical way of measuring them.

Email Example

One of the simplest things to measure is your Emails. Every day you receive a certain number of new emails (Inputs) and then you process a certain number of those Emails (Outputs). Of course by process I mean actively managing those messages not simply reading them. To be productive each message needs to be processed so that a decision is made and the email does not need to be reprocessed.  There are generally 5 things you should do with your emails:

  • Delete, File, Do, Delegate, Schedule a Task

If you want to learn more about this process click here to read our previous article on the topic on beproductive.ie

Measuring Productivity

The rate at which you clear your Inbox every day can be a simple measure of one aspect of your productivity. Some other measures could include:

  • Number of customer calls answered
  • Number of Tweets sent
  • Number of application forms processed
  • Number of reports written
  • Number of problems solved
  • Number of invoices sent

Can you think of other tasks you can clearly measure?

Work Place Productivity

When measuring productivity within a business, volume measures are seldom sufficient on their own. Output measures must also take into account the quality of the output, its timeliness, its cost and also how many people were involved in the production. The effectiveness of the outputs is what matters, rather than the efficiency with which they were produced.

The choice of productivity measures must also be related to the purpose and objectives of the department and organisation as well as the needs of customers.

Your Productivity

So start thinking about what being productive means to you, your team or your business. What do you produce? What outputs are important?

I will be delving into this topic further in coming articles; looking at productivity measurement for different types of roles in different businesses. So keep checking our website beproductive.ie and Twitter feed @beproductive_ie over the coming weeks. In the meantime please share this article and add your own thoughts in the Comments below.

Productivity Experiment

Update on Productivity Experiment – No Coffee for 6 Weeks!

I stopped drinking coffee 15 days ago. The main reason was to honour the Lenten tradition of giving things up but I was also intrigued to see how caffeine and its absence affected my productivity. And I am happy to report that I have been pleasantly surprised by this productivity experiment. It has been hard to go without coffee but not nearly as hard as I expected, particularly as I hadn’t tapered off beforehand, which all the experts recommend.

4 Weeks Still to Go

There is still a way to go but I am hopeful that the worst is behind me. I expect this as already I am less inclined to think I need a coffee first thing to “get me going”. I must admit that I lapsed one morning, 7 days in. I was running an important seminar and defaulted to old habits. But happily I got back on the horse, or the wagon, I’m not sure which and haven’t faltered since.

What I’ve Learned

  • Drinking lots of water accelerate the caffeine detoxification.
  • It seems to be easier psychologically to give something up if it’s part of a bigger plan rather than trying something for a day or two.
  • Being busy really keeps your mind off it and helps you break the habit
  • Enjoying what you do means you are motivated anyway and don’t rely as much on external factors such as coffee to provide a productivity boost.
  • Energy levels are higher in the afternoon. Presumably this is because there is no lull as the morning coffee leaves your system.
  • Tea is a reasonable alternative but will never provide me with the same happy caffeine boost

What’s Next?

Well it’s only 2 days until St Patrick’s Day, when I can claim a reprieve, yay! My previous lapse tells me that I should be able to enjoy a coffee with my green cupcakes without setting the experiment back too much.

Happy St Patrick’s Day

I hope you all have a great and green St Patrick’s Day wherever you are and if you gave anything up for Lent I hereby grant you a 1 day reprieve!

Next public BE PRODUCTIVE BREAKFAST SEMINAR ON 5TH APR

BOOK HERE

BE PRODUCTIVE, BE HAPPY AND BE WELL

Being Productive Helps you Be Happy

There is lots of research telling us that happy employees are productive but let’s flip that around – lets talk about how productive employees are happier.  You know that feeling when you have a really productive day in work, when you make a plan and you actually achieve most of the tasks in the plan? It’s a great feeling.

In work a lot of our frustration and stress comes from the fact that other things stop us being productive. So let’s explore how we can minimise those factors and increase our output and productivity.

Take control

We can’t control time but we can control how we use our time so that we are not just busy but productive too. And we can do it every single day. We can control:

  • What we work on
  • What we prioritise
  • How often we check email
  • What goals we set
  • How often we plan
  • Our energy levels
  • Our focus
  • Our output
  • Our mobile phone notifications (seriously, we can!)

So how can we do this?

There are lots of articles online and great tips and techniques available. But it can be hard to apply these ideas when we are dealing with such busy work lives.

We try out a new idea for a week or so and then our clients need something urgently or we have a product deadline or a busy year end.

Our new habits can go out the window. We get frustrated because although we are trying to improve and be more productive we fail.

Here are some practical tips to help employees become more productive.

  1. Know the priorities for you and your job
  2. Understand how you work
  3. Control your distractions
  4. Manage your focus
  5. Identify routine tasks for low energy times

Tip 1 – Know Your Priorities

Think about it, you can’t become more productive without knowing what’s important for your job, your team, your targets or your career. What are you trying to achieve, what are your goals? Do some thinking and planning. Set weekly and/or daily goals and identify the tasks that will achieve these goals. Now you have your priorities. Focus on achieving these tasks. Protect your time when you are working on them by minimising your distractions (see later).

Remember, if you don’t set your own priorities, someone else probably will.

 Tip 2 – Understand How You Work

The first step in CHANGING how you work is KNOWING how you work. Do this simply by reflecting on what went well and what didn’t at the end of each day. Did you stick to your plan? Did you end up working on unplanned things? Was this the correct decision at the time? Were those unplanned things important to your role? How many distractions did you allow?  Did you let other people’s priorities take your time? Consider also what time of day you are most productive and when you concentrate best.

You can also do this in a structured way. Keep a simple Time Log for a few days or preferably a week (template available at beproductive.ie). This can seem like a painful exercise but people are generally amazed how much they learn about how their time is spent when they actually track it. Once you know this you can take steps to control it.

Tip 3 – Control Your Distractions

Your Time Log analysis will tell you what distracts you. It could be phone calls, social media notifications, message alerts (the unimportant ones) or other people’s requests which are usually their priorities! Take steps to eliminate or at least minimise your distractions now that you are aware of them.

We let ourselves be distracted because sometimes it’s a welcome change from the tough or dull (priority) task we are working on. And that’s okay if you chose to do this for a set time to refresh and regain your focus.

But the trick is to do it deliberately and control the time you spend. We’ve all been there: “I’ll just check this Twitter notification” and 30 minutes later we’re still on our phone!

So for electronic notifications:

  • Analyse all the notifications you receive. Are you giving them all the same priority?

Are you letting a Twitter interaction distract you as much as the alert for an email from an important client?

  • Turn off the low priority notifications
  • Check Twitter or other social media interactions at a set frequency that makes sense for your business.
  • Consider if you can have periods in the day or week when your email alerts can be on silent. Take control.

Tip 4 – Manage Your Focus

Being productive is not just about being organised and sticking to your plan. It’s about producing the best work you can. It’s about the outcomes you achieve. We sometimes feel unproductive even when we have created the uninterrupted time to work on an important piece of work. This is because we can lose our focus which can really affect our output.

Our focus is affected by our energy levels and this in turn is affected by what we eat, whether we take breaks, how much we sleep. When we’re in busy roles we often compromise these factors.  But simply being aware of their impact helps us make some small adjustments.

Even a 15 minute walk around the block at lunch time can work or maybe sometimes eat a banana instead of that chocolate bar!

Tip 5 – Identify Routine Tasks for Low Energy Times

Most jobs include plenty of routine, so-called “lower priority” tasks such as, updating a database, sending follow-up emails, arranging meetings, ordering supplies or maybe subscribing to a newsletter to stay informed.

Some of these tasks may actually become high priority and urgent if not addressed. Some of these don’t require peak concentration or energy so a good approach is to do them in batch at a time when you know you are not at your peak productivity.

For example between 3pm and 5pm on a Friday can be a great time to do new contact follow-up emails when your energy may be low after a busy week.

You are still being productive because you are getting things done.

Be Productive, Be happy and be Well

Try these changes and you have every chance of making 2017 your most productive and happy year ever. Also keep checking www.beproductive.ie and @beproductive_ie as we constantly post tips and articles.

be productive top tips public breakfast seminar 10th MAY book here

Control Time

Want to Be More Productive in 2017?

Ever wish you had a Time TurnerFaced with the problem of having to attend three classes at once, Hermione Granger used a Time Turner to turn back time and have 27 hours in each day! 

Wouldn’t that be fantastic? Imagine a typical busy day. You make a plan first thing, you get engrossed and before you know it it’s 5pm and you have done nothing you planned to do. No problem, just turn back time to 11am and do it again!

Sadly we don’t live in the magical world of Harry Potter, so we need to take control of how we use time to be productive.

Take control

We can’t control time but we can control how we use our time so that we are not just busy but productive too. And we can do it every single day. We can control:

  • What we work on
  • What we prioritise
  • How often we check email
  • What goals we set
  • How often we plan
  • Our energy levels
  • Our focus
  • Our output
  • Our mobile phone notifications (seriously, we can!)

So how can we do this?

There are lots of articles online and great tips and techniques available. But it can be hard to apply these ideas when we are running our own businesses.

We try out a new idea for a week or so and then our clients need something urgently or we have a product deadline or a busy year end.

Our new habits can go out the window. We get frustrated because although we are trying to improve and be more productive we fail.

Here are some practical tips to help business owners become more productive.

  • Tip 1 – Know the priorities for you and your business
  • Tip 2 – Understand how you work
  • Tip 3 – Control your distractions
  • Tip 4 – Manage your focus
  • Tip 5 – Identify routine tasks for low energy times

Tip 1 – Know the Priorities for Your Business

Think about it, you can’t become more productive without knowing what’s important for your business, your clients, your targets or your career. What are you trying to achieve, what are your goals? Do some thinking and planning. Set weekly and/or daily goals and identify the tasks that will achieve these goals. Now you have your priorities. Focus on achieving these tasks. Protect your time when you are working on them by minimising your distractions (see later).

Remember, if you don’t set your own priorities, someone else probably will.

Tip 2 – Understand How You Work

The first step in CHANGING how you work is KNOWING how you work. Do this simply by reflecting on what went well and what didn’t at the end of each day. Did you stick to your plan? Did you end up working on unplanned things? Was this the correct decision at the time? Were those unplanned things important to your business? How many distractions did you allow?  Did you let other people’s priorities take your time? Consider also what time of day you are most productive and when you concentrate best.

You can also do this in a structured way. Keep a simple Time Log for a few days or preferably a week (template available at beproductive.ie). This can seem like a painful exercise but people are generally amazed how much they learn about how their time is spent when they actually track it. Once you know this you can take steps to control it.

Tip 3 – Control Your Distractions

Your Time Log analysis will tell you what distracts you. It could be phone calls, social media notifications, message alerts (the unimportant ones) or other people’s requests which are usually their priorities! Take steps to eliminate or at least minimise your distractions now that you are aware of them.

We let ourselves be distracted because sometimes it’s a welcome change from the tough or dull (priority) task we are working on. And that’s okay if you chose to do this for a set time to refresh and regain your focus.

But the trick is to do it deliberately and control the time you spend. We’ve all been there: “I’ll just check this Twitter notification” and 30 minutes later we’re still on our phone!

So for electronic notifications:

  • Analyse all the notifications you receive. Are you giving them all the same priority? Are you letting a Twitter interaction distract you as much as the alert for an email from an important client?
  • Turn off the low priority notifications
  • Check Twitter or other social media interactions at a set frequency that makes sense for your business.
  • Consider if you can have periods in the day or week when your email alerts can be on silent. Take control.

Tip 4 – Manage Your Focus

Being productive is not just about being organised and sticking to your plan. It’s about producing the best work you can. It’s about the outcomes you achieve. We sometimes feel unproductive even when we have created the uninterrupted time to work on an important piece of work. This is because we can lose our focus which can really affect our output.

Our focus is affected by our energy levels and this in turn is affected by what we eat, whether we take breaks, how much we sleep. When we’re in business for ourselves we often compromise these factors.  But simply being aware of their impact helps us make some small adjustments.

Even a 15 minute walk around the block at lunch time can work or maybe sometimes eat a banana instead of that chocolate bar!

Tip 5 – Identify Routine Tasks for Low Energy Times

Running a business presents plenty of routine, so-called “lower priority” tasks such as, updating your contact database, sending follow-up emails, arranging meetings, ordering supplies or maybe subscribing to a newsletter to stay informed.

Some of these tasks may actually become high priority and urgent if not addressed. Some of these don’t require peak concentration or energy so a good approach is to do them in batch at a time when you know you are not at your peak productivity.

For example between 3pm and 5pm on a Friday can be a great time to do new contact follow-up emails when your energy may be low after a busy week.

You are still being productive because you are getting things done.

Be Productive in 2017

Try these changes in the New Year and you have every chance of making 2017 your most productive year ever. Also keep check in on beproductive.ie on the web and on Twitter as we constantly post tips and articles on a range of topics. Happy New Year!

Productive Meetings

Be Productive – How to End a Business Meeting Effectively

By Moira Dunne

We all spend way to many precious business hours every day in meetings. There are many tips for making meetings more efficient but for today I just want to give you one tip. Focus on the close out of your meeting and make sure you are maximising this part.

Why? Because arguably this is the most important 5 minutes of the entire meeting so that everyone is clear about what was agreed. And if you want everyone to follow up on their assigned actions then, yes you’ve guessed it, the end is the time to get this buy-in.

Now I know you are all too busy in meetings to read long articles so I have given you a short summary below of the best way to end your meeting.

Key Pointers to end the meeting

  1. Check for completion
    • did everyone have time to air their views, did all topics get covered?
  2. Check for alignment
    • Asking the question, “Is everyone OK with where we ended up?” will surface questions or concerns so they can be resolved as soon as possible.
  3. Agree on next steps
    • Getting firm, clear commitments  to ensure progress between meetings.  Clearly state what you will do by when and asking others to do the same
  4. Check for acknowledgements
    • Take a moment to be positive about what was accomplished in the meeting, even if not everything you set out to cover. Let people know you appreciate their time and contribution.

Be More productive

We all need to work on our meeting skills but using this checklist gives you a chance of instant improvement and hopefully better results too. If you try this out or have any more meeting tips please add a comment below.