By Michele Don Durbin, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Evernote
Today, UK workers are facing what we call triple overload: data, communication and cognitive. Often this means that workers are unable to be as productive as they’d like, which directly impacts output across small businesses and collaborative teams.
In the UK, the issue of productivity is well documented with recent research by the Office for National Statistics finding UK workers are 26 per cent less productive than German workers. In addition, productivity levels are 16 per cent below the average for the other six members of the G7 group of industrial nations.
So how do you fix the UK’s productivity problem? More importantly, how do you fix your own productivity shortfalls? Here are five practical tips to help small business owners be more productive.
Make meetings quicker
Meetings take up a lot of time, which doesn’t leave much capacity in your diary to do deep work. Sufficient time for deep work is essential to keep focus on the bigger picture (growing your company, keeping customers happy, staying competitive in the market etc) rather than spending your day on management and firefighting.
To make meetings more productive, start by shrinking the traditional 30 or 60-minute default length to just 25 or 50 minutes. If you stay strictly within the time allotted, all those saved minutes in a week add up to more time to focus on the harder, strategic work.
Never start a meeting without a prepared agenda that’s circulated to all participants at least 24 hours in advance. That way everyone knows exactly what to prepare for and can focus on getting to resolution and next steps. Don’t be afraid to step in if the conversation goes off-course or if no progress is being made.
Avoid information overload
Research shows that a knowledge worker gets interrupted or switches tasks every three to five minutes on average, which leads to an unhealthy brain overload and exhaustion. So learning to protect your attention is key for any business owner or manager to be more productive.
Consider which days and times you work best, with energy and concentration, and how you can protect this time. Setting aside blocks of uninterrupted time in your calendar can help you be at your best when you must work on the tasks that are most mentally draining and need the most focus.
You can also reduce or remove distractions to protect your best-attention time. Close down your email, put your phone on silent or do not disturb and definitely close down chat tools. This will help you get into the flow with minimal distractions.
Clean up your workspace
Research shows that the average knowledge worker wastes around two and a half hours per day searching for information, because of data overload.
If you have a messy office or desk space, you’re likely to end up spending time searching for lost documents and information. Spend a few minutes at the start or end of each day picking up your workspace and sorting through any unfilled documents and folders.
Better yet, go paperless and make use of apps that scan receipts, documents, photos, business cards and whiteboard notes directly into your phone and sync to your other devices. That way, you won’t have to remember which drawer or folder you put your paperwork in.
Declutter your digital life
Decluttering your virtual space, including your computer/laptop, phone and cloud storage, is as important as decluttering your physical space.
Have a digital declutter by deleting or archiving any unused documents, files, programmes or apps on your computer, and correctly file away documents saved in temporary spaces like your desktop and your downloads folder.
Deleting unwanted files and folders will make it easier to find what you need and possibly speed up your PC by freeing up memory.
Streamline your app list
Lots of productivity improvements come from changing our own habits. If you have many apps solving the same problems in different, yet overlapping ways, you’ve got too many. It is far better to find a few apps that save time and make you more productive. Try a few. When you find one you like, learn it thoroughly, adjust it to fit your work style and stick with it.