Top Productivity Tips for Business Leaders
Can you guess the average worker's productive hours on a routine day?
You might be surprised to find out that according to research, an average worker is productive for only about 3 hours each workday.
For a business leader, being more productive isn't just about getting more work done; it's about focusing on future success, growing your business, and keeping track of goals.
If you've been snowed under with meetings, menial tasks such as checking your email, or if your day is frequently disrupted by interruptions, then keep reading, because we're about to list the top productivity tips for business leaders that can help you make the best use of your time.
Tip # 1: Eliminate unnecessary meetings
We've all found ourselves stuck in meetings that could have been replaced with a simple email. Meetings are important to establish goals and communicate ideas but can be a huge drain on productivity if overdone.
Startup founders and entrepreneurs usually wear multiple hats, and it can be a challenge to identify which meetings make sense, what should be discussed, and how much time should be allotted to each meeting, as multiple issues compete for their attention on a day-to-day basis.
Here are five key ways to free up time from meetings:
Establish an agenda and stick to it; avoid scope creep
Limit the meeting to its scheduled time
Identify meetings that need your presence, delegate someone else to attend all meetings where you're not personally needed.
Schedule "No Meeting Days" where the whole team can focus on work
Say no to meetings that add little or no value
Not all meetings are bad, but you need to figure out which ones work for your team — and shorten or eliminate the rest.
"If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be 'meetings.'" — Dave Barry
Tip # 2: Focus on high-value tasks first
Each morning, sit down and figure out a set of responsibilities that build your business and bring you closer to creating the company you've always dreamed of.
Then, tackle these tasks head-on, first thing in the morning. Usually, we're more focused, more energetic, and less distracted at the beginning of the day, and that's why early in the morning is the most suitable time to handle these high-value tasks.
It might also be helpful to shut off all distractions while you're at it, which means avoid checking your email, social media, and phone until you've checked off that high-value task from your to-do list.
This will not only bring you closer to your long-term goals but will also set in motion a rhythm where you're less stressed and more positive throughout the rest of the day.
As Stephen R. Covey succinctly puts it:
"The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities." — Stephen R. Covey
Tip # 3: Take stock of your week
There is nothing that can help us optimize how we spend our time quite like planning ahead. The only question is, what should be our reference point?
Reflecting on how you spent last week at work can be a powerful tactic that can help you learn valuable lessons and identify critical patterns, such as:
The time of day when you're most productive and laser-focused
Interruptions or distractions that are huge time-wasters
Obstacles that are preventing you from accomplishing high-value tasks
Work that adds no or very little value to your business
A careful review of your week every Friday can be a real game-changer. It can help you pinpoint areas of improvement and redirect your time and energy to the things that serve your larger objectives.
The result? With lessons learned from last week, you'll be able to optimize how you spend your time and plan your schedule more wisely for the coming week, allowing you to hit the ground running come Monday.
"The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way." — Dale Carnegie
Tip # 4: Schedule your distractions
Checking your inbox is certainly an essential part of the workday, but it can also quickly become the biggest distraction that holds us back from performing other, more important functions.
Most emails in our inbox aren't particularly important anyway, however, we feel the urge to look at them as soon as our computer sends us an alert.
Here's how to keep that urge in check:
Turn off desktop alerts/notifications for your email client
Check email at fixed intervals, only a fixed number of times per day
Schedule a time of day when you're least productive to check and respond to email, such as right after lunch
Limit your daily email reading and responding time to 1 hour
Keep the replies brief
The same goes for your phone; it can be a real productivity-killer that breaks your concentration. So, set up fixed points at fixed intervals when you pick up your phone to check notifications or respond to messages.
This way, you’ll still be able to respond to any important messages or emails but won’t need to worry about email or your phone constantly distracting you from other critical roles and responsibilities.
“You can't do big things if you're distracted by small things.” — Anonymous.
Tip # 5: Learn to delegate
This cannot be stressed enough: to be an effective leader, you need to learn how to delegate.
One of the most difficult transitions is for leaders to go from doing to delegating work. Most Japanese startups begin as a one-person operation with the founder doing everything on their own. As the team grows, the responsibilities became more complex and with increasing demands on their time, leaders struggle to pass the baton; often worrying that the tasks they used to handle won't be done as properly or thoroughly if delegated.
To know if you’re holding on to too much, answer this simple question: If I had to take a week off work, would my initiatives make headway in my absence?
If the answer to this question is no, you need to change your mindset and recognize that you cannot — and should not — do everything on your own.
The solution? Trusting your team (or a reliable contractor) and inspiring their thoughts and actions, so they share your vision for the company and can carry the torch in your absence. You can still be involved at critical moments where a supportive comment or a helpful piece of advice would be essential, but other than that, try not to micromanage once you delegate.
Delegating will empower your team and build trust, and with the bandwidth that you free up for yourself, you'll be able to spend your time being productive as a leader and helping your business grow.
Let’s wrap with up with a favorite quote:
“If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.” — John C. Maxwell
We’ve given you some great tips. But are you up for the challenge? Follow these suggestions, stick to them, and we guarantee that you'll notice real, measurable improvements. You'll be more productive, and more refreshed, both mentally and physically.
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