Who isn’t looking to increase productivity these days? The speed of life and business just keeps getting quicker and more full of… well, stuff. For all of the technological advances that have graced the civilized world over the past couple of decades (you know, the ones that are supposed to make our lives easier), there just always seems to be more to stay on top of, more to do, and yet less available time and attention to do it. Simply sifting through all the productivity tools, techniques, and tips out there can leave the sane person rather insanely exhausted.
All of this is a shame because the process of increasing productivity- whether in business or in life- is actually pretty straight-forward and simple. Why complicate it with fancy-sounding strategies and technology?
Below are a few steps that you can take to significantly improve your productivity and efficiency within your small business:
Create a detailed map of your goals. The emphasis here is really on “detailed.” It’s not enough to have some rough idea of where you are heading. What exactly do you want to accomplish, and more importantly, why? Create a list of very specific goals, and the put them in order of priority. You may even want to try mind mapping for this process.
Break your goals down. Once you are clear about where you want to go, you now need to break your goals down into easily digestible chunks. Many people make the mistake of trying to bite off more than they can chew and eventually end up dropping the ball. Don’t let this happen to you and your business. You want to create small focus areas, and then go through them one-by-one until you’ve achieved a sufficient level of mastery. So, for example, if you want to improve customer service, you would take a look at each component of it separately (answering emails, having phone conversations, responding to customer complaints, etc.) and then create a series of action steps for each one. The same would go for building a social media marketing campaign or learning a new business-related skill.
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Make sure you have what you need. Before you get started you need to be certain that all the resources you need to accomplish your goals are in place. This includes things like equipment, materials, supplies, and even qualified workers (whether permanent or temporary), and it means you’re going to have to do some projection and budgeting to help you anticipate what you will need to get the job done along the way.
Make a commitment to your goals. This may sound simple, but it’s one of the most common pitfalls small business owners have when taking on a new resolution to improve something. It’s not just that you need clear goals and the resources to fulfill them, but you have to actively commit yourself to using these resources for the process. This means setting aside the necessary time, attention, and money and doing so consistently. Just make sure that the time and workload is also set at small, manageable chunks. Change often does not happen overnight, so you need to give the process the space to work. Taking on too much, too quickly is bound to backfire.
Removing distractions. Part of committing yourself also means actively working to remove distractions. So, any outside business project that would significantly take away from your productivity goals may need to be put on hold or only dealt with at specific times. Any physical distractions, such as poor lighting, ventilation, etc., may also need to be looked at.
Testing and feedback. Improving your business’ performance is not a static process. If you really want results then, you need to be testing, reporting, and generating feedback along the way. This includes things like: A/B testing, site analytics, customer surveys, and maybe maintaining some key financial documents– all in the name of keeping tabs on your progress. This will help you to stay on course so that you can pursue the activities and strategies that are really working and be alerted to the things that aren’t.
The bottom line is that increasing your productivity does not have to be painful or overwhelming. It’s a process like anything else.