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 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.

Be Productive Meetings Checklist

Be Productive – Meetings Checklist

At beproductive.ie we help organisations improve their productivity by providing practical training, advice, tips and tools. Meetings take up a lot of time and can really affect our productivity. So we have created a Be Productive Meetings Checklist to help make your meetings more productive.

Be Productive Meetings Checklist

BEFORE

First of all it is important to spend some time planning your meeting.

  • Invite those with a role to play (participate, learn, inform)
  • Ask for input on agenda topics
  • Circulate the agenda with any pre-reading or reference documents

DURING

Then actively manage the meeting as it takes place.

  • Set the meeting expectations
  • Agree ground rules *
  • Nominate a note-taker
  • Encourage participation from all
  • Don’t dominate the discussion
  • Keep on track, park long discussions
  • Ensure key decisions and actions are recorded
  • Recap to gain commitment & assign actions
  • Review what worked well /what didn’t
  • Thanks people for their time and contribution

* The ground rules can be as simple as switching off phones or not bringing laptops to the meeting.

AFTER

Finally make sure you maximise the good work done in the meeting by following up afterwards on actions, decisions and unresolved issues.

  • Circulate actions
  • Follow up on any parked discussions
  • Resolve any issues that emerged

Click here for a copy of our Be Productive Meetings template. For more meeting tips read our article Make Meetings Productive.

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

Main Photo by Climate KIC on Unsplash

SME Productivity Training

Productivity Training for SME’S

At beproductive.ie we provide SME Productivity Training. We train business owners and their employees on the techniques and tools for working smarter . As a result businesses can immediately make changes to their daily work routine. And these changes can help to improve productivity in a measurable way.

SME Productivity Training

Many large organisations have productivity programmes in place. This allows them measure return on the investment made in systems and employees..  But for many smaller businesses, processes have developed from the startup days. Consequently these processes may never have been optimised for maximum productivity.

Productivity Improvement

But efficient processes are easy to design and quick to implement. So improve productivity while also reducing employee frustration and stress. We encourage employers to involve their employees in the improvements project. Because employees are closest to the processes and often have the best ideas.

So we offer many different training options which we customise to suit your individual needs:

Team Productivity Improvement Project

This programme can:  1) provide measurable improvements in productivity, 2) foster a culture of continuous improvement and 3) decrease employee frustration by improving processes and reducing barriers to productivity.

And here is a description of the programme:

  • Productivity Training Session on the principles, techniques and tools for working smarter and being productive
  • Team Workshop to brainstorm where improvements can be made
  • Team Action Planning
  • Plan Implementation with Mentoring Support
  • Plan Review
  • Continuous Improvement Plan
  • Organisational Change Advice

At beproductive.ie we have experience of large private and public sector organisations. But we have also worked with many startups and small enterprises. We tailor our offering for the exact requirements of each business, each sector and each company culture.

SME Productivity Training

So contact us today to talk about your business and how we can help improve your productivity.

Turn Busy into Productive

How to Turn Busy into Productive

Productivity is a hot topic these days.  Everyone is busy but not a lot of people feel productive. Expectations within the workplace are higher than ever and deadlines are shorter. And with mobile technology most employees are permanently on-demand. How can we turn busy into productive?

But employees want to be productive and not just busy. They feel stressed if they can’t get on top of their ever increasing workload. And employers are frustrated too. Because despite a high investment in technology and supports they are not getting the increase in performance their investment should deliver.

Turn busy into Productive

So it is an attractive goal to be more productive, but it is not always clear how to achieve this. Firstly it is important to make sure that:

  1. The correct work is done and
  2. That the outcome of that work leads to the correct results for the business.

But the good news is that by making small changes workplace productivity can be improved quickly . The best way to do this is to encourage staff to develop the solutions themselves by engaging people at all levels within the organisation.

But before we discuss any solutions to workplace productivity let’s make sure we understand what we are trying to improve. What does productivity actually mean in today’s workplace?

Defining Productivity

The challenge in defining productivity is that it means different things in different businesses, jobs and roles. So lets start with the basics – the dictionary definition of Productivity is “the rate at which employees produce goods or complete work”.

Therefore productivity can be described as a measure of Outputs. In a company that manufactures products, it is clear what this means. The output is a measure of how many products are produced over a given period of time. This is quite simplistic and of course all businesses don’t manufacture products.

But within every role in every business, there are “Outputs” that the person in the role needs to produce. And usually the best people to define those outputs are the employees with experience of the role or the business manager to whom they report.

First of all it is important to clarify and communicate the outputs and the outcomes (i.e. business results) that each employee must work towards. That sounds like a lengthy and complex exercise but it doesn’t have to be.

Start with these questions. How can I define productivity within my business? What is a productive return on each employee’s time? What constitutes valuable work done?

Engage Employees

Motivate employees to improve their personal productivity by providing training in the key concepts of how to be productive. This includes techniques on how to efficiently:

And motivate teams to consider what they can do collectively to improve productivity. This can include simple changes such as:

  • Adopting a Meetings process to reduce meeting time and improve follow up
  • Agreeing best Email practices to reduce the number of internal processing time
  • Sharing the weekly workload so that everyone has uninterrupted “deep thinking” time
  • Identifying and eliminating the distractions within the office.

Organisational Productivity

Then an organisation needs to ensure that the correct processes are in place to sustain any productivity improvements made. Without this employees efforts will falter and they will become frustrated, stressed and disengaged.

Consequently It is important to also examine what structural or cultural changes may need to happen to support a productive workplace. The following organisational issues prevent people performing at their best .

  • Inefficient processes
  • Layers of sign-off
  • Poor decision making by management
  • Shifting priorities and deadlines
  • Lacks of clarity
  • Poor planning

By removing these barriers there is a higher chance of sustaining an increase in productivity and performance. And employee commitment also improves as people feel they positive in a culture encouraging continuous improvement and engagement.

Measuring Productivity

The measurement of productivity within roles doesn’t have to be complex. Take Email processing as an example. Productivity can be measured as: the number of Emails received each day (Input) versus the number of Emails answered each day (Output). Some other measures could include the numbers of:

  • application forms processed
  • reports written
  • performance reviews completed
  • customer problems solved
  • social media interactions
  • invoices sent

This can be too simplistic because volume measures are seldom sufficient on their own. Output measures must also take into account the quality of the output, its timeliness and its cost. Also how many people were involved. The effectiveness of the outputs is what matters, rather than the efficiency. But these examples are a good starting point when deciding your own business measures.

Productivity within Your Organisation

So embark on a productivity project that engages your employees. Encourage and support them to make small incremental changes with business outcomes and results in mind. Foster a culture of continuous improvement.  Add measures so that your return on investment and your employees commitment to the project can be clearly demonstrated.

Moira speaking at last month’s Be Productive Top Tips Seminar in BOI Workbench.

To discuss how to improve productivity in your organisation with a Productivity Seminar, Training session or Productivity Project click here or call Moira on 0868189719.

Smart Email Tools

Be Productive – Use Smart Email Tools

The Email Problem

When I ask people in business what stops them being productive they mostly say, “Dealing with all my EMAIL!”  It’s reassuring to know that Email is a shared problem but how can businesses get on top of it?

In a previous article we looked at ways to “Take Control of Your Inbox” by: 1) choosing when to check Email and 2) using a process to sort messages quickly.

But why stop there? Let’s look at some of smart Email tools available in Microsoft Outlook that can help businesses work smarter. This article takes a look at Rules, Colour Coding and Quick Parts.

We also look at smarter Email structure and practices that can reduce the time employees spend processing Email. There is no magic solution but with some effort and imagination teams can use these ideas to collectively come up with ways to use their time more productively.

Smart Email Tools

1. Use Rules for Decision Making and Filing

Use the Rules functionality to automatically process Emails. If you set the conditions that an Email meets, a certain action is taken. That may sound complex but with a little practice and testing, you can master rules. Most rules either: 1) organise messages or 2) notify you of their arrival. An sample rule is “to move messages from a Newsletter subscription into a Newsletter folder”.

These Emails don’t require immediate action but their arrival can often interrupt our focus on priority tasks. By using a rule you ignore them until you chose to read them. The rule helps you take control and use your time productively. Schedule this low priority task into a short gap in your calendar or when your energy levels are low.

Create rules to suit how you work. Here are some ideas:

  • Identify Emails from your most important clients and send them to the top of your Inbox.
  • Move all meeting invitations to a “Meeting Invites” folder for easy retrieval
  • Email from certain people stays in your Inbox while all other mail is moved to specified folders (this rule is not for the faint hearted, but a version of it could work for you)

Top Tip: Don’t forget about Emails that have been filed automatically. Check regularly.

2. Use Colour Coding to Prioritise

Categorise Emails using colour coding to help visually sort and prioritise them. This ensures that important Emails stand out and don’t get overlooked. Assign a  colour based on The Sender or text in the Subject line. Also colour code based on the location of your name i.e. in the To, Cc or Bcc field.

Top Tip: Don’t overuse this tool or your Inbox can look like a rainbow!

3. Use Quick Parts to Save Time

Quick Parts in Microsoft Outlook is a simple tool that allows you reuse a standard block of text, This could text that is used repeatedly such as a project scope statement, a product description or a Company Mission statement.

Save the text from within an existing Email. To retrieve the saved text in a new Email simply type the first few words of the block and press enter to accept the suggested text.

Smart Email tools

A lot of time is lost reading through Emails to decide how to respond. If you make changes that effect a team of people it is important to get together and brainstorm the best approach. By using these smart Email tools to work smarter together your outcomes and results are more beneficial to the business.

1. Email Structure – Clarify Actions

Rounds of clarification Emails can be avoided by clarifying what you want your readers to do. By using the simple checklist of what, why, who and when you can structure longer complex messages in a way that removes any uncertainty.

Top Tip: Avoid offending colleagues by using language that is too instructional. Involve them in agreeing the new Email structure.

2. Email Structure – Use Purposeful Subjects

If a message is very short you can actually type it in the Subject line itself! This saves a couple of extra clicks to open and close the message. As above, I recommend discussing this in advance with your colleagues so they don’t find your new approach annoying!

Here are some examples where the Subject line can be used for a short message:

  • Action: Review attached report by Friday
  • Project Y: Meeting 1pm tomorrow, Board Room
  • FYI on Project X: No Response Req.

Some people also use acronyms like NRR “no reply required” to make expectations really clear. Try to come up with acronyms related to your own business to save Email processing time.

Other things to consider

Generally the more Emails we send the more we receive. To reduce your Email volumes consider other options. While Email is invaluable for sharing facts, reports or group updates, sometimes a phone call or a desk visit is a better option, particularly if you need to exchange opinions, feelings or thoughts.

Some companies have gone as far as introducing Email free times to give their employees uninterrupted time slots for deep concentrated work. Can you and your team come up with some ideas to collectively reduce Email processing time.

Be Productive

I hope you find a way of applying these ideas within your business. It is never easy to adopt new ways but try to persist until the changes stick. Let us know what work and what doesn’t. And of course please share any of your own tips in the comments below.

For more information or details about our Email Management workshops please contact me at moiradunne@beproductive.ie

Take Control of Your Inbox

Be Productive – Take Control of Your Inbox

The Email Problem

It happens to us all. We arrive in the office and make a plan for the day. But first we check our email and the next thing we know its lunchtime. Sound familiar? Our intentions are good, “I’ll just clear some emails so I can really focus on my plan for the day”. But of course those messages keep arriving because most emails we send prompt a response.

Our email work may have cleared key items off our task list but it may not. That is the first problem – working on email this way is reactive rather than planned. We can become slaves to our email accounts and often end up working on other people’s priorities instead of our own.

The second problem is that unless we actively manage our emails they accumulate so that we end up with thousands in our Inbox. Important information can get lost and the constant arrival of new messages can result in missed deadlines or actions contained in previous messages.

New Approach to Email

So how can we develop some good email habits, take control and reduce some of that email management stress? The first step is to change the way we view our Inbox.

Reading email without making decisions is not a productive use of time. Email management requires a workflow and a process.  The Inbox should be viewed as a conveyer belt.  As new emails arrive aim to read them quickly so that a decision can be made on what action needs to be taken.

3 Steps to Take Control of Your Inbox

Then follow these three steps:

  1. Organise your Inbox
  2. Use a Process to Manage your Email
  3. Control When You Work on Email
  1. Organise Your Inbox

It is important to get organised before you adopt a new approach. Set up folders so you have a place to move your messages as you make decisions.  You can create Reference Folders for messages you wish to keep and Working folders for messages that require further action or follow up.

The Working Folders can include folders like Scheduled, Delegated or Awaiting Information. The Reference folders should reflect the way you work (i.e. key projects or customers). But don’t over complicate this, many people just work with one Reference or Archive folder and avail of the powerful Search and Sort functionality in Microsoft Outlook to find their messages.

  1. Use a Process to Manage your Email

Actively manage your emails as you read each one and decide what action is required. Then move each message to the correct folder. The process is Read, Decide and Move.

Read and Decide

Read the email quickly to decide whether it requires further action or not.

Move

Then move the email as follows:

  1. No Further Action required – Delete it or File it

2) Further Action required – Do It, Task It or Pass It On

  1. Do It – If a response will takes 2 minutes or less
  2. Convert to a Task – If more than 2 minutes is estimated, schedule a task in your calendar or task list to complete at a later time
  3. Pass it On – Forward messages to others if the request is something you are unable to do or it is something you can delegate. Include your reasons for passing the message on.

Guidelines for Processing Email

  • Aim to process each email once only
  • Work through your messages systematically in the order they arrive
  • Don’t cherry pick the interesting ones as other important messages may get overlooked

 Control When You Work on Email

To do this you need to switch off your email notifications.  This can enhance productivity because every switch away from what you are working on to check an email interrupts focus. And it can take up to four minutes to regain that focus.  So if you eliminate even 15 email interruptions a day, you can gain an hour of focussed time. If you do this for a week, you can gain five extra hours.

That sounds fantastic but it can be hard to work without ongoing email alerts or checks. We can feel uncomfortable because we are used to being in touch. In fact our work environment and culture may demand it. But use your judgement. Are there routine days when you could try this new approach even for specific blocks of time?

3 times a day works well for lots of people. Spend 15 minutes maximum checking first thing in the morning. Then schedule time to process your email before lunch and again towards the end of the day.  If that doesn’t seem frequent enough, add in a short timed mid-morning and mid-afternoon check.

Measurement

When you introduce a change to your work practice it is important to measure any improvement. So before you start, track how much time you spend managing your email. Then try your new approach for 30 days and measure your email management time again. Try also to note improved productivity due to the reduced distraction from email.

 Don’t Stop There

Once you have reduced your email management time you can further increase your productivity by using email tools and techniques available in Microsoft Outlook such as:

  1. Rules to Reduce Decisions and Filing
  2. Colour Coding and Flags to Prioritise
  3. Auto text and Templates to automate routine text entry
  4. Purposeful Actions and Subject lines

Here is the link to our article about these topics – Smart Email Tools

Be Productive

These tips may not suit everyone’s style or every work place. But be productive, take the ideas and modify them to suit your own environment. Let me know how it goes and of course I would love to hear any other techniques and tips that have worked for you.

Productivity Experiment No Coffee

Productivity Experiment – No Coffee for 6 Weeks!

“Giving Up” FOR Lent

Today marks the start of Lent which in Ireland is a 6 week period before Easter when many people “give something up”. Lent actually lasts for 40 days and 40 nights, from Ash Wednesday (today 1st March) to Easter Sunday. We often joke that it’s not the 40 days but the 40 nights that gets you! The custom is based on the religious concept of penance that most Irish Catholics were born into. It is all about preparation for Easter. As kids this usually meant giving up our favourite sweets or chocolate treats. Then on Easter Sunday we would be rewarded with piles of chocolate Easter Eggs. It was always worth the sacrifice as we rose at dawn and gorged ourselves and usually felt quite ill by mid-morning on that Spring Sunday.

St Patrick’s Day

A great quirk of this Irish Lenten penance is of course the reprieve we get on St Patricks Day. March 17th is our national feast day and always seems to fall nicely in the middle of Lent. A “special dispensation” means us Paddies can eat all the treats we like on this day. Love it.

Old habits die hard  a lot of adults still give up something we enjoy. Some of the more mature folk amongst us take something up instead, something virtuous and giving. But this year I will be “giving up” and for some crazy reason, I have decided that my “sacrifice” will be coffee.

No Coffee for 6 Weeks

I know! I’m worried too! Because I love coffee. I love really good coffee. I have favourite coffee houses and would often travel a distance to get good coffee. I don’t drink that much – maximum 2 cups per day. But it seems to give me a boost and I often have a burst of productivity for about 2 hours after a strong cup.

So……let’s see what happens. I consumed my last cup of coffee yesterday. 40 days of tea and smoothies looms! How hard will it be? How will it affect my daily routine, my focus, my productivity?

Join me in this adventure as I post a weekly update. If anyone has any advice or experience of coffee abstinence I would like to hear it. And of course if you too are joining the Lenten penance party, be sure  to let us all know.