Technology is the modern day malaise. On the one hand it has helped businesses become more efficient, but on the other it often means people are switched on 24/7 – something business owners need to overcome to improve productivity.
The Chartered Institute of Management (CIM) suggested in a report called the, ‘The Quality of Working Life’ that the ‘long-hours culture’ has now been replaced with an ‘always-on culture’ – with devices such as smart phones and tablets allowing people to be at work all the time, checking emails, answering calls wherever they are.
In the report CMI highlighted that 61% of managers say technology has made it difficult to switch off from work, with around one in five managers saying they check their email all the time outside of working hours and over half (54%) check frequently.
Constantly checking email can kill productivity
Checking email constantly is one of the biggest time wasters at work; it is a distraction, can cause stress and it can sap productivity. The report also found that those who struggle to switch off from work and check email more report lower personal productivity and job satisfaction levels, and they experience more frequent stress.
68% of those who rate themselves as less than 70% productive say technology has made it hard to switch off from work, compared to 56% of those who say they are productive more than 90% of the time.
Having a strategy for dealing with emails is crucial and a good tip is to restrict checking emails to just three times a day, when you arrive at work, around lunchtime and finally in the late afternoon.
This not only frees up business owners to get on with their day to day job, but sets a good example to any employees who can also feel overwhelmed by emails.
Use the ‘Rule of 3’ to boost your effectiveness and get more done
When people first start a business they can be juggling a hundred and one things at the same time. However, once the business has been going for a while it’s time to step back a little.
Setting realistic but clear goals and working to the ‘Rule of 3’ can really aid productivity.
Have three things on the go at once and no more, as most things are best defined in three points. You can also use the rule of 3 to good effect when you are creating a business pitch or presentation.
Draw up a ‘DO NOT DO’ list
Another top tip to improve productivity is to write a daily ‘to do’ list and a weekly ‘not to do’ list. This can help focus the mind on doing the right things, rather than wasting time on things that don’t really need doing at that time or don’t need to be doing at all.
It can help avoid procrastination, which according to a YouGov survey last year on behalf of RateSetter costs British businesses £76 billion a year, with the average employee spending 43 minutes procrastinating at work, adding up to 3 hours and 35 minutes of lost productivity every week.
Covey’s Matrix, which is a time management tool that has stood the test of time, can help you to work out which tasks should go on to your ‘Not To Do’ list.
Learn to say ‘No’
Another challenge for business owners is learning to say no. Learning to be comfortable saying ‘no’ to requests will improve productivity as you don’t waste time on unnecessary tasks.
The billionaire US investor Warren Buffett once said: “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” It’s a useful quote to remember.
Do you really need to have that meeting?
Meetings can be another time waster. According to research by leadership coaching company, ‘That People Thing’, almost two-thirds of time spent in meetings is wasted and non-beneficial, with just 44% of meeting time believed to be valuable to the company and as little as 36% is deemed beneficial to managers own roles.
Restricting meetings to an hour and always having a strict agenda will help, but also think about whether a meeting is actually needed or if a 10 minute phone call or quick email exchange would be suffice. Ask yourself if you are really needed at a meeting or have just been asked out of courtesy. Only attend meetings that are absolutely essential.
Business owners should develop some good routines and never have a full calendar – always making sure they block some time out for themselves and for creative planning and thinking – at least an hour a week. Do this with colleagues or alone – the process is productive and it energising.
Put these ideas into action and you’ll be surprised and how much more you can get done. And to boost your productivity even further, here are five more tips you can use:
1. Accept excellence over perfection. Perfection is often not needed and costs too much, and be tidy – lay out simple plans for complex projects in multiples of three items or steps.
2. Avoid tough thinking between 2 and 3pm. It’s the body’s down time. Be healthy and walk and use the stairs wherever possible. Any cardiovascular exercise will boost productivity especially before the day begins. Drink lots of water too as this can improve energy levels.
3. Read or listen to fiction as this will re-wire the creative lines in your head.
4. Be mindfully individual, do things your way as far as possible, it will give you strength.
5. Lastly, take an extra 5% of time to get things right first time. It saves time in the long run.
About the author
This guide has been written for ByteStart by Stephen Archer, Director of UK business and leadership consultancy, Spring Partnerships and an economic and business analyst.
More help on getting the most out of yourself
For more tips and ideas on how to be productive and grow your business, try these other ByteStart guides;
- How to avoid self-destruction and achieve your business goals
- Increasing your personal efficiency – how to get more done in less time
- How to successfully manage your time with the OATS method
- Developing your startup’s greatest asset – YOU
- How finding a great mentor could help you to grow, and your business to flourish
- The 3 issues you’ll need to overcome if you want your start-up to reach £1m turnover
- How you can build your business in 90 minutes a day
And these will help you to hire, motivate and keep great staff;
- How to motivate employees and create a loyal workforce on a budget
- How to design an effective incentive scheme for your small business
- Using staff benefits to motivate and retain employees
- How setting up a salary sacrifice scheme can reward staff and mean lower tax bills for employers and employees
- The real cost of hiring your first employee
- Becoming an employer – Your responsibilities when you hire staff
- How businesses can encourage a healthy work/life balance and benefit from more engaged and productive employees