For any small business, it’s imperative to always seek ways to improve productivity in order to be as efficient and successful as possible.  Through technology, the possibilities are endless and ever-changing but here are some key quick fixes that are great starting points to increase productivity from today!

  1. To-Do lists;;

To-do lists are key fundamental aids to productivity.  Being able to visualise tasks helps to manage and organise them and making lists provides accountability and focus.  There is also a sense of satisfaction to check off the items you’ve accomplished each day.  At the end of a significant amount of time (a month, a quarter, a year) it can be very satisfying to review the tasks you’ve completed in that period.

It’s important to think carefully about what you put on your to-do list, try to avoid putting everything on it.  If the list starts getting too large, prioritisation is a must and assign tasks to specific days if necessary.  It’s also important to consider the goal associated with the specific tasks and make sure you’re clear on them – sometimes having a broader view of a task gives them a different level of significance.

  1. Be realistic with your time;;

Some research suggests that only around 17% of people can accurately estimate the passage of time.  Be careful when estimating how long you think a task will take when setting out your day – it’s always better to under-estimate your available time than over-estimate, and you should always consider unexpected requests that may come in each day that may hinder you completing other tasks.

Sometimes it helps to have a manageable level of self-imposed stress, so giving yourself deadlines and working on specific tasks can aid productivity by focussing the mind and aiming to achieve goals.

Another way to manage your time effectively is to follow Steve Olenski’s Two Minute Rule, which is when a task comes in that you know can be done in two minutes or less, you do it immediately.  Olenski believes that by doing these tasks immediately, saves time in the long run by returning to it later.

  1. Learn to delegate

Delegating can be a huge mental hurdle if you’re not used to it, but when you delegate properly, you have more time to spend on your own work.  The key is to assign the right task to the right person.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help, most people won’t volunteer to help so you will need to learn to ask.  Also, ensure that you don’t do tasks that are out of your remit and which you can outsource to someone specialised in that field.

  1. Turn off all distraction;;

We all know what it’s like to waste hours on our smartphones scrolling through social media.  While this may be helpful when you’re trying to kill time, when you’re trying to concentrate on a busy day ahead, getting distractions from alerts and notifications can be a productivity killer.  Try putting your mobile into flight mode for set periods of the day; use blocking apps that can pause notifications or even freeze your emails for a while.

Minimising interruptions can simply mean working out when you want to get your head down for a while, and when you like to have breaks.  Once you know what times work best for you, you can then set your computer and phone etc accordingly – it doesn’t always have to be about willpower!

  1. Take regular breaks

It’s well known scientifically that taking breaks helps our brains reset and deal with stress.  If you feel stuck or fatigued, it’s best to step away from the computer and have a break – get some fresh air, have a chat with someone, put the kettle on!  Breaks can also help improve concentration, energy and performance – try working for no more than 90 mins at a time and see if that helps you keep productive throughout your day.  To sit at a desk all day without moving much will have a detrimental effect on your energy levels and overall health, so make sure you schedule regular breaks into your day.

  1. Avoid unnecessary meetings

If you can, try to have as few meetings as possible – they are the most productivity-sapping activity to anyone’s working day.  According to Atlassian, the average office worker spends over 31 hours each month in unproductive meetings.

If you have to attend meetings, make sure that you have all the preparatory information beforehand and that you are necessary as an attendee.  Check that a face-to-face meeting is actually required rather than a phone call or video conference.  Knowing what meetings you don’t need to attend is very important to a productive working day.

  1. Stop multitasking

Multi-tasking has long been heralded as a time-saving technique, by literally doing many things at once.  Psychologists have found that trying to do several tasks at once can result in lost time and productivity - research shows that as much as 40% of multi-tasking often reduces productivity by the mental blocks created when people switch tasks.  In fact, a study from The University of Sussex showed that multitasking may actually be physically harming your brain!  Try doing things in batches – maybe around 30 mins each, breaking down large projects into smaller, manageable bites.  By working this way, you will be reducing the temptation to get distracted and changing focus.

  1. Take exercise breaks

Exercise has been long known to be a great stress-reliever, but did you know that exercising during the day can improve productivity? It helps clear the head and helps keep focus for the day.

  1. Review your environment

Take a look at your desk and work environment – is your desk tidy and clear of clutter? Do you have cables and pens everywhere?  Try keeping only the essentials at arm’s reach and everything else tidied away.

If you have a day of repetitive tasks, try listening to music as this can sometimes help keep focus and make you more productive while working on them.

Having some plants or visually stimulating pictures nearby can increase productivity by up to 15%.  If you have a workspace that makes you happy, this will make a difference to the way you approach your working day.

  1. Nobody is great at everything

It’s easy for an entrepreneur to feel that they have to be perfect at everything – not only being on top of the day-to-day tasks but everything that running a business encompasses - marketing, social media, finance, invoicing, to name but a few.  Rather than wasting time chasing the dream of being great at everything, complete each task to the best of your ability and move on.  If there are tasks that continually play on your mind that you feel you aren’t good at, review number 3 of this list and learn to delegate!

For more on this or to find out how we can further support your business contact us

SmartPA Partner Charlotte Frank

Charlotte had supported executives in London as a Personal Assistant for 17 years prior to moving into project management within a global investment bank. Charlotte's key skills lie in core administrative duties as well as event management, project management, research, data analysis and the creation of presentations.