Take steps to be more productive

Would you like to be more productive? Most likely you would.

In fact, we can’t recall ever discussing this issue with a business owner who didn’t wish he or she could find ways to be more productive. Ways to get more done in a day, have more time off, or have more time to just sit and think about their businesses.

People seem to be busier than ever before. We all try to squeeze more into each day because our lists of things to do get longer and longer. It’s kind of ironic, but the wonderful technological tools that enable us to do more work, and do it more quickly and efficiently, have also increased our workloads.

Our computers enable us to fly through tasks so we tend to pile on more work. Email is faster than snail-mail correspondence but now our computer in-boxes are deluged with messages that must be read and answered every day. Our to-do lists seem overwhelming and our productivity can suffer because we’re pulled in so many different directions.

We all have 24 hours in the day and more than half of them are — or should be — devoted to our personal lives (including sleep). So how do we increase our productivity and work through our To-Do lists in the time allotted for our businesses? Here are some suggestions.

Don’t be a perfectionist. Things don’t always have to be 100 percent perfect and sometimes that last 10 percent is just not worth the time you’re spending on it. For example, spending 20 minutes writing and rewriting what’s supposed to be a quick email devours time. Imagine how much time you’ll lose if you multiply that by 10, 20 or 30 emails a day. So consider what you’re doing, the time it’s taking, and whether it’s at a point that’s “good enough.” If so, it’s time to move on to something else.

Learn to delegate more. You’re most likely not the only person in your company who can do something “right.” The only way you can accomplish the most important things on your list, continue growing your company, and still have time left over for yourself is to delegate to others. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to hire good people. Don’t try to save a little money when hiring and end up doing more of the work yourself. It will be more cost-effective in the long run if you hire capable, qualified employees — and then let them do their jobs.

Stop letting people or things steal your valuable time. Don’t take the call, accept the meeting invitation, or accept the board position if you really don’t have time for it. Resist the temptation to surf the Internet or check your Facebook page.

Block your time by creating “time rules” to keep your most productive time open for priority tasks, and stick to them whenever possible. These blocks should include certain times for reading and answering email. Use a “gatekeeper” system and assign someone to screen calls and visitors you really don’t want to talk to or have time for. If you don’t employ staff, use a virtual assistant or answering service to screen your calls. Learn to say no and guard your time carefully because once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

Prioritize your day. Start every day knowing what your top three priorities are and focus on getting them done. Stick with the important things and avoid jumping to something that’s not as critical.

Create better systems. These should be as simple and efficient as possible, so look at the ones you have in place to determine if steps can be eliminated. Good systems will make things operate more smoothly and consistently, and allow you to delegate more tasks to others.

Don’t get sucked into other people’s issues. If it’s a problem someone else can take care of and doesn’t require your time, or it’s just something another person wants to pull you into, avoid it. A good response is, “I know you’ll come up with a good solution.”

Don’t take on someone else’s “monkey.” In Ken Blanchard’s book The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey, he describes taking on work someone else on your staff should be doing as “monkeys” clinging to your back. This is essentially delegation-in-reverse and hurts your productivity, so don’t allow it. You have enough work of your own.

This is a fairly lengthy list and we don’t expect anyone to do everything we’ve mentioned. But we suggest you choose one or two of the ideas to try, master them in your business, and work from there. You have nothing to lose by trying and should see some very positive productivity results.

Laddie and Judy Blaskowski are partners in BusinessTruths Consulting, Inc.