Experiments in productivity…

by on September 7, 2011

Productivity in small businessWe all have those days. When it’s over and done with, we stop and ask ourselves, did I even accomplish anything today?

It’s frustrating. Not to mention stressful. As busy small business owners, our time is precious.

So, we look at ways to boost that productivity and stop wasting that dear time of ours.

For me, a lot of my habits revolved around organization and streamlining, such as…

• Limiting how much I deal with email. Once in the morning and once in the late afternoon for urgent matters. Twice a week for non urgent.
• Creating a schedule for routine tasks.
• At the start of the week, jotting down the things that I needed to get done.
• Setting myself a time limit for tasks that can suck time (hello, social media!)

I thought I was doing pretty good…

And then I read this post by Johnny B. Truant, and I realized that I hadn’t addressed one major time waster…

I was, cough, AM, positively addicted to checking email and social media.

Seriously.

I was living in productivity denial. Thank you Johnny.

After reading the post, I consciously noticed how often I would zip into my inbox to see if anything new had come in. As per above, I wouldn’t actually deal with the emails, but I would check to see if they were there. I even had that little popup window telling me that a new email had come. I loved that window. And I always looked at it.

Ditto for social media. I would constantly pop in to my accounts to see if I had any new comments or mentions, innocently wreaking havoc on my productivity.

The problem with the above habits? They’re flow destroyers. And a distraction from what’s really important to get done.

So I vowed to make a shift and try an experiment…

I made that weekly schedule I mentioned above more important. I normally would just put down client related tasks. So on days when I had extra time, without a clear plan, a space opened up for floundering and fooling around.

I decided to make my weekly schedule a little more robust. There were things for my clients of course, but also things for MY business marketing goals.

Then, whenever the urge came to check that email or that Twitter account, I would check myself. Have I finished what I wanted to accomplish? Will checking my Facebook help me achieve those goals? More often than not, the answer was a big HECK NO! So I didn’t let myself check.

The result?

Well, I must say that it’s worked really well. I’m more productive first thing in the day anyway, so by focusing on the tasks that needed to get done, the important tasks were done with my full energy. I was getting more done, and finding that time was freeing up.

By hunkering down on the tasks on my “must accomplish” list, ignoring the distractions, I couldn’t believe how much  I was actually able to get done. I never thought that the little things were having such an impact. Not only was I productive, I felt more motivated and energetic.

Of course I’m not saying that I am now a superhero business gal that sits at my desk all day pumping out the good stuff.

Some days I am.

Other days, I’m just not feeling it and need to rest and relax, rather than work my butt off.

I’m not a big fan of rules to live by for productivity or being a stickler about how you do things. You do have to follow your personal energy flows and realize that you are a different person every day with different needs.

So give yourself permission to break the rules when you see fit…

…but make sure you don’t just fall off the bandwagon completely.

Productivity is a personal thing. What works for me may not work for you.

So here are some other ideas from members of the community…

Linsay, from The Busy Mom Boutique “To boost productivity I use Gmail to stream all of my email accounts to ONE single account so that I’m not having to check my multiple business emails and personal emails separately each day. I also use TweetDeck to stream all of my social media activity in one place (business & personal accounts for twitter and facebook) so that I can login to one dedicated account and post simultaneously.Probably something that many people do already…but those are 2 things that boost my productivity each day and they’re free!

@KConfectionista from Kimberely’s Kitchen “I have recently worked on streamlining- do one thing really well instead of trying to please all. Saves time and helps you focus on growing the best part of your business!”

Kate from Stoker Designs “Stay well organized and make lists. (Now I will quit procrastinating on FB and get working on crunching down that list!)”

Alison from Photo Show on DVD “For me a unique selling point is so important, trust and honesty is what most people look for and delivery beyond their expectations. The number of word of mouth referral will say how much clients appreciate what you do.”

Way easier to focus when you know what you need to be focusing on!

Taryn from Local Government Managers Australia SA
“Budget 20 minutes every morning for worry time and save all your worries for then so you can stay focused the rest of the day.”

Tom from Small Town Marketing “If you read something about your industry just 20 minutes a day, in less than a year you will know more than 75% of the people in it.”

You do have to count learning and educating yourself as part of your productivity. Schedule it in!

Barb from Atlas Branding Agencies “Outsource what you are not really good at and spend your time, focus, energy on the things you are – for me it has translated into a lot less frustration and has increased my productivity.”

On to you… Do you have any personal experiences to share with us?

Comments, likes and tweets are always appreciated! Did I mention that I LOVE your feedback?

Image source: Rawich / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

carpediembabs September 11, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Great post Martina! Very insightful ~ I couldn’t agree more. I have unknowingly been doing the same kind of experiment you did – recently, I started writing my ‘must-do’s’ on a 5×7 postcard (since there is only so much room on there, you know!?)… one for each day for the upcoming two weeks, basically like my action plan for the day. Anyway, if it’s not on there, I am not spending time on it [of course, things get shuffled around since priorities change - that's why I write in pencil :)]- and it has done the same for me, increased my productivity and focus tremendously. One thing I did notice, however – (oops!) I forgot to add ‘socializing’ on my channels to my list~ it is an important part of networking and marketing my business, so although I was struggling with finding a balance, scheduling it and knowing that it’s part of the steps I need to take to achieve my long-term goals makes it (almost!) guilt-free to spend 30-45 mins a day (split in 3 10-15 min sessions each) on my Social Media channels. Thanks again for a great post ~ I always enjoy reading what’s on your mind :)
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Martina September 12, 2011 at 8:23 am

Great to hear that you’ve had the same success with daily goals Barb. When you have a clear focus, it’s amazing how much more you can get done. Thanks for sharing your personal experience :)

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A Website Designer September 11, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Great tips as usual. I was / AM completely addicted to email and social media as well. I generally go to the cafe in the morning, take my iPad and fuel up on social media and then forget about it for ‘most’ of the day. I use alerts like Twilert which tells me if people have mentioned me and luckily because of the time difference I get the alerts in the middle of the night so I can deal with them in the cafe in the morning (and not throughout the day). I subscribe to my Google Alerts using RSS instead of email so I’m not distracted throughout the day. I also very rarely subscribe to newsletters (or stay subscribed) and prefer to use RSS instead and checkout the posts in the cafe in the morning. I think it works pretty well although some days I’ll lose a whole day to email and reactive stuff and wonder how it happened.
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Martina September 12, 2011 at 8:27 am

Thanks for sharing your personal insights Dan! I also recently cleaned out my email and unsubscribed to a bunch of stuff. It helped tremendously and with RSS, it really makes it easy to keep track of your fav sites, when it’s the best time for you.

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candice michelle May 2, 2012 at 1:31 am

I think that is exactly what I need. Definitely I need to set a time limit to myself in in using Facebook in times of work hours so I will be able to become more productive. You see “more facebook, less work; less facebook, more work”.
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Martina May 2, 2012 at 9:35 am

Facebook sure can be a time suck, eh? Thanks for the comment Candice!

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