Just because you’re a small business with a handful of employees does not mean you have to aim low in terms of productivity. Sure, you won’t produce the same output compared to businesses with hundreds of employees. But when it comes to making the most out of your and your employees’ working hours, you may be missing out on productivity.
When it comes to finding out how to get things done, you may have difficulty convincing your team to stay productive throughout the day. Here are our tips for getting more work done during the day by avoiding procrastination and keeping an organized schedule. If you can make it a habit and encourage your employees to do the same, you can make your workplace even more productive!
Make a To-Do List (and See It Through)
The simplest way to get things done is to make a daily list of what you have to do and let it be your guide throughout the day. You and your employees have a limited number of working hours per day, and going overtime can add stress for everyone involved. So, treat your time like the finite resource it is and make a list of things you need to get done within a certain amount of time.
Make it realistic: don’t cram plenty of tasks knowing it will be a stretch to get all of it finished. If you have 9 hours to work, put in tasks you know you can do in 7 hours, and then reserve those extra two hours for breaks in between and other ad-hoc tasks.
Set Your Goals & Priorities
What do you intend to do for the day? Aside from coming up with a to-do list, what is the one bigger picture you hope to fulfill? If we’re talking about simply finishing your to-do list, what’s to stop you from giving a half-hearted effort and resulting in sub-quality output? Having goals can prevent you from doing this.
If there are conflicts with your schedule, set your priorities straight. If you find your to-do list overwhelming, if something in your list can be done tomorrow, do it tomorrow.
Get the Bigger/Difficult Tasks Out of the Way
Many may prefer to do the easier tasks first, but handling the more difficult ones has several advantages for those who want to stay productive. At the start of the workday, you’re more energized to getting your work done, and once the most difficult task is out of the way, the easier tasks can be finished faster.
If you choose to do the easier tasks first, the energy required to get these tasks done can slowly wear you out. By the time you get to the most difficult task, you may already be tired and more impatient about the end of the workday.
Work Smart, Not Hard
If the results are done and quality isn’t sacrificed, it doesn’t matter how you get things done as long as it’s accomplished. This means working hard (that is, exerting a lot of effort) is not as productive as working smart (exerting less effort but producing the same quality output because you take advantage of what’s available).
You can work smarter in various ways. Use technology to help cut down the time it takes to do tasks manually. Find ways to streamline your process without letting the changes affect your output. See if you can find ways like outsourcing to reduce the labor costs, turn-around times, and equipment needed for your business.
Emails, Not Meetings
Learn to distinguish whether you need to hold a meeting (and take time out of you and your employees’ schedules) or if an email or post on the notice board will suffice. Treat meetings as something you shouldn’t be doing every day, but only when necessary. Here are a few ways that can help you determine if meetings are necessary.
- Your questions can be answered with a few replies. If your questions may require back and forth dialogue, then a meeting is necessary. If it can be answered with a few emails, keep it in your email.
- You want feedback. Holding a meeting just so you can watch everyone read your documents is uncomfortable, awkward, and rushes your team to provide feedback without thoroughly reading through your documents.
- You’re disseminating information. If your meeting is just you reading through a document, your meeting isn’t unnecessary. Mark your email as “Urgent” or “Important” so that they’ll know to read your email ASAP.
- Not all team members are present. If key members of the team cannot attend to give their valuable input, there’s really no point in holding a meeting on Monday and then a second meeting with everyone else. If you can’t get everyone together for one meeting, send an email.
- There is nothing to report. Your team may have weekly meetings to report on progress, but there may be a point where no one has anything new to report or everyone is reporting the same thing over and over.
- There is no agenda. It’s frustrating going into a meeting where there is no clear agenda or the reason is so vague that there are no clear topics to stick to. Without an agenda, people may start to go off-topic, prolonging the meeting and wasting everyone’s time.
Take Standing Breaks
If you and your employees are sitting in front of a computer the whole day, it can have negative health effects that affect your productivity. Sitting too long can lead to obesity, increased blood pressure, and more body fat around the waist. The solution, taking standing breaks every now and then.
For every hour you work, spend two minutes standing up. Stretch your legs and arms in place, or take a few minutes to walk and get the blood flowing. If you can, try to stand for tasks like taking calls, checking emails, or while logging in for work. Standing desks are not necessarily a healthier solution, so the more practical way is to simply stand to avoid prolonged sitting.
When you multitask, you could be doing one of three things:
- Doing two tasks at one time (typing an email while taking a call);
- Switching in the middle of one task to do another task (spending 10 minutes on Client A’s project then stopping and switching to Client B because it’s become urgent);
- Performing two or more tasks without stopping (switching from Client A to Client B to Client C without taking the time to gather your bearing).
Multitasking may seem like an effective way to do two jobs at once, but what you’re doing is actually dropping your productivity by 40 percent. When you’re not focused and constantly switching tasks, you’re wasting more time and getting nothing accomplished compared to doing one task at a time.
Stick to one task and finish it, take a short break, and then move on to the next one. Trying to juggle different tasks can reduce your efficiency, productivity, and make you prone to mental fatigue.
Recognize If Pressure = Procrastination
Everyone likes to say they work well under pressure, but that just isn’t true for everyone. Not everyone works better under pressure, so trying to work in an intense environment or an intense schedule is only going to hinder them because they may freeze and be much less productive compared to what they could do when they’re relaxed and focused.
For those who cannot take pressure well, it may be the reason you procrastinate. While some jobs and fields may not be pressure-free, it helps to minimize the stress you and your employees feel by making sure they aren’t pressured to finish something that is impossible to do within a given timeframe.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Some people tend to procrastinate because they don’t have anyone (including themselves) tracking their progress and if they should be going at the pace they should.
By holding yourself accountable or asking a supervisor or co-worker to check on your progress, you can check whether or not you’re moving at a good pace or if you have to continue working harder to finish your daily goals.
Pomodoro Technique: Take Breaks
You might be worried that taking breaks can lead to less time for completing your tasks, but this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, stressing yourself out and not taking enough breaks can burn you out easily and drive you to take longer breaks and procrastinate. If you feel guilty about taking multiple breaks, consider the Pomodoro Technique to help balance your time.
For any task you have to do, spend 25 minutes immersed exclusively on that task. If something comes up, do not lose focus but simply write it down on your to-do list to handle later. Once your 25 minutes is up, take a short 10-minute break – do not think about anything work-related during this break.
Once your break is over, reset your timer and continue your task (or a new task if the first one was already completed) for 25 minutes. Repeat the process three more times: 25-minute work, 10-minute break. After your fourth 25-minute interval, take a 30-minute break.
The result is that you give each task exclusive attention, making you more likely to finish faster without being distracted. At the same time, you’re allowing your mind and body to recuperate from the task without getting burned out.
There are different ways on how to get things done and plan your day. Not everyone’s business is the same, and you may feel overwhelmed planning a day where you have a lot of things to do. But if you can practice these productivity tips and convince your employees to do the same, you can make the most out of your day without procrastinating.