The 5-Step Guide For Small Business Productivity

By Richard Kao

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Time is our most precious resource. You can lose motivation, money, or even an entire business, but you can always work to reignite your drive, earn more money, or rebuild a failed business.

Time lost due to procrastination, on the other hand, has been lost forever. If you’re a small business owner who needs help in making the most of his time and staying productive, this brief 5-step guide will show you how it’s done.

1. Track Where And How You Spend Your Time

If you don’t track it, you can’t improve it.

The saying holds true for many aspects of business: marketing, IT efficiency, and yes, even workplace productivity. Before you take any step to improving your productivity, you must first learn how and where you spend your time at work.

Are you spending too much time on meetings? Maybe you need to take more breaks to re-energize and renew your focus? Or perhaps you can dedicate more minutes or hours in other business-building activities like developing new products, engaging with customers, or building relationships with industry folks?

Those questions can only be answered if you properly track your time, and a tool like RescueTime can help you with that.

For the popular tech website PCMag, RescueTime was ranked as one of the best time-tracking and management app around. It monitors how you spend your computer time, and it works across multiple devices.

But most important, RescueTime provides reports with graphs and charts that contain the information you need to turn you into your most productive self.

2. Plan Your Day And Set Priorities

You arrive at the office but have no clear idea of what to do. And then things began to happen: emails flood your inbox, visitors drop by, and the phone rings non-stop. You’re busy throughout the working day. But at the end of it, you haven’t made any progress on your most important projects.

If this is true for you, you’re missing a crucial ingredient for productivity and better time management: planning.

Without planning, you are almost guaranteed to have a reactive day - just like the one described above. You react to the things that require your attention, similar to how firefighters react when there’s fire. And when the bustling office goes a little quiet, you ask yourself: “Alright, what do I do next?”

But you’re a small business owner, not a firefighter. So instead of waiting for fires to put out, sit down and plan your day for 10 minutes before you even head out to the office.

Remember, a minute spent in planning gives you 10 minutes in execution, which means 10 minutes spent in planning gives you an hour and 40 minutes. Done daily, you could be looking at 22 more days available for your most important projects and other business activities.

3. Eliminate Distractions And Create A Productivity-Friendly Environment

Distractions at work are par for the course. Topping the list are emails, social media, cute cat videos, and other digital time-wasters. And then there’s the big pile of paperwork, dozens of Post-it notes, and an empty, stained cup of coffee on your desk.

Yes, distractions are all around you. But that doesn’t mean you have to put up with them.

Sure, you can resist the temptation to check personal emails or log into a non-work-related website. But one can only resist distractions for so long. Willpower is finite, and once it runs out, falling for these time-wasters is inevitable.

Instead of trying to resist distractions and time-wasters (and losing willpower in the process), a better solution is to eliminate distractions - both physical and digital - so you can maintain focus and stay productive.

If you spend most of your working hours in front of a computer, using tools like Cold Turkey or KeepMeOut. These tools let you specify which websites to block - those that waste a huge chunk of your time - and when to block them.

By using site blockers at work, even if you give in and try to log into, say, YouTube or 9Gag, you won’t gain access and would instead get an inspirational productivity quote or a reminder that you’re supposed to work.

As for physical distractions like a messy desk and a pile of documents, start your day by spending 10 to 15 minutes sorting out your workspace.

4. Stop Multitasking And Focus On One Task At A Time

The temptation to multitask is always present - and one can find it hard to resist.

It’s very easy to draw out your smartphone to send emails while on a meeting, or to check for social media updates while talking to a client on the phone. But these seemingly innocent gestures of juggling two things at once come at a steep price: 40% loss of productivity!

Now, take note that there are three forms of multitasking according to the American Psychological Association:

  1. Working on two or more tasks at the same time
  2. Switching from one task to another without completing the first one
  3. Performing two or more tasks in quick succession (yes, because our brains need rest to shift focus)

All three variants of multitasking can reduce your efficiency and mental energy.

Take charge of your workday! Say no to multitasking and focus on a single task for 30 to 50 minutes at a time. You also want take a 5- to 10-minute break between periods of uninterrupted work and focus to give your brain a refreshing change of pace.

And last but not the least, manage emails, social media, and other daily interruptions by designating a specific time of the day for these activities.

5. Outsource And Delegate Tasks Outside Of Your Expertise

“I thought as the owner and president that I had to have all the answers. Over 20 years, I learned that it was impossible for me to do it and know it all,” says Anisa Telwar, founder and CEO of Anisa International.

Many small business owners are tempted to think like Anisa Telwar did decades ago. But strong businesses aren’t built on a single individual’s skills and talents.

A business that rests on your shoulders alone is not sustainable.

The amount of responsibilities you will have to handle as an owner will only grow.  Maybe you are fine with DIY marketing, customer support, and a little inventory management on your plate, and a one-man team might be enough to keep your business running during its infancy.

But sooner or later, your to-do list will include two to three dozen tasks on top of a cross-country flight to meet with an investor. If you micro-manage every aspect of your business, breaking under stress and pressure is only a question of time.

So trust your team! Delegate tasks and let them use good judgment to get the job done.

You don’t want to spend top dollar to recruit top talents - only to spend the rest of your working hours breathing down your employees’ necks to see if they’re doing work exactly the way you wanted.

In addition, you also want to outsource tasks and jobs that are necessary for operations but don’t boost the company’s bottom-line.

Take printer management for example. Keeping a fleet of printers in tip-top shape is a requirement especially if you print a lot of marketing materials and business documents. But while necessary, it doesn’t directly contribute to the company’s growth.

If such is your case, leaving your printers in the capable hands of a managed print services provider can help you and your team maintain 100% focus on business-building tasks during working hours.


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You might like these blog posts Omnichannel Marketing: Best Practices, Starting Up Part 2: Conquering the Lean Startup Phase, Onboarding + Performance = Engaged Employees, and How to Build a Recruiting Marketing Content Plan.

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