When you’re running a small business, it can sometimes feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. But, while we can’t change the time allotted to us, we can certainly find ways to make the most of the hours we do have by becoming more productive.
Mastering the art of productivity is vital in helping to create a successful business while still carving out time for your personal life. So who better to ask then successful business owners who have tackled these very same problems.
What’s your favourite productivity tool, and why? (apps, spreadsheets, to do lists)
Carl Reader: The very best productivity purchase I've made while working from home is a specific pair of clean trainers that I put on every day before working. Some may find that strange, but I find having a physical reminder really useful for getting my head in the game of being productive.
Hendrik Gottschalk: I like a standard to do list, which I create every evening. I find it such a great way of going to bed with a clear head and starting the next day in a structured way.
Another tool I use is something called the ‘6-minute diary’. For this, I usually spend around three minutes in the morning writing down things I’m grateful for, what my goals are for the day and what motivates me to persevere. In the evening, I write down what worked well, what I would like to improve the next day and what the three successes of the day were. I find the ease and structure really helps me not skip a day!
Barbara Labate: I use an app called Trello. Trello has a really clear way of tracking projects and assigning tasks. I’ve been trying to get everybody in the company to use it, but I haven’t been completely successful yet since everybody has their own preferences when it comes to staying productive!
Rudy Bandiera: I find myself using quite a few different tools, but the tool I use most is undoubtedly Google Keep. Keep is a digital notebook that holds text, images, links, voice notes (it even has dictation capability!). Since my work is based on content production, the ability to log in on any device and have all my tasks and projects in front of me is invaluable.
Has working from home made you more productive?
Barbara: Yes, in some ways. Having a shorter commuting time definitely helps me stay productive and allows me to fit more high-quality work in.
Juan Merodio: Same for me. I’ve been remote working for more than 15 years and it has allowed me to significantly increase my productivity, as I avoid travel and other distractions. But, while it’s true that remote working increases the time available to us, we have to acquire certain daily habits aligned with this way of work that is very different from working in an office with colleagues. For me, one of these habits is definitely setting up boundaries between my home and working life through schedules. It’s really important to differentiate between work moments and personal moments, and respect those boundaries.
Carl: I think it made me more productive initially, but the novelty soon wore off. While I’m now used to working from home, I’m also used to working from anywhere. So when lockdown started, I found that my productivity dipped. I believe that that was due to a combination of lots of things. We were living under the fear of this big crisis, but also the sheer boredom of looking at the same walls every day, the same computer screen, and having no respite from it.
What do you think are the key aspects of keeping your employees productive?
Hendrick: Transparency, ownership, trust and incentives! For me, transparency is one of the most important aspects of entrepreneurship. Employees need to know where the company is right now, what it is working on, and also what its challenges are. Making decisions should be a privilege, not a burden. Achieving goals together also means making decisions together, which increases productivity because that's what you're ultimately judged on. Trust is also extremely important and helps to increase the productivity of each individual.
Do you believe that productivity is something that can be instilled into a business through training?
Juan: I think productivity can be learnt, so training is vital for employers. That said, we need to be clear on what we’re measuring. We need to move beyond basic ‘number of hours worked’ to a structure that rewards major milestones. It’s the value we create, rather than the hours worked that will make us more competitive in the long term.
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