As a business owner, it’s highly likely you have more to do than time will allow. Many of us plow through days of non-stop action, only to wonder if we accomplished anything important at the end of the sprint. Take a moment to breathe easy. Here are a few tricks and tools you can use to increase your productivity while you free up some time for rest and relaxation.
1. Use your circadian rhythm to your advantage.
It’s possible to harness your body’s circadian rhythms and hormone fluctuations to be more productive. People naturally have a surge of the stress hormone, cortisol, within the first 30 minutes after awakening in the morning, and cortisol remains elevated for at least 60 minutes. You can take advantage of this stage of alertness by completing the most important task on your list first. Of course, getting addicted to caffeine will disguise this surge and make you feel groggy until you get your fix, so imbibe wisely.
Typically between two and four in the afternoon, you might experience an afternoon slump. This is a good time to tackle those activities that don’t take a lot of effort, or it might be the perfect time for a break in your workday. You might hit one last wave of productivity after the slump, and then as the day morphs into evening, your body releases melatonin, a hormone that makes you drowsy. Rather than trying to power through at night, get to bed at a decent hour so you can take care of your most important business the next morning.
2. Delegate to the pros.
As a business owner, it’s tempting to try to save money by doing everything yourself. But while you’re struggling to master tasks like bookkeeping, you aren’t spending your time where you’ll make the most money.
People naturally hate losing; the problem is, we hate losing even more than we want to win. The problem with loss aversion, as this tendency is called, is that it drives us to try and handle those activities that would cost us money to delegate. While we’re busy getting tangled up in the minutiae of our businesses, we aren’t out there winning, or doing activities that could make us more money.
You have to fight this instinct and instead look at what profits you stand to gain by outsourcing some things, like by hiring sales people, for example, in order to make your business more profitable.
3. Streamline and document your processes.
Take a page from the Six Sigma experts: do a thorough examination of your business’s processes in order to save yourself time, money, and effort.
First, document your business’s processes by diagramming them. Then time the total length of each process and note how long each step takes. Next, notice where there are inefficiencies: bottle necks, tasks getting handled twice by the same person during one process, or other unnecessary time wasters.
After you’ve trimmed out inefficiencies and upgraded your processes, refine and document the new procedures. Then time the performance to see if your improvements actually worked. Repeat and make improvements until you feel it’s not possible for your process to be any more efficient and error-free.
Once you’ve got an air-tight process on your hands and it’s thoroughly documented in a way that’s easy for everyone to understand, it’s time to train your staff. Ideally, you’ll train multiple people on every stage of the process so that everyone is interchangeable. That way when employees take vacation or there’s staff turnover, there isn’t any single person who holds the keys to the kingdom. Plus, it’s easy to onboard a new employee and train them on all parts of your business’s processes using the documentation.
4. Rest and recover.
It’s a natural assumption to think “more hours worked equals more work done.” Not so. As accounting firm Ernst & Young discovered, employees improved their year-end performance ratings from supervisors by 8%—not based on how many more hours they worked—but for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took.
It stands to reason that humans can only be efficient at their jobs for so long before their efficiency tanks. Make sure you sleep well, eat well, exercise, play, socialize…all the things that make life feel rich, rewarding, and keep stress and depression at bay.
That way you will work smarter, not harder. And that’s really what we’re after when we try to be more productive.
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