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Last Updated on February 20, 2018

5 Ways To Increase Your Productivity To Match Your Business Growth

5 Ways To Increase Your Productivity To Match Your Business Growth

Growth is a happy problem for any startup. You know your company is on the right track when you need more people to meet sales demands and have the budget to hire. But just growing your team or adding more hours alone isn’t enough. You and your team will need to optimize your productivity as well.

The initially harder, but smarter, way is to change your habits to regain your time[1] and grow your business.

I founded a company to keep my freedom to work on, work with, and work when I like. As I’ve grown my company from a 3-person team to over 50 people in two cities, I’ve learned the importance of work-life balance[2] to avoid burnout. Even if your workload grows, as an entrepreneur you need to protect your time. A successful business is one that improves its sales without sacrificing it’s teams’ quality of life. After experimenting with a range of productivity hacks and tools, below are the 5 most effective habits I’ve developed.

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Keep your morning routine within a reasonable timeframe

How you wake up is even more important than when. A morning routine[3] is critical for starting on the right foot each day and most successful business leaders use early mornings to send e-mails.[4]

Whether it is making your cup of coffee, hitting the gym, or sending e-mails, do it every day. Also give yourself a fixed time to complete the routine. For example, I wake up at 8am and send e-mails until 9am. The ones I haven’t finished will be addressed during my two other scheduled e-mail checking sessions later in the day.

Track your time to instantly cut distraction

Use a time tracker without being OCD so that you can learn about how you are using your time (rather than how you think you are spending it). Find a time tracking tool such as Timing App,[5] which automatically detects what software you are using and what pages you are browsing to log what you did. The app removes the need to do manual time tracking, which means you won’t have gaps in your tracker. You do not need to be “OCD” because you can leave the time tracker on while taking breaks and counting it towards the task. After a week, you will probably notice where chunks of time disappear. For example, you may find you are spending three hours responding to only a few e-mails and remember that you tend to click on links or browse news simultaneously. For more time tracking and management tools, read here.

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Simply by tracking your time, you are holding yourself accountable and it will motivate you to focus. Give yourself a target timeframe for responding to e-mails and you will naturally try to reach that goal with your time tracker turned on. With the focus, you may find yourself getting out of the office earlier than you used to!

Delegate your hours (and don’t give yourself extra time)

Plan your hours and stick to them. Bill Gates and Elon Musk divide their schedules into 5-minute slots.[6]

Planning out your days keeps you focused on priorities and protects your down time. When scheduling your waking hours, you force yourself to consider your whole day, including off hours. By giving mental space to your personal schedule, you will give yourself time to do errands, see friends and family, or just read a book, to recharge.

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Do not let your tasks spill over. If you find a task, such as a product meeting, consistently takes longer than you wanted, adjust your estimation. Another effective approach is to schedule another fixed time to finish outstanding items. Knowing you have a deadline keeps you motivated to optimize your minutes.

Breakfast & Lunch meetings

When you want to spend dinners with friends and use office hours for work, what time do you have for meetings? The answer is breakfast and lunch. Everyone has to eat, so why not make that time more productive with discussions?

Having breakfast meetings catches people at their most productive[7] before other things take up their mental energy. In addition, scheduling meal meetings reminds you to eat, which is healthier and improves productivity.[8] Meetings with meals can be limited to one or two hours. Lightening up your meetings with food gives you a change of scene and your mind a break, which is important for avoiding burn out.

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Ignore phone calls and call back while commuting

Lastly, reduce interruptions. I turn all my notifications to silent and check my phone when I am ready. This gives me control of my time and places calls into a time block, like e-mails. In addition, you will only return calls if they are a priority, which means you won’t be caught by ad hoc casual chats.

I make this doubly productive by returning calls only while commuting. Making a call while on the train or walking puts a time limit and focuses on the essential points. I am able to recapture lost productivity during commutes by discussing things when I cannot work on a keyboard.

Take a step back

While it is tempting to squeeze in those extra hours to help grow your business, it’s important for entrepreneurs to take a step back to work smarter. Managing a fuller plate for the long term requires developing habits that reduce distractions. Learn where you can make efficiency gains, stay healthy, and give yourself personal time.

Reference

More by this author

Ben Cheng

Co-Founder, Oursky

Achieve Inbox Zero To Increase 100% Team Efficiency 5 Ways To Increase Your Productivity To Match Your Business Growth

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Last Updated on September 17, 2018

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

How bad really is multitasking?

It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

So what to do about it?

Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

Now, forget about how to multitask!

Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

1. Get enough rest

When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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2. Plan your day

When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

4. When at your desk, do work

We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

5. Learn to say no

Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

6. Turn off notifications on your computer

For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

The bottom line

Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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