10 tips for being more productive

I find, keeping productive is an ongoing challenge. A lot of people tell me they never have time for business development. It always feels more important to deliver on the work you have already won and then look at winning more business. This is true no matter your role in an organisation. Even as a business development executive, it is easy to get distracted with handling incoming easy wins, rather than building a strong pipeline. As a business owner or MD, there is always something else more pressing to do. Even admin and support roles in an organisation can impact on winning new business and improved productivity can help free up some time to reduce overwhelm and increase quality.

 

Trust me when I say, there is never enough time in the day for everything I want and need to get done. I am sure you all have felt this at some point, some of you may feel like this every day. I have in past roles, that’s for sure.

 

Over the years I have picked up a few tricks that have helped me improve, although I am still a work in progress, so I thought I might share them with you. Whether you run your own business or work for someone else, I am sure you will find at least some of these useful.

 

Have a system for documents

This might seem like an obvious one and I am sure most of you will tell me that you have an online filing system. But, how much time have you wasted in the past trying to find that one particular document? The key to good organisation is keeping it simple. I would start with a basic structure for your documents, something along the lines of the below, but you may find something that works better for you and your business.

Have a system for passwords

As well as organising your documents, I used to waste a lot of time looking for or resetting passwords. That was until a friend recommended ‘Last Pass’ and now I have to remember only one password. Last Pass even asks me if I want to add each new password created to my ‘Vault’. Additionally, I can share passwords when I need to in a secure way without risking my security through emails. Best of all, it’s free!!

Have a system for emails

This one is from the book ‘How to be a productivity Ninja’, which I highly recommend. Create just 4 key folders in your emails, ‘Action’, ‘Read’, ‘Waiting’ and ‘Your business name’. The book goes into this in much more detail but creating these 4 folders will make a massive difference as a starting point.

  1. Action = emails that require some action from you that will take longer than 5 minutes to respond to
  2. Read = those emails that you need time to read but require no action from you
  3. Waiting = emails where you are waiting for someone else to action something
  4. Your business name = So in my case, this is my ‘Koa’ folder – this folder contains everything I might need to keep; emails I have actioned, read and completed, emails that take less than 5 minutes to respond to are responded to straight away, emails that I don’t need to keep are deleted.

Such a simple technique and makes a huge difference. Helps with overwhelm and saves time when I’m trying to find that 1 email!

 

Don’t be afraid to say no to meetings

This used to be a big one for me. I would agree to meetings with a ‘let’s just see where it goes’ attitude. I’m a big fan of networking and sometimes you do get a golden nugget of a meeting where you really can work together and it’s beneficial for everyone, but this is usually the exception and not the rule. Instead, I would suggest that you start saying ‘No’ to these meetings and being a little more selective with your time. Or if you truly think there could be potential, make it an exploratory phone call or online meeting and set a time limit of no more than 30 minutes maximum.

 

What will make the biggest difference

Prioritise your task list by asking yourself ‘what task will make the biggest difference right now? What action will drive this business forward?’. This depends on the objectives for the business, but it does help avoid the unimportant tasks.

 

Invest time into a ‘to-do’ list that works for you

I used to spend a lot of time writing lists, crossing off tasks and then re-writing them! There I was, thinking I was being organised when in actual fact I was just wasting time. I worked like this until someone suggested I use an online task list. As I cross things off my list, it disappears off the list, I can go back and edit tasks if things change, I can add a task quickly on my phone using the app and I can even log time and materials against a particular task. I use Teamwork for this, but there are lots of options. Office 365 has a Tasks functionality in Outlook, Monday.com, Trello, Asana or your CRM are all options to help you track your activities easily. You could even block out time in your calendar for each task if this works for you.

 

Eat the frog

I am sure many of you have heard this one but how many of us actually do it. If you haven’t heard of this technique, I don’t mean actually eat a frog. It is an easy way to remember to tackle the worst job first. The one job that you really don’t want to do that you will waste time avoiding rather than doing. Do this job first. JFDI (“Just flipping do it” as one of my clients would say!)

 

Set timelines

Set a timeline for how long a task should take. There have been studies that suggest that a task actually expands to the time you give it. This is probably because we spend more time trying to make it perfect or researching just a little bit longer before we decide it’s finished. Sometimes, it’s OK for a document is to be OK and not perfect.

 

Maintain focus

It’s so tempting sometimes to just check your LinkedIn account, respond to that email that’s just popped up or quickly check the weather for the weekend, but these all take away from your task at hand. Your brain takes time to switch between these tasks and then to get back into the rhythm of whatever piece of work you were doing. Instead, have set times to check, create and respond on social media, set times to check and respond to emails rather than have them open all day, you will soon notice a difference in how much you get done. And, don’t try to multi-task – it never works and isn’t possible.

 

Automate what you repeat

Spend a little time looking at the processes you repeat regularly and invest time automating these processes. This will take a little more time initially but will pay dividends in the long run. Emails can be automated using email software like Mailchimp or your CRM. Invoices can be automated through online software like Xero, Quickbooks or even some bank accounts do this for you. Social media posts can even be scheduled using software like Buffer, Hootsuite or Later. Prepping and creating templates stops the constant recreation, that I see with many businesses.

 

Bonus tip – Delegate or outsource tasks

I’ve talked about outsourcing before, but don’t be afraid to delegate or outsource tasks that you know someone else can do better and/or quicker than you. Again, sounds obvious but most of us want to do it all ourselves. We all want to be Superwoman or Superman but it’s not always achievable and sometimes it’s more heroic to ask for help.

 

If you want help with any of these or reviewing how you can create more time for business development, get in touch and book a free consultation with us below.