5 productivity hacks for small business owners


1. What is a pocket minute and how can it help your business?


2. Why taking breaks will save you hours?


Working longer hours does not necessarily mean you are working more.  You might spend hours in front of the computer but not manage to complete anything on your to-do list. While being more time efficient is about doing more with your time, it’s also about knowing when to take a break. Taking a break helps maintain your focus and can also stimulate new ideas.

To be more productive, the first step is to recognise when you have reached a dead end. Are you staring blankly at the page? Have your eyes gone red? Is your back beginning to ache? If this is the case, it is a good idea for you to stop, leave what you’re doing and get some fresh air. Taking a break can refresh your thought process and bring greater clarity to your work. Even day-dreaming has been proven to help with problem solving.

The next step is to implement a work routine that allows for regular breaks and short rests.  The pomodoro technique for instance, suggests you work in 25-minute stints followed by a five-minute break. After one hour, you are allowed a longer break. The premise behind pomodoro is that you’re more likely to stay focused on a task if you give yourself time to rest and clear your thoughts.

Another strategy is to work following your ultradian rhythms, natural rhythms that occur every 80 to 120 minutes. According to psychologists, your mind moves from high to low alertness in 90-minute cycles. Working with this natural rhythm–not against it–can help improve your productivity by ensuring you’re working when you are at peak alertness and resting when you’re not.

Most business owners are reluctant to take breaks with such frequency, especially when there is so much to be done. Studies, however, show that you can be more productive and indeed creative by letting your mind rest after intense active work periods. Experiment with different strategies i.e. resting after 25 minutes or after two hours and see if you can detect a difference in your work productivity.


3.The harder you work out, the harder you work?


You are at your most productive when you are feeling fit and healthy. While it may seem like a distraction from work, exercise can greatly improve your business performance. This is true for a number of reasons.

Firstly, exercise helps regulate your sleeping patterns. Most business owners know it’s very difficult to make important decisions after a poor night’s sleep. Fatigue affects all aspects of your business, from your critical thinking and mood to your work motivation.  Studies show exercise has a positive effect on your sleep; reducing the amount of time it takes to get to sleep and improving the quality of your sleep, you wake up feeling well-rested and ready to take on challenges at work.

Another benefit of exercise is mood. A 20-minute session in the morning can boost your mood for hours afterwards. High-energy activities like running and cycling flood the body with endorphins, more commonly known as feel-good hormones. These hormones produce feelings of wellbeing and confidence. This is particularly useful if you are struggling with business -related anxiety, stress or doubt.

Exercise also improves your mental agility. Physical exercise increases the flow of oxygen to the brain and stimulates growth of the brain-derived protein BDNF, associated with high level critical thinking and decision-making. It has also been proven to sharpen your memory and inspire greater creativity. While exercise may seem like a drain on your energy and time, a 2011 study found workers who exercised were more productive, produced better quality work and recorded less sick days than their sedentary colleagues.

And to top it off, exercise can also be a great way to network. Perhaps your morning swim leads to a new business connection or maybe you join a cycling team with your clients.

If you want to be more time efficient, you need to be feeling your best. Think about how you can start the day moving–with a run, cycling to work or a morning yoga class. Studies show that people who exercise in the morning are more likely to make a habit out of it and stick to the regime. By exercising in the morning, you also get to enjoy the feel-good after effects all day long. It also means meetings and surprise work tasks are less likely to get in the way. Alternatively, introducing physical activity to the workplace can also reduce stress and increase productivity.

4. Stop chaos eating up your time?


An organised work system can save you hours of time. The more organised you are, the less time you spend rifling through old files, searching emails for lost bits of information and creating duplicate documents. In short, you want your business to be as efficient as the German train system.

To do this, you need to invest time in setting up systems across your business. Create templates so you don’t need to duplicate the same document more than once. Organise your desktop and office with clear labels and an easy-to-follow system. Colour-code your appointments, set up group sharing tools like Google Docs, create a master password key. These may seem like niggly tasks but they will save you time and improve the overall efficiency of your business.

Project management apps and organisational tools like Evernote, Trello or Dropbox can also help you with this. These tools allow you to set reminders, track your to-do list and assign tasks. Think about what tasks take up most of your time and ask yourself whether this could be cut down with better organisation. For instance, if you spend too much time researching industry trends or business-related tips, set up a Google alert to filter the information and have it delivered to you in real time. Or use Feedly to collate all your favourite sites in one place to see breaking news at a glance–instead of visiting each site individually. If managing your accounts is a drain on your time, see whether a tool like Ballpark will help. The idea is to invest time now in order to avoid time-consuming complications later.

Once you have systems in place, think about what tasks can be automated. Perhaps you want to schedule your social media posts on Hootsuite, pre-write emails with Google’s canned response tool or update contacts with an app like EverContact. To make managing your email easier, you could also follow the auto advance zero inbox policy. In Gmail for instance, you can use the ‘auto advance’ feature in Labs. Instead of taking you back to the inbox, this feature automatically shows you the next email in the conversation after you delete or archive an email.

By getting organised and automatising your daily activities where possible, you will give yourself more time to think about the more important aspects of your business.


5. How to enter a vault of productivity?

It’s hard to focus and get work done when you’re constantly receiving emails, Facebook notifications and messages. Each time you check or respond to one of these you aren’t only losing time you’re losing focus.Studies show that social media in particular can have a very detrimental effect on our levels of concentration.

The best work is done with undivided attention. Erratically moving from task to task breaks up this concentration and makes it harder for you to complete tasks. The best way to get around this is to go on ‘airplane’ mode. Set aside a block of time in which you go completely offline. Exit Skype, turn off your phone and focus on the task at hand. If you worry you don’t have the self-restraint, tools like Cold Turkey andSelfControl can help you by locking you out of certain websites or the web completely.

But of course distractions don’t only come from the online world. The real world can also be problematic. Long meetings, unscheduled telephone calls and pesky admin duties can also eat into your time. Try introducing a ‘no meeting Wednesday´ like Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz. Give yourself a full block of time to work without distractions–online or off.

Alternatively, switch up your routine. Instead of arriving to work on Monday with an insurmountable list of things to do, try working on Sunday night. Shut yourself off for an hour or so, knuckle down and  get on top  of  your work load. Not only will you get more done, you’re likely to walk into the office Monday morning in a much better mood.

“The original article can be found at http://paidcontent.smh.com.au/