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Time Management and Productivity in Your Small Business

As a small business owner, you know one thing for sure: productivity equals profits. The more you do, the more you earn. But how do you increase productivity when your time is limited?

The answer is simple — improve your time management. When you find ways to work efficiently, productivity increases, and profits skyrocket. What are the keys to improving time management? Here are my top two:

1. Hunt down inefficiencies at every level of the business and eliminate them (You might be surprised what you find.) Each step streamlines your operations and brings you closer to an efficient, waste-free business.

2. Create a productivity-focused environment that helps your employees make the most of each working hour.

These topics will help you understand more about productivity and its role in small business management:

Use the Power of Time Tracking

When your business is young, you might need to handle everything from development to marketing on your own. As you start to grow and hire employees, a new issue arises time tracking. Why do you need to track time? When you know where your billable hours are going, it’s more accessible to:

Using electronic time tracking software, is the best way to go, especially if your employees are out of the office. It allows workers to record hours right from their smartphones. You can even track employee hours directly in QuickBooks, which streamlines payroll. Here are the top benefits of automated time tracking:

  • No more illegible or lost paper time cards
  • Automated TimeSheets for Hassle-free Accounting: the app integrates seamlessly with QuickBooks Online Payroll
  • Employees can clock in and out on their cellphones
  • Lower payroll costs, on average, TSheets reduces payroll costs by 6%

A time-tracking record is an excellent way to measure productivity in your team. It shows you exactly how each person is spending their time. For a manager, that information is golden — it helps you see where employees are working inefficiently, so you can use the learning curve to help them improve and increase productivity.

Keep in mind that time-tracking isn’t just for your employees. Analyzing your hours makes it easier to find opportunities to delegate work. That way, you’re free to tackle big-picture tasks and monitor key performance indicators. Ready to empower your employees and increase productivity? Try QuickBooks Time today. 

Are you self-employed? Tracking your own time can turn up some unexpected time management issues. You might find easy tasks are taking a surprising amount of time, or you’re giving clients more hours than they’re paying for. These red flags can help you figure out how to stay motivated and manage multiple clients, all while meeting deadlines.

Take Control of Your Day with Apps and Technology Tools

When you’re looking to do more in less time, your secret weapons might be closer than you think. Your favourite apps and technology tools are packed with options to help you manage a heavy workload.

Start with the gadgets that are always within arm’s reach: your smartphone and smartwatch. Your Apple Watch is a powerful professional tool. Use it to initiate presentations, stay in contact with clients, and monitor your schedule from anywhere.

The next weapon in your personal-tech arsenal? Your phone. Load up on apps for common tasks — track expenses and record billable hours with QuickBooks, even stay on task using the timer. If you work on offsite projects, field service apps can help you manage jobs on the go. Load instruction manuals, create quotes and send invoices with a few taps of the screen.

Take a look at the software and apps you’re already using in the business. Are there features and capabilities you’re not taking advantage of? By getting the most from your existing programs, you can increase productivity without spending the time to learn a whole new system. Your accounting software is a prime candidate — many programs are loaded with additional features that can streamline your business financials.

Do you use QuickBooks for your bookkeeping? You can also use the software to track employee time, manage payroll, and track expenses. Want to stay organized? It also integrates with Google Calendar to import data and create invoices easily.

As you find ways to maximize each platform, it’s essential to understand the purpose, scope, and limits of the technology. For example, using sales-specific software is best when it comes to lead tracking. It’s helpful and efficient to research and find the most-targeted software for your specific needs.

Want to save even more time? Try optimizing the way you use existing technology solutions— that way you can spend less effort on time-consuming tasks. Email is a good example. Are you always digging through old messages to find action items? Do you use your inbox as a to-do list?

If so, it’s time to take control and improve your email productivity. That way, you spend less time on email, and urgent messages never get lost in the fray. The same goes for tech-based administrative tasks, such as online research and travel-planning. If you can’t afford a full-time assistant, you can save a tremendous amount of time by outsourcing the tasks to a virtual assistant. They work remotely and on-demand, so you pay only for the hours you need.

When you’re looking for ways to increase productivity, it can be tempting to download every exciting new app and program you can find. As a busy entrepreneur, it’s vital to evaluate each option carefully. It takes time to learn a new tool and integrate it into your workflow. In some cases, a new piece of technology can do wonders for your efficiency.

receipt scanner, for example, can save you hours of sifting through paper receipts and invoices by creating a digital archive. Even better? Use the QuickBooks app to scan receipts directly into your records. Smart, thoughtful technology use can automate and streamline time-draining tasks, so you can focus on bringing in clients and building your empire.

Improving Communication to Increase Efficiency

An efficient workflow can transform your company’s productivity — and to get there, you need fantastic communication at every level. When your employees are on the same page, you don’t have to worry about misunderstandings and bottlenecks that lead to delays.

If you’re like many business owners, you use meetings to share information with your team. If you’re scheduling too many, or if the discussion tends to get off-topic, sessions can hurt your productivity. To fix the problem, try streamlining your meetings. That way, you reduce wasted time and help everyone get clear on their next steps.

Between meetings, you can use project management software or an internal social network to communicate as a team. The key is sharing updates, progress, and feedback in real time. This practice ensures that everyone can adjust accordingly to prevent delays.

What happens when your employees are struggling to work together, or when they’re dealing with interpersonal conflicts? You might set up conflict-resolution strategies, or try team-building activities to help build a shared bond and a sense of camaraderie.

Client communications also play a significant role in an efficient workflow. If you want to take a proactive approach, make sure that all of your communication channels are delivering a unified message. That way, clients come in with a clear understanding of your brand. Once a project is underway, prevent scope creep from sabotaging your productivity by finding ways to deny a customer’s request while maintaining the relationship.

Managing Employees — And Yourself

People are a big part of the productivity equation. To truly get the best from your team, you need to consider the human element. What does this mean in practice? For example, you might need to use different management strategies for employees with Type A and B personalities. It’s also a good idea to stay connected to your staff through conversations, collaboration, and observation. That way, it’s easier to spot signs of employee burnout or absenteeism and presenteeism before they start to impact productivity. Once you identify a potential problem, you can use flexible schedules, remote-working options, or  unlimited time off  to give your staff members space to take care of personal issues.

Your employees aren’t the only ones who need a little TLC — your needs matter, too. Finding a healthy work/life balance helps you become a better leader. If you’re a momtrepreneur, this could mean you need to fit work around your kids’ schedules. If your company has a busy holiday season, you might need to be proactive about managing holiday stress.

Are you feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of running a company? That’s normal, especially if you’ve never been a high-level manager before. In some situations, a business consultant can help you get clear on plans for the company. Another option is to find a mentor who can act as a sounding board.

Increasing Productivity for Individual Employees

The productivity of your company depends on the actions of each employee. If you need an immediate boost in output, it’s helpful to take a look at your employees’ habits.

In many startups, employees juggle a variety of responsibilities and ever-expanding to-do lists. Sound familiar? If you always feel like you’re playing catch-up, it’s time to focus and prioritize. First, make a master list of all the things you need to do. Then, organize your tasks in order of importance, placing the most critical items at the top.

With your priorities in order, you’re ready to power through your list. The way you tackle the tasks depends on your style. If you tend to get distracted easily, the Ivy Lee Method can help you get on task and focus on a single job at a time.

Another option is the Pomodoro Technique, which organizes your day into intense work sessions and frequent, refreshing breaks. Each of these strategies eliminates the distractions and brain-drain that come from multitasking. You might also find it useful to take care of tough tasks first — then, the rest of your projects automatically seem less intimidating.

In some cases, your professional and industry dictate your productivity strategy. Sales professionals, for example, often need to find a balance between money-making tasks and lead generation. Always on the go? Find ways to tweak your business travel plans so you can stay productive in transit. No matter what your industry, it pays to examine your operations and find opportunities to streamline your business in 2019.

Designing a Productivity-Focused Workplace

The way you physically create your workplace can have a significant impact on productivity. Wondering where to start? Try organizing your office. An orderly system saves a considerable amount of time when you’re hunting for files and supplies. Then, take a look at individual work areas. With a few small upgrades, you can design comfortable computer workspaces that help employees stay focused during long work days. If you have room in the budget, an office remodeling project is a great way to create a purpose-built space to support your workflow.

In many businesses, stress is a significant concern. Healthy-office strategies can keep your employees feeling — and performing — their best. Do you work with animal lovers? A “bring your dog to work” policy is a fun way to ease the pressure.

Big-Picture Methods for Increasing Company-wide Productivity

As you’re growing a business, it can be helpful to choose a specific philosophy or method for increasing company-wide productivity. That way, you have a framework to guide your strategic decisions — and more importantly, you always have a reference point to return to when things feel overwhelming.

If your company is a complicated, interconnected system, the McKinsey 7-S framework or Parkinson’s Law can help you understand and align the moving parts. Are you faced with an overwhelming issue?

Affinity diagrams make it easier to think through the problem, analyze the information, and create solutions.

Once a project is underway, a great project management strategy can help you stay on top of each milestone and prevent feature creep.

Do you make a physical product? Building a more efficient business helps you reduce waste and produce more in less time — which means more significant profits. You might use the 80/20 rule to find and eliminate items that aren’t worth your time and effort.

Then, you can build an agile manufacturing line that responds quickly to changing customer needs. In the long term, strategies like Six Sigma and continuous improvement plans can help you refine your system until it’s working like a well-oiled machine.

By finding ways to increase efficiency and improve time management at all levels of your business, you can create an extraordinary boost in productivity. With features like time-tracking, payroll, and expense tracking, QuickBooks Time can help — start your free 30-day trial today.

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