By Professor Kerensa Jennings, Senior Adviser, Digital Impact, BT Group
There are so many pressures to juggle when you run a small business. And although we know that sometimes it’s the little things that could make a big difference, we often simply don’t have time to figure out what those could be.
Little life hacks really can transform your day – and ultimately your business returns. From giving you more time to helping you prioritise and empowering you to get more done, better, in less time. Part of the trick is working out what you need to spend quality time on, which can feel impossible when the to-do list keeps growing.
BT has worked with productivity expert Grace Marshall, to find out her top tips on how to be more productive. Grace helps people to adopt new ways of working and think about the way they approach work with the aim of swapping “stress, frustration and feelings of being overwhelmed” with “success, sanity and satisfaction”. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
“Productivity isn’t just about organisation or time management, it’s about our relationship with work and how we think about it,” says Grace. Here’s her guide to help save you time, money and energy as a small business.
Measure your outputs
Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being productive. It just measures quantity – not quality – and how hard someone is working, but not necessarily what they’re working on or what they’re achieving as a result.
Measure productivity by outcomes – what you’re achieving and the impact you’re making, rather than by input – how ‘hard’ you work or how many hours you do.
Ride the attention wave
We need to stop thinking about time management and instead think about attention management. Time without attention is completely useless, and our attention is not constant throughout the day.
We have our peak attention times – when we’re at our best, feeling really creative and alert. This is the time you want to be using for your deep dive work, or problem solving. At the other end of the spectrum, we have our ‘zombie moments’ – this is when you might want to take a step back and maybe do some of the easier work.
So instead of trying to squeeze every minute out of every day, it’s often much better to ride the attention wave.
Protect your attention
When running a business, we want to be responsive – to customers, clients, colleagues. However, if we are constantly reactive, it can steal a lot of our attention, which is fragile. Research suggests it can take 15-23 minutes to recover our attention from a one-minute interruption. It would therefore only take three badly-timed interruptions to take up a whole hour of your day.
So when you have to focus on a deep dive task, protect your attention. Turn off your phone and try working offline. Let people know when you are and when you’re not available. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done in just an hour of uninterrupted time.
Do more real work
People often think of productivity as doing as much as possible. However, what often stops us from being productive is often not that we’re not doing enough work, but that we’re trying to do too much.
Separate the real work from the fake work. Real work could be talking to a client and securing a job which is going to move you forward. Fake work could be polishing a website rather than hitting publish and getting it out there.
We probably can’t eliminate all fake work from our day, but what we can do is pay attention to how much time we spend on real work and how much we spend on fake work. If you’re not happy with the balance, you can start to address that.
Shorten your to-do list
If you have a giant to-do list that just seems to keep growing, it can be really overwhelming and demoralising as well. When working from a long to-do list, it can mean that we end up cherry-picking the easy wins or simple tasks to complete.
As a result, we’re better off working from brief to-do lists. Choose three or five things to complete –this act can force us to focus on what’s going to create the biggest impact.
We all procrastinate. We put things off that we don’t want to do, and it just grows and gets worse and worse.
Is a job too big? Too boring? Too scary? Work out the reason you’re putting it off and get creative. Make it smaller. Or more interesting. Or just jump in and do it!
You can watch Grace’s video on how to boost productivity here