May 5, 2016

How To Increase Productivity At Work: The 6 Step Process Every Business Owner Needs To Follow

by Ross Simmonds

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The benefits of being productive are obvious:

  • You get more done during the workday.
  • You feel satisfied at the end of the workday.
  • And you have the ability to really enjoy your free time.

Sounds perfect, right?

It is.

Yet many of us still struggle with it.

We got lost in the comments on Reddit, we get caught up watching the latest videos on Facebook or we find ourselves watching Snapchats from people we don’t even know.

That’s why I’ve created this six-step process for increasing productivity.  In this post, I’m going to show you how to take control of your schedule, optimize your environment for productivity and perform at such a high level that your team will wonder what happened.

1. Start Your Week With Organization

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“Preparation for tomorrow is hard work today.” ― Bruce Lee

How you start your week will, positively or negatively, determine how you approach each day. Take 30 minutes on Sunday or first thing Monday morning to prepare for the weeks tasks and obligations.

Use this time to organize the files on your desktop, respond to emails that don’t require a lot of mental energy, plan your meals for the week and evaluate your calendar.


2. Use Your Calendar As Your Guide

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Your calendar is the most important productivity tool at your disposal.

For the last 6 years, I’ve intentionally created constraints surrounding where I focus my time using my calendar. I’ve used my calendar to block off time for meetings, actual work, dinners, workouts and time to focus on personal development.

I recently came across article called “Millionaires Don’t Use To-Do Lists” that validated my approach. Here’s what the author, Kevin Kruse found:

In my research into time management and productivity, I’ve interviewed over 200 billionaires, Olympians, straight-A students and entrepreneurs. I always ask them to give me their best time management and productivity advice… Ultra-productive people don’t work from a to-do list, but they do live and work from their calendar.


3. Listen To The Right Background Music

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Optimizing your work experience can be a huge accelerator for productivity. One of the most common issues in today’s world is a lack of investment in ergonomics and your working environment.

Productivity can only go so far if you're pushing your neck muscles and wrists to the limit. Carpal Tunnel isn’t fun. Which is why you should start by researching and investing in a good office chair and ensure that your computer screen is at the right height for you.

Once you have the foundation set, it’s time to optimize your environment with the right background music. That’s right: music.

Studies have found that music can offer you a sense of psychological empowerment, which in turn  leads to increased effectiveness and productivity.  The researchers found that people who listened to music with higher tempo, higher bass and more powerful lyrics were more likely to feel empowered and be productive.

So rather than listening to melodies and R&B, it might be worth listening to some rap or trap music.


4. Unplug From Ongoing Distractions

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“When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most.” — Robert Hales

Turn off your notifications.

Notifications have one goal: capture your attention.

When you’re not feeling productive or feel like you’ve been working on a task that should have taken less time, it’s usually because you’re allowing distractions to interfere. Whether it’s a snapchat showing up on your phone, a notification on Slack or a text from a friend – this act of multitasking is draining your energy and slowing your productivity.

Studies show that multitasking is one of  the biggest downfalls of people trying to be productive. Gloria Mark, a research from University of California found that it takes up to 25 minutes to re-engage into an activity after being interrupted. So don’t reduce the possibility of being sidetracked by turning off notifications.

Turn off notifications from the sidebar if you’re using a Mac.

Disable Slack messages during your peak work times.

Put your phone on silent for an hour or two.


5. Be Intentional With Your Breaks

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Being productive doesn’t mean being a workaholic.

You need to take breaks.

In fact, studies have found that our brains have two different states: the “focused mode” which we’re doing when we’re working and “diffuse mode,” which is our more relaxed mode. You might think that you need to optimize your life for being in the focused mode to be productive, but the diffuse mode is found to be important as well.

Studies have found that some of the most complex or tricky problems are solved while in the diffused mode. It’s why so many people have great ideas while in the shower or while daydreaming.

Barbara Oakley, Engineering Professor and author of A Mind for Numbers described this well in a recent interview with Inquiring Minds:

When you're focusing, you're actually blocking your access to the diffuse mode. And the diffuse mode, it turns out, is what you often need to be able to solve a very difficult, new problem.

So don’t be afraid to take a lunch break. Don’t be afraid to check out for an hour and go for a run or take in a yoga class. Embrace the break.

It’s during these times you might strike brilliance.


6. Embrace Automation & Delegation

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One of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs is transitioning between doing and leading. It's a point in your business where you need to step away from execution and start delegating tasks.

Delegation isn’t lazy. Delegation is the key to efficiency and development. It allows you as the business owner to focus on tasks that are more important and give your team the ability to feel empowered and grow their own skills. It allows you to think big picture, manage complex tasks and direct your mental energy into things that will translate into a larger and more impactful return.

The first step is finding people who you can trust, the second step is showing them you trust them. It’s the people you surround yourself with that will make this process easier and more successful. Remember: The more you delegate, the more you’ll be able to work on your business rather than in it.


Key Takeaway & Conclusion

So there you have it.

Six steps to increasing and optimizing your productivity at work.

If you can implement these tactics, I’m confident that you’ll see yourself getting more done during the work day. Another big drain on our ability to be productive is our constant thirst for more articles and hacks on being productive. Now that you have six easy steps, I’m going to give you the only other productivity hack you need:

Stop reading about productivity.

It’s time to take all the insights you’ve gained from your reading and start putting them into action. Schedule your week in advance, embrace your calendar, remove distractions, take breaks, optimize your environment, and delegate tasks.

Life is short and if you’re a business owner, it’s likely that your dreams are big. So put on your headphones and go get’em.

To anyone that’s found other strategies to work well for being more productive, I’d love to hear about your experiences. What unique struggles have you encountered in trying to be productive? Which techniques, if any, have worked for you across the board?

Let me know in the comments below!