In recent years, The Alternative Board (TAB) released a Small Business Pulse Survey, which focused on the time management and productivity challenges business owners have.
We found that almost three-quarters of business owners either sometimes or always feel overwhelmed by their role and responsibilities, and they admitted facing personal productivity challenges like time management, technology distractions, and poor communication.
One of the things I found fascinating about the study was the answer to the question, “Which of the following ideas would most likely improve your productivity?”
Respondents had some great ideas, but these were the top three:
- Schedule finite times to answer emails (33%)
- Organize my workspace more effectively (25%)
- Set aside more time away from work (19%)
Do you struggle with trying to be more productive in your business? Here are the three best ways to improve your productivity, according to the over 300 business owners TAB surveyed.
Schedule time for email
Business owners reported spending an average of 25.2 percent of their work day on email, but only 9 percent considered it a "best" use of their time.
The way most of us deal with email is a productivity killer — especially when we respond to emails individually as they come up. Not only do they become interruptions to our day, they also have a tendency to hijack our priorities.
A better way to go about this is to batch emails, saving them all up to respond at a set time. If you’re one of those people that has a hard time not checking your email constantly, try using a service to block your access to your email during certain hours.
Or, if you are worried about missing timely emails, delegate checking email to an assistant, who can then alert you if you truly need to respond to something right away.
Organize your workspace
Many business owners waste hours every week searching through clutter to find documents, notes, and tools. Not only that but trying to get work done in an unorganized space can add to your stress levels.
Start by purging your office of everything that isn’t necessary. Shred and recycle old paperwork, throw out old notes and memos, and take that stack of weeks-old coffee cups back to the kitchen.
Properly store and label everything that remains. One reason workspaces become cluttered quickly is because you don’t have a specific place to put things. Try to identify which items are most likely to end up stacked haphazardly, and create a filing system for them.
Don’t forget to organize your digital workspace. Go through old files and programs and delete (or store on a separate hard drive) ones you no longer use. Just like with physical paperwork, make sure you have a spot for all digital files to live so they don’t end up cluttering your desktop and dragging down your productivity.
Give yourself some “me time”
One of the hardest things about being a small business owner is learning how to stop working. It may feel like your entire business will come crumbling around you if you step away for even a moment — but consider what will happen to your business if you burn yourself out by never taking a break.
Start by putting hard edges around your workday. Commit to finishing up work by a certain time, and schedule activities with your family (or for yourself) during your “off hours” in order to keep from sneaking that laptop back open for one last email check.
Parkinson’s Law states that work will expand to fill up the time available for its completion, which means that if you give yourself all day to work on your business, it will take all day. Imagine if you told yourself you had to stop at five. I bet you would still get your most important work done — you would just learn how to do it more productively.
Don’t just stop at taking evenings and weekends off. When you build a business that can run without you long enough for you to take a vacation, it’s not only more efficient, it’s more valuable to a potential buyer.
To read the full survey, and its findings click here.