Being a business owner often means dividing your attention, and putting out the inevitable fires that happen. I work with many Millennial business owners and we’ve shared many conversations on these topics. Today I wanted to write about increasing productivity in your business.
Don’t Leave Your Email(or social media) in an Open-Tab Where You Can See It
Increasing productivity means staying focused. Your attention needs to be treated as a valuable resource. You only get so much each day, and not having any checks on who or what gets your attention means you will have no control over it.
What you “attend” to is quite literally the stuff that makes up your thoughts, your world, your entire existence. Treat it with the respect such a resource deserves.
When you leave your email in an open tab (or social media), you spend many microseconds glancing over at it. These microseconds are interruptions to your train of thought. You will also occasionally have a notification or email, and you may be tempted to check to see what it is. Don’t do this. Even if it’s important, it’s probably not an emergency (nobody emails you about emergencies). You’ll have time to get to it when you finish your task.
You’ll find that you finish your tasks quicker and with better proficiency if you do this.
Turn Off Unnecessary Phone Notifications
Most of the apps on our phone have one goal in mind; capture your attention and collect your data. To do this they will send you incessant notifications about even the most mundane revelations. Turn them off. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google News, etc are all addicting enough. They don’t need to remind you every 5 minutes. Remember, it’s YOUR attention, and your attention is your world!
I do the same thing with text message notifications as well. If it’s urgent, a phone call is enough to get through to me; but if not, I will get to it when I am ready to attend to it. This has helped me stay on task and worked towards increasing my productivity.
Listen to Instrumental Music
I started doing this pretty regularly when I was putting in long hours studying for the CFP® exam. For some reason, listening to electronic type instrumental music (not something I seek out in my free time) works wonders for increasing productivity.
I have my theories about why this may be; music of all kinds has a profound effect on our cognition (read a little about that here), but there’s no doubt that this type of music works when I’m trying to get stuff done. As I write this, I’m listening to the same techno playlist that I’ve listened to for the past 6 months or so (I change it up every once in a while).
Find a genre or style that works to keep you “in the zone” so to speak. This has become such a large part of my work routine that I almost feel “heavier” and unable to work through tasks quickly unless I’ve got my headphones on.
Track Your Time
This is something that I’ve been doing daily for almost 2 years now. I started doing it as an experiment with the idea that what gets measured, gets improved. I believe that our brains crave feedback when we are working towards goals. If your goal is increasing productivity, it follows that you will want to see feedback to see how productive you are.
One measure of productivity that I use is the percentage of my work day spent not working. I use an app called Toggl to track my time. I have 4 categories of time that I track in my work; 1) Operations – client or business related tasks 2) Marketing – promoting my business, networking, blogging 3) Administrative – compliance tasks, bookkeeping 4) Break/errand – anything I do during the work day that is not work related.
Since I’ve started doing this, I’ve noticed that on average, I spend about 30% of my work day taking breaks or running errands! My goal is always to shoot for 20%-25%. Here’s the thing, unless you track your time like this, it would be very difficult to get this kind of data. But doing so has made me far more conscious of where my time goes and thus more productive.
Organize Your To-Do List By “Type” and “Priority”
One last tip you can use to increase your productivity is to organize your to-do list by “type” and “priority”. In the paragraph above, I talked about how I break my time into 4 categories; 1) Operations – client or business related tasks 2) Marketing – promoting my business, networking, blogging 3) Administrative – compliance tasks, bookkeeping 4) Break/errand – anything I do during the work day that is not work related. I do the same thing with my to-do lists, which works out nicely because I automatically know how to categorize my time in Toggl when tackling my to-do list.
Each Monday, I take a piece of paper and divide it into 4 separate quadrants; Operations, Marketing, Administrative, and Miscellaneous. I put all my tasks in their respective quadrants and put the “break/errand” tasks in the Miscellaneous quadrant.
The first things that go on the to-do lists are the things that I’ve had to carry over from the last week. The next things that go one are new tasks that were scheduled ahead of time on my calendar, and in my CRM system. Lastly, as the week goes on and things come up, I add them to the weekly to-do list.
After I have added my tasks, I prioritize them with a 1 through 3 label; 1 being most important and 3 being least important. The goal for each week is to make sure that anything with a 1 that was on the list at the beginning of the week, will hopefully have been knocked out; many of the 2s and most of the 3s will be carried over until they are upgraded or I decide they are no longer important or relevant.
The takeaway here is that to increase your productivity, if that is your goal, you need to guard your attention, give yourself feedback about where your time is going, and categorize your tasks in a way that makes sense to you.
If you enjoyed this article, check out this one that talks about carving out a niche for your business, this one that talks about small business retirement plans, or this one about crafting a vision for your business.
Erik Goodge is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and the President of uVest Advisory Group. He holds a B.S. in Economics and Cognitive Science from the University of Evansville. Erik is a Marine Corps veteran of the Afghanistan campaign and Purple Heart recipient. He is from Evansville, Indiana, and currently lives in near-by Newburgh with his wife and daughter.