Financial Data
Updated 22 Feb 2020


Becoming more productive

Productivity is a ratio of production output to what is required to produce it, or inputs. But what does that really mean?


This guide will give you an overview of what true productivity compromises, and how to make the most of your busy day.

Simply, a leader’s productivity is completing the actions that move you closer to accomplishing your goals, in a way that brings balance and ease into your life. Knowing what your objectives are and the actions necessary to reach them is the trick to boosting your personal productivity. The phases of this cycle are:

  • Setting meaningful and measurable objectives

Meaningful objectives are precise measurable goals with which you can align your actionable items and tasks so that the things you do, work towards your goals.

  • Breaking down each objective into actionable items

Personal productivity is about completing the tasks related to your objectives. Most productive people spend a considerable amount of time planning and thinking their tasks through, only placing the next actionable item that works toward their goals on their task lists. An actionable item is a task that can be completed in a single step. Working your way through this list will raise your personal productivity in ways you may never have thought possible.

  • Completing the individual actionable items

The key to accomplishing tasks and reaching goals is to schedule them. By scheduling the actionable items on your task list, you improve the chances of completing them. These steady, small successes will give you the motivation to continue moving forward towards your greater goals because you will have an ongoing sense of satisfaction.

  • Reviewing and acknowledging your progress

When you acknowledge the completion of an actionable item on your list, you can see yourself getting one step closer to the objective connected to it. Acknowledgment of your success is critical because it creates the motivation required to continue.

Looking at each of these points, it’s easy to understand why productivity is key to growing a business. As a leader your ability to set goals, list actions required to achieve those goals, and then reviewing progress, is essential. As you practice doing this over and over, the process will become second nature.

Prioritising

To prioritise is to arrange items to be attended to in order of importance. If you have a massive to-do list that keeps getting longer and longer, you will never feel as if you’re achieving anything productive.

You’ll also spend a great amount of time working on urgent things, none of which are really important. The solution is to prioritise. To work out your priorities, you need to have a system. This will require you taking some time out of your busy routine to sit down and work out what is truly important rather than simply urgent.

Top 5 tips to improve prioritisation

1. Set 3 to 5 important tasks for the day.

Often the best way to find out what the most important tasks are is to limit yourself to between 3 and 5 important items for the day. Do that by determining what tasks would leave you with the greatest sense of accomplishment.

2. Determine the value of each task.

One of the easiest ways to work out whether you’re focusing on important or urgent items is asking yourself how much value the completed task will provide for you or the business. For instance, does checking your email every few minutes add any value to your life? Perhaps that time could be better spent working on your marketing plan for the next quarter.

3. Think long-term.

Focus on the long-term impact of the tasks at hand. Clearing out your inbox will have a much shorter impact than revising your business plan or creating a credit vetting policy. Ask yourself: “Will this make a difference a week, month or year from now?”

4. First things first.

Start working on important matters first thing in the morning.Attending to non-important items will sidetrack you and you may have more distractions and interruptions later in the day. Finishing your most important tasks in the first half of the day ensures that even if you have a busy afternoon occupied with work matters, you can still feel satisfied that you have completed some important tasks.

5. Have a clear vision.

To set important tasks, you have to have a long-term vision for the business in the next 5 to 10 years. When we have a clear vision of what we want the future to look like, it’s a lot easier to stay on track and not get caught up in answering the next email or phone call. Always think about how the work you’re doing is moving you closer to your vision.

Time Management

Managing your time requires you to develop processes and tools that increase your efficiency and productivity. It encompasses how you plan your day, when you schedule meetings, when you read and reply to email, when you have meetings, when you travel and how much time you dedicate to completing important tasks. It’s about managing your time so that you waste less of it doing the unimportant things and have more time to do the things you want to do.

Many people use time management tools such as electronic calendars, phone apps or even the good old diary. Whatever means you choose, know that by managing your time more wisely you will get more done each day.

Top 5 tips to improve time management

1. Plan each day. 

Planning your day can help you accomplish more and feel more in control of your life. Write a to-do list, putting the most important tasks at the top. Keep a schedule of your daily activities to minimise conflicts and last-minute rushes.

2. Prioritise your tasks.

Time-consuming but relatively unimportant tasks can consume a lot of your day. Prioritising tasks will ensure that you spend your time and energy on those that are truly important to you. Do not take on additional work until you have completed your tasks.

3. Limit distractions. 

Block out time on your calendar for big projects. During that time, close your door, turn off your phone, turn off Skype, and close your email.

4. Be healthy. 

Get plenty of sleep, eat well and exercise regularly. Too much stress can derail your attempts at getting organised. When you need a break, take one. Go to gym, take a walk, or ride your bicycle. If you are feeling completely bogged down, take a day off work to rest and re-energise. A healthy lifestyle can improve your focus and concentration, which will help improve your efficiency so that you can complete your work in less time.

5. Take a time management course. 

Entrepreneurs often struggle to manage their time because they always have so much to do. If you find you are unable to make the most of your day, take a time management course and learn about the tools and resources that are available to help you.

Communicating

Communication impacts how your processes are carried out, how problems are solved, and the way people work, feel and think about their roles. It affects who knows about your business, how they find out about it, what they say and think of it, their experience of your products and services, and your customer loyalty and supplier relationships.

Importantly, managing communications effectively impacts how your processes are carried out, how problems are resolved, the way people work, and how they feel about the company. Communication helps to design the organisational culture. At its core, communications is a tool that businesses use to enable them to achieve goals and visions.

Internal communication channels include face-to-face meetings, internal emails, newsletters and memos, communications between managers and employees, and communications between peers.

External communication is any communication between a business and the outside world. Social media profiles and updates, press releases, marketing materials, adverts, and articles and books written by or about the business are all examples of external communication.

When drawing up your strategy, involve your team and focus on getting buy-in from them so that you can better align the communications strategy with the business strategy. That will ensure maximum alignment and efficiency.

5 steps for implementing a streamlined communication management system:

1. Set Objectives

Communication is not an end in itself – your objectives are therefore key to the success of your communications strategy. Determine what you can do within communications to help your organisation achieve its core objectives.

2. Identify Audiences

Identify the audiences with whom you need to communicate to achieve your organisational objectives. These may include employees, customers, suppliers, and the media.

3. Target messages

Strategic targeting and consistency are key to your organisation's messages. Address your key messages and tailor them to appeal to your various audiences. You’ll find that you have to emphasise different elements for different audiences. Remember that communications is all about storytelling, so use interesting stories and impactful imagery.

4. Tools and activities

Identify the tools and activities that are most appropriate to communicating the key messages to the audiences. These will be suggested by your audiences, messages, or a combination of the two. For example, an annual report is a useful tool in corporate communications, but Facebook and Twitter are great tools for communicating with customers. Tailor your tools and activities to the level of time and resources available.

5. Evaluation and amendment

Do a communications audit to assess the effectiveness of your strategy with both your internal and external audiences. You should use open questions, and consider and discuss the results carefully and use them to amend your strategy.

Execution

Successful entrepreneurs get things done. It’s an ability that is as critical to a business as cash flow. To get things done in your business, you need to set timeframes for projects and tasks, learn to prioritise, take on only what you can realistically do, and stop procrastinating.

Business guru Guy Kawasaki offers five tips for managing execution:

1. Create something worth executing.

Pitching, demoing, bootstrapping, and executing are a lot easier if you've created something meaningful. It's hard to stay motivated and excited about executing something dull. It's easy if you're changing the world. So if you and your team are having a hard time executing, maybe you're working on the wrong thing.

2. Set goals.

The right goals embody these four qualities:

    • Measureable. If a goal isn't measureable, it's unlikely you'll achieve it. For a start-up, quantifiable goals are things like shipping deadlines, downloads, sales volume, whatever. The old yarn, “What gets measured gets done” is true. This also has ramifications on the number of goals because you can't (and shouldn't) measure everything. Three to five goals are plenty.
    • Achievable. Take your “conservative” forecast for these goals and multiply them by .1; then use that as your goal. For example, if you think you'll easily sell one million units in the first year, then set your goal at 100 000 units. There is nothing more demoralising than setting a “conservative” goal and falling short; instead take 10% of your forecast, make this your goal, and blow it away.
    • Relevant. A good goal is relevant. If you're a software company, it's the number of downloads of your demo version. It's not your ranking in Google, so telling the company to focus on getting into the top 50 000 sites in world in terms of traffic is not nearly as relevant as 10 000 downloads per month.

3. Communicate the goals.

Many executive teams set goals, but they don't communicate these goals to the organisation. For goals to be effective, they have to be communicated to every employee in the organisation. Employees should wake up in the morning thinking about how they're going to help achieve these goals.

4. Measure progress on a weekly basis.

The goals that people achieve are the goals that are measured. If you don't measure progress towards a goal, you might as well not set it. This is also another reason for setting only three to five goals: people can't focus on more than five, and measuring many more than five is difficult too. The optimal time period to review progress is weekly: monthly is too little pressure; daily is too much.

5. Establish a culture of execution.

Execution is not an event – a one-time push towards achieving goals. Rather it is a way of life, and this way of life (execution versus non-execution) is set in the early days of the organisation. The best way to establish this culture is for the founder to set an example of filling goals, responding to customers, and heeding and measuring employees. This obsession should go right down to the level of the CEO answering emails and responding to phone calls.

Delegation

If you always feel that you have too much to do and not enough time to do it, you’re not delegating effectively. It’s widely recognised that the secret of success is not in doing your own work, but in identifying the right person to do it.

Delegation is the assignment of authority to another person to carry out the specific job-related activities. Done effectively, it allows an employee to make decisions, shifting organisational authority one level down vertically through the ranks of an organisation. Delegation is key in business as it enables the business owner to develop employees’ skills, and thus to boost productivity.

Delegation must be accompanied by effective coaching that helps employees develop the skills needed to get the job done. Effective delegation also requires good communication. Note that delegation is not task assignment; it involves giving someone the responsibility and authority to do something that is normally part of their superior’s job.

Five ways to delegate effectively

1. Determine what you are going to delegate.

Then take the time to plan how you are going to present the assignment, including your requirements, parameters, authority level, checkpoints and expectations. It is a good idea to write down these items and give a copy to your employees to ensure proper communication. Give an overview of the assignment including the importance of the assignment and why you have chosen the employee for the job.

2. Choose the right person.

Assess the skills and the experience of your employees as objectively as possible. Don’t be too quick to choose the person who you always know you can depend on. Describe the new responsibility in detail, outlining sub-tasks, defining any necessary parameters, and setting performance standards. Make sure the employee understands their level of authority. Let the employee know who they can turn to for help.

3. Ask for questions, reactions, and suggestions.

Ask the employee what approach they might take. Listen to their comments and respond empathetically. This step helps to get employee “buy-in” and will also help you determine if the employee really understands what is expected.

4. Ask the employee for commitment and offer help or some type of back-up assistance.

An employee who already feels overwhelmed may worry about completing the assignments already on his/her plate. It is your responsibility to help establish priorities and relieve some of the pressure by asking someone else to take on some of the routine tasks normally performed by the employee.

5. Establish checkpoints, deadlines and ways to monitor progress.

Remember that this is a collaborative process so you should strive for mutual agreement. Be encouraging and express confidence in the employee’s ability to successfully handle the new responsibility. Keep in touch and monitor the checkpoints the two of you agreed to. But don’t hover. Finally, remember to recognise and reward the person for their successful completion of the task or assignment.

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