Five Ways To Improve Your Business Productivity

Being ‘productive’ is something we all aspire to because it makes us feel accomplished and valuable. The more productive you are, the more you can achieve with your time, effort, or money.

As business owners we have control over how we structure our days and the work we do, so we should all be pretty productive, right?

The challenge most business owners face is that our ability to be productive with our time and resources and is often hampered by distractions that shift our focus. Research suggests we are only productive for about three hours a day – that is only about 40% of the average workday. We spend just as much time on social media as we do performing our work!

In this digital age, we are constantly bombarded with notifications, reminders and prompts to get us back on our devices and back into the big platforms. Given it takes over 20 mins to refocus on a task after you have been distracted, it is easy to see why an average eight hour work day doesn’t equal eight hours of productive work.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though. Productivity has been redefined in a post-pandemic world. Many people can work any time, any place, anywhere. We can be flexible to manage our work around family commitments. Maybe you can be just as productive in your pjs working from your bed as you could be wearing your power suit and working from an office. Research by Stanford found that working from home improved productivity by 13%. And this is facilitated by an astounding number of apps and digital tools that help us work remotely, digitally and flexibly.

But where you work and what technology you use are only part of the productivity puzzle. A big piece, maybe the biggest piece, is how you work – the habits and behaviours that drive how much work you get done each day.


Why is it so hard to be productive?

We all want to be more productive, and we often set good intentions around ticking everything off our to-do list this week. It can feel disheartening that our efforts are so easily derailed!

These are some of the most common challenges to being productive:

  • Switching between tasks (multi-tasking)
  • Notifications and pings on mobile phones and devices
  • Getting sucked into browsing social media
  • Interruptions from other people
  • Uncertainty about the task to be completed
  • Boring or unpleasant tasks

How many times have you sat down to complete a task and then lost an hour or two researching something on the internet? The internet is very good at pulling us down into rabbit holes that feel like you are being productive but in reality, are wasting your time.

Another challenge I see lots of business owners struggling with is ‘shiny object syndrome’. They come across a new app, tool, webinar or course and think that this is going to fix all their problems. They chase the latest trend or fancy ‘thing’ in the hope that it will be a silver bullet. When really what they need to do is set a clear direction and then put in the work to make it happen.

Tips for being more productive

Having worked with several clients over the past few years who specifically wanted help to be more productive, I have seen a few common themes around what actually works.

Find a balance: There is a time and place for everything, but you have to be intentional about it. You can go on social media or do some online shopping AND still get work done – but you have to set clear intentions about how you will spend your time each day.

Clarity is key: Get clear on what work needs to get done each week, and then break that down into the important tasks for each day. When you have a very clear set of tasks you know you need to complete each day it is much easier to sit down and crack on with it. Having a big to-do list with no prioritisation is too overwhelming.

Commit to change: Systems, technology and processes can help you be more productive, but real progress is made when you commit to changing your behaviour. Firstly, you need to be aware of your current habits (good and bad) around how you use your time. Secondly, you need to establish new habits that are aligned with a more productive use of your time. New habits take time to stick, so you need to be committed to the big picture.

Celebrate small wins: Small wins help you stay motivated and create momentum. Including smaller, easier, more enjoyable tasks each day will help you feel like you are making progress. If you fill your day with big projects or tasks you don’t enjoy it can feel too hard.

Get accountable: Start working with an accountability partner. It will be easy to fall back into your old ways of working. Having another person who can keep you on track is possibly the most important element of them all.

Setting business owners up for success and helping them establish new ways of working is a big part of my role as an Online Business Manager (OBM). I work with my clients to help them set a clear direction, prioritise tasks and check in on progress. Sometimes I might take on tasks for my client to reduce their workload so they have more capacity to work on their business. But I am also a sounding board, fresh perspective, and an accountability partner to make sure they get done what they had planned, and a partner helping them review and refine their processes.


Productivity in action

This year I started working with a client who runs a copywriting business. She was a bit sceptical at first, but I was recommended by a mutual connection so she was willing to give it a shot.

She had a clear vision of what she wanted to be known for but her efforts to communicate and build her reputation felt scattered. She was juggling client work with school aged kids and just didn’t feel like she was making much progress in establishing her brand the way she wanted.

Our first move was to step back and understand in detail how she was currently spending her work time. We started to drill into how much actual working time she had each week to spend on client work and business development. It was a bit of an ‘a-ha’ moment for her. We then started putting in some structure for those work hours that incorporated meetings, lunch breaks, focused client work and business development.

Having this clarity and structure helped her manage her client workload so she still had time each week to work on growing her business. In less than four weeks she started noticing an improvement in her productivity. And she was feeling less overwhelmed by her to-do list, with more clarity around what she needed to focus on. We meet weekly to review her progress and discuss what is or isn’t working so we can refine her processes. She feels more in control of her time and can set more realistic expectations with her clients (and herself) about her availability.

Productivity can feel like an elusive state of perfection that we keep striving for but never reach. But you can take control of your time and be more intentional about how you spend it – so you can achieve the goals you set for yourself and your business without being stressed out and overwhelmed.

If you are looking for a productivity partner who can help you take control of your time and get more done, take a look at my productivity planning options. If you have questions or want more info about how we might be able to work together, you can book in a free 30 minute consultation.

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