Productivity Tips for Small Businesses

By the very nature of what they are, small businesses have to do more with less. They have smaller staffs and smaller budgets, but the same amount of hours in the day to get as much accomplished as they can. Finding various ways to increase your productivity throughout the day can have a big positive effect on your bottom line.

Productivity is, in short, doing more with what you have. When you’re a small business, it’s hard to become more efficient through cuts, so finding ways to do more with what you have is a better way to go about increasing your output.

Research from Harvard Business Review suggests the best companies are up to 40% more productive than the rest, and that productivity shows in their margins – 30 to 50% higher – and growth.

We’ll talk about several ways small business owners can increase productivity with even the smallest staff and budget.

Create SMART Goals

Every small business owner has short- and long-term goals. There are five metrics business owners and project managers can use to make sure their goals are achievable.

S – Specific

M -Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Relevant

T – Timely

Making goals specific helps narrow your focus on a particular outcome. Making your goals more specific can increase your motivation. Measurable goals give you a way to show when you have reached your goal, or when you need to change direction. Making goals achievable helps you to challenge yourself without aiming for an unrealistic pie-in-the-sky idea. Ensuring your goals are relevant keeps you aligned with your business plan and long-term goals for the future. Time-bound goals give you a deadline and foster a sense of urgency that drives action.

Prioritize Your Tasks

Small business owners, project managers, and administrators must learn how to prioritize the countless tasks that come across their desks. Knowing what is most important to tackle first will save trouble down the line. One way to help yourself prioritize is to create a list of all your daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks, and decide which are urgent and which are merely important. Schedule your most urgent tasks early in the day so you have plenty of time to address them and avoid missed deadlines.

You can also assess each task by its value to your organization, attacking critical tasks first, followed by high, medium, and low priority tasks.

Productivity experts say you should take on your bigger projects first. Order your tasks from those that take most effort to least, and tackle the lengthiest projects first. However, if you think you’ll focus better with some short projects out of the way, checking a few off the list before you take on a larger project can be motivating.

Avoid distractions

Everyone who’s ever worked in an office environment, or tried to deal with a toddler while working from home, knows how frustrating distractions can be to your workflow. Research has shown that even small interruptions to your process, like checking your phone, can be a big roadblock to your focus. It can take your brain up to 25 minutes to recover from each interruption and relocate your focus.

While some interruptions can’t be avoided, there are things you can do to minimize the amount of things that take your attention away from the work you’re trying to get accomplished.

  • Silence your notifications
  • Check emails and messages on a schedule
  • Put devices out of sight to lessen the temptation to get distracted
  • Delegate distracting tasks like phone calls during your focus time.

Structure Your Day in 90-Minute Chunks

Human brains operate on cycles, and we can only focus for so long before we run out of steam. Nathan Kleinman, a sleep researcher, discovered the basic “rest-activity” cycle, which lasts about 90 to 120 minutes, is about as long as one person can work with a good amount of focus before needing to take a break. Cycles of focus, followed by shorter cycles of rest, have been shown to be more productive than pushing through when you’re feeling done.

Jumping between lots of different tasks can also be harmful to your productivity. Keeping the focus on one task at a time can help you focus and push through to complete the task. Setting a time limit for daily tasks like checking emails, updating social media, checking documents, or sending invoices, can help you accomplish more every day and keep to a schedule. An important part of this process requires you to take real breaks between tasks.

Take Real Breaks

No, returning phone calls or checking your email doesn’t count as a real break. They don’t have to be 30 minutes long, but getting up from your desk and letting your brain rest for a few minutes has real benefits, according to a 2018 study. In that study, researchers showed that “microbreaks,” like getting up from your desk, getting a cup of coffee, or taking a few minutes to stretch, increased a positive effect on those workers, which in turn increased their performance.

One time management technique developed in the 1980s is known as the Pomodoro technique, which is the Italian word for tomato. Francesco Cirillo used a kitchen timer to break up his work day into periods of work, about 25 minutes long, and short breaks.

Outsource Administrative Work to a Virtual Assistant

Administrative tasks can be really time-consuming for someone running a small business. Tasks like answering phones, scheduling appointments, and managing online file systems can be distracting from the core processes that your business needs to complete every day.

Depending on your line of work in your small business, you may likely benefit from streamlining your business and outsourcing administrative tasks to a virtual assistant.

If you outsource admin tasks, it will give you more time to focus on the core aspects of your business. Many virtual assistant agencies will allow you to pay hourly, meaning you can avoid the costs of hiring a full-time administrative assistant for your small business. And if you work with the right agency, you will be able to hire someone with a wealth of experience and knowledge to handle those repetitive tasks, without having to go through the time-consuming task of interviewing and searching for the right employee for the job.

Since the pandemic, the workforce has shown that it’s possible to conduct much of your business remotely, and advances in technology mean that you can employ a virtual assistant at a lower cost than a traditional full-time, in-person employee.

Embrace flexibility

Those in the business community are more than familiar with the term “the Great Resignation,” as employees during and after the Covid-19 pandemic questioned what they really wanted to do with their lives and struck out to find different jobs that offered more of what they really wanted. For a lot of those people, what they really want is flexibility, and not just empty words from employers.

Many jobs don’t need to be conducted in an office setting. Thousands of workers realized this during the pandemic, and they realized they prefer working from home, where they can skip the commute and save as much as $5,000 a year. Most employees surveyed say they would prefer to keep remote office options or hybrid work available, even choosing that option over a pay raise in one study.

Productivity also increases when employees are able to work from home. According to an April 2021 survey by The Conference Board, 60% of HR leaders reported that productivity actually increased in their organizations during the pandemic.

A 2022 survey of HR associates showed that organizations willing to hire fully remote workers have increased six times since the start of the pandemic.

Whether you’re looking for someone to handle administrative tasks so you can focus on important projects, or looking for full-time staff, it’s becoming increasingly clear that remote work is something that workers not only are insisting on, but have shown that they can do productively. You can find out more about how Clyde Offices can help you here:

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