Small Business Tips

How to Increase Small Business Productivity

Victoria Morrison

Small business owners are always trying to find ways to boost productivity and increase cash flow. Keep reading for our top tips to increase small business productivity, from automating repetitive tasks to setting clear goals and deadlines to stopping procrastination in its tracks.

Get organized

Getting organized can be as simple as clearing your desk. If you use a computer for work, spend an hour or two deleting any files you don't need, and make sure the documents you do need are readily available.  Establishing order is necessary for productivity because when you can't find what you're looking for, you lose valuable time. Worse yet, you might have to recreate items you can't find at all, such as templates for quotes, invoices and blog posts, among other things.  Make sure everything has a dedicated space, whether this is a folder on your computer desktop, a filing cabinet, or a desk drawer. If you want to get ultra-organized, you can even keep a spreadsheet reminding you of where you keep important documents. These may include tax records, accounting ledgers, and inventory reports.

Outsource routine tasks

If you are a sole proprietor, doing everything for your business is the norm ‚Äö√Ą√¨ from advertising to customer service to bookkeeping to doing the actual work! If you're looking to boost productivity, think of the average daily tasks you might outsource to another party. ¬†At first, it makes sense to do everything yourself, especially if your business is in the start-up phase or if your cash flow is limited. But as your business starts to grow, you can think of outsourcing tasks like accounting, copywriting, social media management, customer service, and even cleaning. Delegating will give you a chance to spend more time on the work that is actually helping you generate business.

So how do you know when it's time to delegate certain tasks?

According to entrepreneur.com, if you're having trouble finding time to think about and plan your business, it may be time to start delegating tasks. When you have so many "emergencies" that you no longer have time to focus on the crux of your business, that's another sign that you're too busy.  Being too busy is never a good thing. It's a state that can cause you to feel stressed and overworked, at which point you could start to question everything. The quality of your work is likely to suffer as well.  If you feel like you're always putting out fires but aren't sure you can afford to hire an employee or outsource any of your work, then consider finding an intern to help you. A lack of funds can also mean you aren't charging enough for your services. With this in mind, do what you can to work smarter, not harder.  

3d Robotic hands typing on a laptop with white screen.

Automate as much as you can

One of the most obvious ways to save time and boost productivity is to embrace technology. Different automation tools work best for different people.  Some of the most popular ways to use automation to your advantage involve using various technologies and apps to automate invoices, bill payments, social media posts, and e-mail marketing materials.  If you do a lot of writing for your business, whether you are a writer, editor, or just generating the bulk of your marketing materials, you can prevent spelling mistakes by running a spell checker such as Antidote or Grammarly against everything you write. In particular, you can use Grammarly as an add-on to your web browser, which will allow you to catch typos and other mistakes as you type e-mails and other business communications.

Make sure you know what you're working towards

In other words, set goals. If you can identify where you are trying to go, you'll get there with more ease and efficiency.  Once you've figured out what you are trying to accomplish (i.e., increased income, more clients, more employees, more followers on social media, etc.), break each goal down into actionable steps. What can you do today that will bring you closer to your objective? For more information on this topic, check out our previous article about SMART goals.  Finally, whether you are still in the planning stages of your business or have been working on developing a new venture for several years, you should have a business plan. A good business plan will act as a roadmap that will quickly put you on a course towards success.  According to the Government of Canada, your business plan should include the following elements:

     
  • An executive summary
  • ¬†
  • Business strategy
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  • Marketing strategy
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  • Operational plan
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  • Your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis (a.k.a., SWOT)
  • ¬†
  • Human resources plan
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  • Social responsibility strategy
  • ¬†
  • Your e-business strategy
  • ¬†
  • Financial forecasts and other information; AND
  • ¬†
  • Business exit strategy.

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If done well, your business plan won't just show you whether or not your business is viable - it will also highlight any aspects you may still need to implement to maximize productivity. For example, you might need to increase your business income, or maybe hire an employee or two. Your business plan can help convince people to invest in you or join your team as well.  Don't forget to update your business plan as things progress! Doing so will help ensure your business keeps growing. It will also help you stay on track.

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darts on the dart board

Set clear deadlines

Similar to setting SMART goals, having set deadlines will prevent you from putting things off indefinitely. For example, maybe your business is doing okay with a minimal website that doesn't have that much content on it. But, you know that if you fleshed things out with a blog and a portfolio, your business would gain that much more traction.  As long as you're busy, you might not be very motivated to work on your website. Therefore, establishing a deadline is a good idea. Whether you do things yourself or decide to hire a professional to help, setting deadlines will motivate you to do the actual work.

Stop procrastinating

A fun fact about procrastination is that it often arises out of a desire for perfectionism.  This work demon is especially true if you do any creative work. From a perfectionist's perspective, there is always more research that needs to be done and more inspiration to be garnered. Before you know it, your deadline is looming, and you are under extreme stress.  If you tend to procrastinate, ask yourself why. If you think it might be due to perfectionism, realize that perfectionism is a trap, if not an outright illusion.  Perfectionists often fear humiliation if their work is not up to standards. However, the humiliation of not delivering at all will be far worse.  In his influential book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield puts forward the idea that the first step to doing good work is to simply do the work. Start without hesitation. You can always improve it later.  The more confident you get in your ability to do good work without overthinking things, the more likely you will be to overcome your procrastination tendencies once and for all. This progression will make you more productive as you inevitably spend more time working instead of thinking about working.

Apps to help boost productivity

1. Quickbooks. This affordable accounting software can help you track your sales and expenses, pay your vendors and employees, and even keep track of unpaid invoices. You can also use it to store copies of receipts for tax purposes, and the service will generally help you streamline your income tax return.  2. MileIQ. If you drive for work, you'll want to deduct any business-related drives on your taxes as part of your allowable motor vehicle expenses. Simply swipe right to classify drives as a business-related, or swipe left to classify them as personal.  3. Be Focused. This app is a Pomodoro timer for your phone. The Pomodoro technique is a time management tool that can help you work more effectively by encouraging you to work in 25-minute bursts followed by a short break. Be Focused is only available for iOS devices, but Android has other available Pomodoro applications - Pomicro is one.  4. Evernote. If you are looking for an app that will allow you to sync your notes across multiple devices, Evernote is your holy grail. You can also use it to write to-do checklists, create tables, attach files - and everything is searchable.  5. Active Campaign. If you're looking to launch a successful e-mail marketing campaign for your business, Active Campaign can help you design beautifully personalized e-mails sent at strategic times. You can also create trigger e-mails that get sent to customers based on their actions. Active Campaign is a paid service, but if you are looking to start out with something free, check out MailChimp.

Never lose sight of your goals

Finally, the very best way to boost productivity is to love what you do. Do whatever you can to reduce stress and overexertion, and you'll be doing this for years to come.  So stop being a perfectionist about everything, set clear goals, delegate tasks when you need to, and stay organized. You'll be more productive than you ever thought possible!

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