There are numerous tips and books on how to be highly productive. Many company executives and leaders all have their “own personal tips”. Furthermore, owners of small- to medium-sized businesses also have their “tips” to share from juggling many roles as Owner / CEO, Managers of Marketing, Human Resources , Business Development manager, IT tech, sometimes Book-keeper and many others.
The question is whether they are being effective in their bid to be highly productive. This article looks at key characteristics and habits of highly productive leaders and business owners.
Characteristics of Highly Productive Professionals
There are two characteristics that set highly productive professionals apart
- Have a burning desire to succeed – They are not quitters
- Are constantly in a state of self-awareness and willing to effect necessary change – They have a high sense of self-awareness and are willing to seek for solutions to make necessary improvements
How to Be Highly Productive? Necessary Habits
These habits are absolute must haves. If you do not have them, the good news is that they can be developed!
Organized and Good Planners
They have systems and processes in place to find what they need when they need it. They are not constantly looking for documents or spare parts! There are industry specific mobile apps that can help with organization and planning. For a business consultant, there are apps that help track billable hours on the go. There are also apps which help with field workers and scheduling / job dispatching to avoid overbooking or showing up late for an appointment.
Other popular productivity apps for small business owners include note-taking apps such as Evernote
Good Self-Improvement Reading Habits
Highly productive professionals are familiar with, and apply the concepts of the Eisenhower Matrix, and Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix from his widely acclaimed book – “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”
All daily activities can be broken down into four quadrants (buckets), by importance and urgency.
Highly productive managers have learned to effectively divide their time between urgent and important tasks such as deadline-driven projects and responding to crises, and non-urgent but important tasks that pay off in the long run like relationship-building, personal development, and taking care of their health.
They eliminate or avoid time spent on “busy work” or low-value tasks like surfing the web aimlessly.
Prioritize, Delegate or Outsource Tasks
Productive professionals have learned not only to prioritize, but to delegate and outsource tasks so they focus their time and attention on the things in their area of expertise that will move the business forward and develop their subordinates.
That means they know how to say no, set and maintain boundaries, and delegate tasks that someone else can do.
Maximize their Time by not Multitasking
Not only do highly productive professionals prioritize and focus their time, but they also do not engage in multitasking which is known to decrease productivity by up to 40%
A switch cost is a loss of accuracy or speed that comes when you shift between tasks. Though some of the costs of multitasking are subtle, they are by no means trivial. Too much multitasking can interfere with both working memory and long-term memory (Stanford University Wu Tsai Neurosciences 2021)
Avoid Distractions and Procrastination
Apps, email, and other technology can be distractions rather than productivity tools if you are not careful. Productive professionals know that sometimes they need to totally focus on the task at hand.
Hillary Rettig, productivity coach and author of The Seven Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism and Writer’s Block states that productive people do not waste time trying to build their willpower. Rather, they identify and remove barriers to their productivity. Two simple and effective tips to do this are:
- Disconnect your computer from the Internet while you work or,
- Turn off alerts and the ringer on your phone.
Done is always better than perfect! Keep in mind that tasks have a way of filling up whatever amount of time you have allocated for them. A habit of always trying to get work done to “perfect” frequently results in perfect being elusive.
Invest in the right tools
Productive people who want to be organized invest in the right resources and tools to move their businesses forward. For example, if you still rely on paper forms to handle things like invoicing, purchase orders, and employee scheduling, you can save time and money by transitioning to mobile forms and a secure cloud-based storage system.
Some owners believe that it is a prudent business decision to delay purchasing industry specific apps, better technology, creating or improving a website, or other items or services until they are more buoyant, but this approach could be detrimental to the business. Lack of these tools could be the very reason why productivity is lo w and the business is struggling.
Improve systems and processes
Productive managers actively seek to improve and optimize management systems and processes in which they work. They have a habit of frequently evaluating processes to ensure that tasks are streamlined so they are not spending time on unnecessary tasks. With technology, it is now possible to automate various time-consuming daily tasks such as bill payments, collecting payments from customers, sorting and responding to email, posting social media updates, etc. to free up time to focus on urgent work.
Conclusion – How to Be Highly Productive
Many professionals speculate on different ways on how to be more highly productive. Developing 8 key habits outlined in this article will move you in that direction
Stanford News (2020) Stanford researchers link poor memory to attention lapses and media multitasking. https://news.stanford.edu/2020/10/28/poor-memory-tied-attention-lapses-media-multitasking/
Stanford University Wu Tsai Neurosciences (2021) Why multitasking does more harm than good https://neuroscience.stanford.edu/news/why-multitasking-does-more-harm-good