Productivity ratios in economic terms can be understood as the ratio of input per unit of output. The input in our business is teams’ participation, co-ordination and time commitments.
William Penn has rightly said: “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”
When it comes to productivity, every business faces the same challenges: How to get things done with the existing restraint of time; how to manage multiple projects and still meet the weekly/monthly/daily tasks; and how to keep your team equally motivated.
That overwhelming feeling you get when you walk out of your office after having an ultra productive day, having met all your targets — when was the last time you actually felt that way? Quite a long time back, right?
Don’t worry, you don’t have to work harder, you just need to work smart! Try these hacks, which actually worked really well for me and might help you too.
The Art of Handling E-Mails
This is the most dreaded part of the day: Your account flooding with e-mails waiting for replies. A zero inbox e-mail at the beginning and the end of the day is actually a dream. You don’t want your e-mails to be a constant interruption.
Checking your e-mails at designated times is key. Say at around 10 a.m. and then at 4 p.m. (or whatever time suits your work patterns). This can ensure minimum distraction and help you streamline your messages. In addition to this, you can also make use of the additional features that enable you to prioritize messages from senders. I prefer Activeinbox — every e-mail is classified into either an Action (e-mail you have to take an action on) or Waiting on (if you are expecting a revert). It gives you reminders for the due dates of e-mails enabling you to impress your customers by responding to them at the promised time. You can also allot alerts for messages from important clients and can even choose auto responders that will let your senders know when you will reply to their messages.
Finish Everything in One Go
Never ever touch anything twice. Don’t put projects on a hold — that just adds on to your productivity loss and even worse, you could totally forget to complete it. Piling up e-mails or phone calls with the intention of doing it later is never a good option. If something important catches your attention, deal with it or delegate it.
Learn to Say No
A consistent ‘Yes’ to everything is also not good. Sometimes, you need to say ‘No’ to what is actually not possible to achieve. Instead of hanging around with “I am not certain” or “I might not be able to,” say ‘No’ and concentrate more on honoring your existing commitments and successfully fulfilling them. This will help you escape exhaustions, burnouts and in some severe cases, even depression.
Prepare for the Next Day Before Leaving Today
Preparation is always a plus point. End each day by preparing for the next. This could help you save time the following day. It would just take a few minutes and ensure that you have a productive tomorrow.
Meetings kill your productivity when they extend beyond the intended period. There is usually a time gap of 30 minutes to one hour, from the end of meeting until you actually start working on the next task. To avoid this, make sure that you start and end within the scheduled time. I prefer using Google Calendar and switch the SMS alerts ON for desktop and e-mail notifications for the meetings.
Try to keep the meeting as short as possible but do not compromise with the ultimate understanding of the objective that was formulated for the meeting. Automated reports are another good way to save your time during meetings. For our weekly operations meeting, we prepare the Excel sheet before-hand and share it with everyone concerned so they can have a look at it before the meeting and then discuss questions in the meeting. This saves a lot of time.
You can also use Calendly, which can be linked to your Google Calendar, which sends automated reminders once you fix a meeting.
Let the Technology Work for You
Technology almost reduces the need for man. So sit back, and find out the applications, that can supplement or, sometimes, may even substitute your work. Be it customizing your e-mails to set the filters, prioritizing the messages that are coming in or setting schedulers for your meetings, there is nothing technology can’t do.
You can use Asana, a project management tool, to help you create priorities and set due dates for them so that you get a timely reminder. It organizes tasks and discussions and files in one place.
Freshbooks is another option which helps you manage expenses, invoicing, accounts and payment receivables and consolidates all your financial data in one place, sparing you the horror of handling those complicated accounts.
iDonethis is another amazing tool that can work as a substitute for small and brief meetings which comprises a simple e-mail summarizing task of the entire day; thereby, giving you an insight on your productivity. It can potentially do away with all ineffective meetings.
Desk is a tool to delight your customers with effective customer-support. You can practically automate customer-support using filters and rules and as they say, “Turn every interaction into opportunity”
To find similar handy tools, refer here.
Delegation and Outsourcing
Always remember, employees take the organization forward. It’s impossible for a single person to handle each and every activity on his own. You need to accept that you are not the only intelligent, talented and smart person in the entire organization. Some of your tasks can be effectively delegated to your worthy employees so that you can concentrate better on your own work.
Additionally, some tasks can be outsourced, too. There are some things that cannot be effectively managed by you. For those tasks, there are experts who would do that work for you (obviously after charging you). Freelancer for instance, provides an option of submitting a project (whatever work you need to get done. You are then given a list of options (bids) to choose from. Fiverr is another good tool that performs the similar function of doing the tasks for you at a cost of around $5; any additional tasks in the same project will have add-on costs associated.
Outsourcing and delegating reduces your workload and gives you the time to concentrate more on the important tasks; thereby increasing your productivity.
Trust me this is the best method to regain your productivity! TAKE A BREAK!
A Stanford study reveals that a person’s productivity starts declining after a work week of 50 hours, and after a work week of around 55 hours, it drops so much that there is no point in working anymore.
Working 24-7 brings stress and burnout, which obviously saps your productivity. You need a weekend recharge. Even if you need to check some mails or respond to calls, make sure you do that in a specific block of time.
Managing Your Time
“The bad news is that time flies, but the good news is that you are the pilot.”
First of all, you need to organize your routine and your desk (this is a really underrated hack, but it actually works).
You need to make sure that the designated tasks are accomplished in time to prevent piling up. Tomato timer is a good tool for tracking your time — you can set a timer for your tasks and it can give you notifications on your desktop once the time’s up.
Rescuetime is another amazing tool that helps you keep track of your time. It sets alerts to let you know the amount of time you spent on a specific task, log highlights as to what you accomplished during the day; it blocks distracting websites (as you choose) for a chosen time interval so that you can better focus on your work.
You just need to plan, promote and prioritize and Evernote is one really handy tool to do that. It has a suite of features concerned with writing, collecting, discussing and presenting.
For other time saving and tracking productivity hacks, you can refer here.
Managing Your Team
How effectively you interact with your team members plays a crucial role in defining your productivity for the day. This is important because, in a way, these are the people who will be taking your business forward.
Internal communication is key. Try Slack to aid in that. There are misconceptions about Slack being effective for only tech teams, but our operational team uses it as much as our tech team does.
Next comes planning, strategizing and delegating.
Set weekly tasks, responsibilities and authority lines (to avoid any confusion or chaos), and make sure the work is done.
Google Sheets is one basic tool you can use to help with that.
Another interesting tool is Weekdone which has more enhanced features: It gives you insights into your employee’s weekly progress report, provides for daily internal communications for your team; lets you know what your co-workers are up to and many more such things.
I hope these things are of some help to you.
If you have other interesting hacks, please let me know in the comments, so that even I can take advantage of them.