Whether it's Tim Cook emailing Apple employees at 4am, or Mark Cuban not taking a vacation for seven years, we have all heard of CEOs’ legendary work ethic. But do you need to mimic their quirky productivity techniques to grow your small business to an empire? Probably not.
As an entrepreneur, you know that your most prized resource is your time. But being busy is not always the same as being productive. One key challenge for SME leaders is to manage their time while still ensuring that their business thrives. This can be tricky, particularly when you may be working with a small team, and often have to pitch in with some of the unrelated tasks yourself.
In short, you need a strategy to be as productive as possible. So, below we have collected some simple but efficient productivity techniques that you can use today in your life as a small business decision-maker.
Ready to learn how to be more productive? Let’s go!
This may sound trivial, but once you start the week, it becomes very difficult to plan. Every new task takes priority over another. And particularly in a small business, it may seem difficult to create any structure. But how you spend your time greatly impacts the success of your company. So take a little time at the end of each week to reflect on the upcoming week and consider the following:
Check your meetings for next week
Identify tasks to be completed
Block time for each task and plan around them
Set deadlines for tasks
This simple productivity technique will prevent less important tasks taking over, because you have already set your time aside.
Various productivity techniques will prove helpful for differentiating between important and less important tasks, and the following two models stand out for this purpose:
The Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule states that 80% of results come from 20% of the work. What this means is that a lot of the work isn’t really going to affect the big picture, so focus on the activities that are most crucial to driving the business forward. If something in your schedule is not critical, either delegate the task or drop it completely.
Another powerful method is the V2MOM organisational model. Used by Salesforce, this simple model improves company alignment and helps add meaning and structure to company-wide objectives. Check out our Trailhead module to learn more.
According to the Time to Transform report, 50% of all small and medium business leaders think that general admin tasks including staff meetings are the single biggest time waster.
Dare to eliminate unnecessary meetings. Do you need to meet just to hear an update on the status of a project? Or would a regularly updated Google Doc or Kanban Board do the job instead?
Try and stick to these rules to get the most out of any meetings you hold:
Set clear goals for every meeting
Set clear rules for everyone
Ensure everyone is prepared (and has a role in the meeting - allow people who are not necessarily needed to skip the meeting)
Impose a limit on meeting time per day
Experiment with very short stand-up meetings
Don’t set a default meeting time of one full hour – maybe you can finish quicker or even schedule them for a maximum of 30 min per meeting.
Send a follow-up email stating any decisions made, the required next actions and who is responsible for them right after the meeting to keep everyone on the same page
Also remember the golden rule: Only meet if you have a clear objective – all else is a waste of time.
The overflowing email inbox is the bane of many entrepreneurs. So, how can you be more productive with your emails? Let’s start simple: A sorting system, such as folders, will help to improve the torrent of emails as they come in. You can also specify rules that automatically put emails in the correct folder in your email client. Most email software offers options to sort between important and unimportant messages. Once you have this in place, you can focus on the crucial emails.
Answer emails that will take less than two minutes
One rule-of-thumb about answering emails is if you can answer it in under two minutes, do it now. If not, send a brief message explaining when you will be able to respond and add it to the list of to-dos. Task management software and task functionalities (e.g. marking emails in your inbox as task) can also be used to add tasks that will take you a little longer to complete.
Check emails in batches
Another great productivity technique to reduce the constant distraction is to only check emails at certain times of the day and to disable notifications. If you are concerned about missing an urgent message, you can always set up a custom alert for your most important senders.
Use email automation software
As a small business leader, you may often find yourself following up on your marketing emails to try and convert a lead. Software like Salesforce Marketing Cloud can automate a lot of your email workflows, including your lead nurturing process.
There are hundreds of great productivity tools on the market. The question is: How can you make sure you choose the best tool for your company’s needs? And, how can you be more productive using these tools? Often, it’s best to start with identifying the specific problem you want to solve.
There is no doubt that productivity tools do increase efficiency. Leading UK pension service PensionBee were able to reduce pension admin time by 75% after implementing our world-leading Customer Relationship Management Software. Jasper Martens, CMO, described automation as absolutely key to their success, stating that: “... we've looked closely at how we can automate as much of the working day as possible.” By freeing up time through automation, Jasper found that he had much more working hours “to focus on new ideas or improving our products.”
So while there are many excellent productivity tools out there, for a more comprehensive solution, you should consider a fully-fledged CRM.
Our recent #TimetoTransform report found that 45% of SME owners had experienced negative effects on their health due to lack of time. Overworking is not only likely to decrease your overall productivity, but it could also cause adverse health issues. So, this productivity technique is all about taking time to decompress, staying healthy and conserving your energy. Finding time for this is crucial to your success.
Here are a few quick tips to help stay focussed:
Learn to say “No” To do this, sometimes you just have to say “no” to non-essential tasks, meetings or requests. One tip is to draft templates to get your message across. That way you don’t waste time by composing a new email or message every time you need to say “no” while having a carefully worded draft at your fingertips.
Try standing desks and walking meetings. Standing desks are effective against back pain. Humans were not designed to sit for long periods, so try and be active when you can. This will boost your energy level throughout the day. Another way to avoid being static is to take walking meetings. Try taking the meeting to a park instead of going into the conference room – there is evidence that walking increases creative output by 60 percent.
Plan your day around your activity levels. If you are most productive in the morning, then you should schedule your most important tasks accordingly. This is a great productivity booster, as you can schedule the things that require less energy later in the day.
As a busy CEO of a growing business, time is your most valuable asset. Learning to manage your time as efficiently as possible can increase your contribution as a business leader and foster company-wide growth. So now you know how to be more productive - start using these basic techniques to get ahead.
The right technology is the key to unlocking maximum productivity. Our latest “CRM for SMEs” guide is the perfect starting point to guide you through how CRM software can streamline your workflows and foster growth.