Productivity advice from small business owners for small business owners.
We're inundated with productivity and time-saving advice articles online and in print, but not all of it is written especially for people like you, small and medium business owners with staff to manage and a number of daily tasks to keep on top of. In order to bring you the best possible time management advice we asked a wide range of other small business owners for a few great productivity tips which have helped them grow and manage their companies.
We really hope you enjoy these tips. Feel free to reach out to us if you have a piece of productivity advice that you think others could benefit from.
Now over to ten business owners and their productivity tips!
Michael Assad, Partner, VP Sales & Marketing
Argenia Systems Inc.
Move everything to the cloud: Email, file sharing, CRM, Websites, VOIP phone systems, etc. - no one has time for IT and there are cloud solutions for everything.
Find a good website builder and get really good at search engine optimization (SEO) - systems like Squarespace and Weebly can help anyone design and build a beautiful site and cost very little to use - with good SEO, the leads will come to you so you can spend less time on sales and less money on marketing.
Eat smoothies - for breakfast, lunch or dinner - you can pack them with vitamins, protein and whatever you need to get a quick nutritional fix.
Founder & Managing Director
Use peak 'get things done' energy levels - for me that's usually during the morning, after my coffee - to focus on the big stuff - reviewing important documents; making major decisions; etc. It's too easy to end up using that burst of energy to do the little menial jobs and that has to be avoided, it's really important to make the most of your peak focus and get the big things done.
Use the different times of day to enjoy your work and be more efficient. I am involved with lots of creative tasks, such as graphics design, new product branding, etc. I like to focus on these after office hours, the emails stop pinging and phone stops ringing so you can enjoy getting involved in the creative process. When I have to go out to visit a manufacturer, check deliveries, etc - I always avoid rush hour. Not only is my journey quicker, but i can also enjoy the trip over there without getting stressed by traffic. I think it is important to plan work activities around the realities of different times of the day - be it energy levels, traffic or a calm office - doing so effectively can make work far more efficient and more enjoyable too.
During times when there is a project on a tight deadline and ultimate focus is needed, we use the Pomodoro Technique. We'll work straight for 20 minutes and then take a 5 minute break away from the PC. After 4 rounds of this there is a 30 minute break to recharge before doing it again. Use a simple kitchen timer and try it; it's so simple and it's amazing how focused everyone gets knowing they only have 20 minutes until their next break.
Know your personal bio-rhythms, for both energy and creativity, and time your day accordingly. For example, some people feel more creative at night, despite it being the end of the day. I like to write at night as an example, or for art work or other visual creative pursuits. Do your hardest most draining work at the time when you have the most energy.
Work standing up, leaning, and then sitting, in a pattern. There has been a long debate, for good reason, about the health, and energy benefits of sitting working vs. standing. The answer is actually a blend of both, plus sometimes leaning. Variation between all three is the perfect blend of not getting too tired, but not being a slug at your desk all day. Do check out the work lean stools that allow one to do this.
That 9-5 schedule is so passé. As an entrepreneur constantly on the go, there's really no good time to stop and take a break, here are the three tips that help me most.
Dropbox: As with most cloud storage, the best project management software we've found and are currently using is Dropbox. Not only does it have remote storage so we can access our files anywhere, but it is a huge boost to productivity. I've downloaded the apps on my tablet and phone to have files anywhere.
FitBit: With barely enough time to walk from meeting to meeting, at least something is keeping track of my motion. These wearable fitness devices keep me accountable, and push me to move more, even if Im not at the gym. Good to have an on-going workout!
BYOD: Don't get pigeonholed with conformity. We have people working all over the country, who make their own accommodations for productivity. Some of my tips are to develop a flexible BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device Policy. Within Accessibility Partners, we've seen that when a staff member purchases an item like a tablet, computer, or phone, they can create a device that truly works for them.
Enlist the support of your smart phone. My smart phone has a goal tracking application with a home screen widget that scrolls through my goals. Every time I pick up my cell phone, I am reminded of the things I need to accomplish that day, and I check them off as I'm done. I always make sure that the goal widget is on the very first screen I see when I turn on my phone so that my goals are always right in my face. My lock screen displays the message "Let's reach our goals!", and every important event with a set time makes it to my phone's calendar.
Allow staff to decompress between projects. This can be as simple as a break room or as big as an entertainment center.
Incorporate project management apps into your workflow to save time and frustration down the road. Basecamp is my favorite.
A healthy staff member is a happy staff member. I invest in healthy snacks for the break room such as fruits and organic coffee to keep everyone energized throughout the day.
The Love Your Job Project
Something we've recently implemented is Scrum, which is an agile method for project management. Although it is typically implemented for software development, it has worked wonders for many areas of our business including product development, marketing, and business development. We use Asana to build out our weekly sprints, detailing the various tasks that we need to accomplish. Everyone at the company has access to the sprint list. This has been key for driving high productivity and accountability.
One extra hour in the morning goes a long way. Get up an hour earlier and set aside that time either for yourself or to get a jump on your personal to-do list. You'll be surprised how much you can get accomplished!
Work in blocks. Block off time for various tasks and stick to only that task during that block. You don't have to block off your whole day, but if you find you have trouble focusing on one thing or get distracted and end up multitasking, try to use the block to focus on just that one thing.
Don't multitask! This one is a hard one to break since so many people think that multitasking is a badge of honour. More and more scientific evidence is pointing to the fact that trying to multitask is detrimental. Even people who think they're good at it, aren't. If you focus on one thing at a time, you'll give it your full attention and you'll find completing the task easier.
Co-founder & CEO
Pastel Dress Party
List tasks daily and book them into your calendar. At this era of information overload, we tend to get distracted very easily. Your calendar reminder will push you to keep working (snooze the reminder until you finish the task!).
Work any hours and any day of the week - you will find that working more days not only allow you to get sufficient rest everyday but it will also allow you to have a life to have dinner and hangout with friends. Weekends don't have to be full work days but you can still find some productive hours here and there.