Productivity hacks: 8 game changers for small business owners

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As the owner of a small- or medium-sized business, you're a "jack of all trades" – the person who does it all. And in order to get more done in less time, multitasking has become part of your life. But, according to a study covered by Psychology Today, only 2% of people can multitask effectively – and the rest of us are actually reducing our productivity without even realizing it. Inc. reports that when we attempt to juggle two or more tasks at once, we "do worse at both tasks, because the human brain was not designed for multitasking." So, what's a busy person to do?


The answer: focus. And while it sounds simple enough, we all know what a challenge it can be. Which is where productivity hacks can help. So, let's take a look at 8 things you can do to get more done in less time – without resorting to multitasking.


1. Structure your day by blocking time for tasks on your calendar – and treating them like client appointments (which you'd never miss). Between tasks, build in time to respond to emails, text messages and phone calls – or take a quick walk to help clear your head.


2. Automate time-consuming tasks. For owners of small- and medium-sized businesses, one of the best productivity hacks is to automate what you can. With the right technology, you can connect your most important apps and automate actions based on common scenarios. Some allow you to reply to social media mentions and simultaneously add that user to your email marketing list, while others might let you set up push notifications that make it easy to know when your most important client (or a prospective client) has messaged you. And some do it all. It's just a matter of finding the right tool for the way you work.


3. Work on your most pressing projects when you're at your best. If you're most creative in the morning, wake up before your family does, take your laptop to a quiet part of the house (or head to your office), and get to work. If you work better in the afternoon, then after lunch turn off your phone, close your email apps and focus for an hour or two. By giving yourself time to work when you're most creative, productive, or clear, you'll produce better work more quickly.

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4. Spend time creating a workspace that works for you. Julie Morgenstern, a time management expert, says that your workspace "can either energize you or deplete your energy” – so do what you can to create a space that elevates your work. By decluttering, reorganizing and eliminating distractions, you can design a space that allows you to focus and be more productive. Just be sure to keep your area stocked with what you need to work – and spend a few minutes at the end of the day tidying up so you can hit the ground running in the morning.


5. Make a to-do list and prioritize it. It's the productivity that’s always preached, but it works. By knowing what you have to do – and what's most important to your business, you can work on the things that matter most first, then tackle the rest later. At the end of the day, spend 10 minutes reorganizing your to-do list and planning your work for tomorrow so you know exactly where to start in the morning.


6. Make your life easier with the right technology. If your clients all use a specific program to create files, or the majority of them use a certain instant messenger that you need in order to communicate with them, invest in it. It might cost a bit more than you'd like now, but it will make life easier, make communication more efficient, and keep you from wasting hours, if not days, looking for a workaround.


7. Institute a weekly no-meeting day. According to two separate studies by Atlassian and Microsoft, most people (more than 60% of those surveyed) find meetings to be "non-productive. However, when you own a small- or medium-sized business, meetings are often unavoidable. But while meetings might be part of your work, they don't have to take over your work. In order to keep meetings in check, try a productivity hack that's incredibly simple – and just say no to meetings (all meetings) one day a week. By giving you a full day to focus on work, you can crank through large projects, tackle small tasks, stay on top of your to-do list or spend time finding new ways to grow your business. And while it might sound like a radical idea, at least one company, Asana, has been doing it for years and has found that "our productivity, in terms of number of tasks completed and work accomplished, increases over other days of the week."


8. Encourage friendship. Whether it's taking a lunch break with your employees, creating a coffee station where you and your staff can chat, organizing a monthly happy hour or potluck, or even just taking a walk as a group, building relationships in the workplace is important. In fact, in a Business Insider article, Chris Bailey, author of "The Productivity Project," conducted a study and found that "People are the reason for productivity." And psychologist Ron Friedman said that "When colleagues are close, a poor effort means more than a dissatisfied customer or an unhappy manager. It means letting down your friends." So, by promoting meaningful friendships at work, you're creating a culture of accountability and productivity – which can help your team stay on task and help you grow your business.


In order to get more from your day, you don't have to make large, sweeping changes. Instead, most productivity hacks are about making small tweaks to your schedule or shifting your approach to organizing your work. And because of that, they're easier to maintain. So, take what you like, leave what you don't – and find an approach to your work that works for you.

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