Small business teams have big responsibilities. Employees often perform duties and take on tasks that go beyond their job descriptions. When things start to get busy, more mistakes and oversights tend to occur. So, how can team members stay at the top of their game, even when the pressure’s on?
Inefficiency really starts to show during busy periods. If your company has a system that only functions well when things are calm, but can’t hold up when work starts to pile up, then it’s time to reconfigure some processes.
To keep up the pace when things get hectic, make sure your communication is clear and efficient, employees are prioritizing the right tasks, meetings and other events are actually useful and not just a waste of time.
Here are some key productivity tips to consider:
Tackling tasks in a way that maximizes efficiency often isn’t an intuitive habit and takes some time and effort to cultivate. Most people have the habit of knocking out mundane or easy tasks first and procrastinating on more complicated tasks. Prioritization means that you consider which tasks are the most urgent, not which tasks are the easiest for you to do. Wasting time on less urgent work and skimping on relevant work means productivity suffers.
Including breaks in your daily work is essential for maintaining energy and cognitive function. Studies show that less working hours equals higher productivity. Trying to muscle through a long day or week can actually result in subpar work. There’re different strategies for taking breaks such as the Pomodoro technique – it suggests you set a timer for 25 minutes and work on a task until the timer rings. Then take a quick 5-minute break, then go back to work for another 25 minutes. Repeat four times and then take a longer break of half an hour. Repeat.
Another technique is the 52:17 which suggests that the most efficient work-to-rest ratio is to work 52 minutes and take a break for 17 minutes. In this technique, the break has to be taken away from the desk. Suggestions include going outside or taking a quick stroll, eating a snack or drinking water or other activities that don’t involve your computer. Experiment with these and other productivity techniques and see which one(s) works best for you.
Look for links and connections between tasks on your to-do list. That way you can kill two or three birds with one stone. Start with mapping out your day so that you not only can identify overlaps, but can strategize how to most efficiently manage your time while running errands outside of the office. For example, look for places that are near to each other and bundle those tasks, so you don’t waste time driving. This includes sharing tasks with others who are going out of the office.
Have productive meetings
Staff meetings can be huge time wasters. To avoid that in your business, here are some tips:
- Have standing meetings (no sitting down). This way you can ensure that the meeting will be quick, that the people who usually like to drone on will be less inclined to do so with everyone standing around waiting for them, and that energy levels will stay high.
- Set one specific goal for each meeting rather than a long agenda. That way, you’re sure to tackle at least one major issue instead of skirting around several.
- Verify that the meeting is about problem-solving and not lecturing, dictating or whining. Continually focus the attention on “How can we solve this issue?”
- End with a specific plan of action and assignment of the specific tasks.
How do you communicate?
Choosing the right communication channel is important. For example, if you need to share must-read content that’s important yet not urgent, email is the way to go. Email is also a good choice if you want to communicate milestones or let your team know about the progress they (or their colleagues) made. Remember, that email is a significant internal communication channel: about 60% of communicators claim they send at least one internal email message per week.
However, for companies that work with remote staff or service providers who are often on the road, communicating via voice calls can actually make things more difficult and less efficient. Background noise or misunderstandings can prevent an important message from getting through which is the last thing you want when things are busy.
In this case, text messaging is a more secure and more efficient medium to deliver urgent and time-sensitive information. Last minute changes in plans can be communicated through text to ensure the recipient got the correct message. It also provides a written record which can be helpful to HR.
If you need to share must-read content that is important yet not urgent, email is the way to go. Email is also a good choice if you need to communicate milestones or let your team know about the progress they (or their colleagues) made.
Flow of information
How is communication handled in your business? Does everyone have easy access to the data they need to do their job efficiently? Check whether a lack of sufficient and timely access to information is slowing down the progress of your team.
Password protection and security clearance can make your business less susceptible to corruption; however, it also affects information flow. Ensure that all your team members have access to general passwords, guides, internal documents; so they don’t need to bother you with their requests.
Small business owners also often commit the mistake of taking on all administrative tasks instead of delegating to managers or assistants. If you require your employees to ask for permission for mundane decisions, be aware: this will certainly slow down productivity.
Take these issues into consideration and see what kind of structural changes could be made to improve it.
Measure your results
Tracking your results is essential to indicate the areas that need some maintenance. Software that tracks sales and marketing results can help you build strategies to enhance your focus and boost productivity. It may seem obvious, but failure to measure results makes it impossible to identify glitches. Such analysis helps you track progress and identify areas where effort is high and return is low so that appropriate adjustments can be made.
When time is short and your to-do list is long, it’s important that you have a solid productivity strategy in place. Shorter meetings, more efficient communication, task consolidation and results analysis all contribute to more productive business teams and profitable business.
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