For most small business owners, the days should be longer. Since this is an impossible ask, most have just given in to the idea that productivity is the best solution to getting it all done. In fact, a recent Salesforce study concluded that 52% of small businesses will increase their budgets so that they spend more on productivity apps in the next two years.
But what about those problems that apps don’t solve? The truth remains that some of us are our own worst enemy. Business owners can be undoing their stride without even knowing it! To better help you identify the ways you could be improving, here is a list of some of the most common productivity faux pas entrepreneurs fall victim.
1. You Spend Too Much Time Learning, Not Doing
With hundreds of books published each year by thought leaders, business gurus, and productivity pros, it can be tempting to spend a good chunk of your already-tight day consuming their ideas for how you can squeeze more out of your precious minutes. You really don’t have much to spare, however, so set some goals and commit to reading just those books best geared to your concerns. Better yet? Grab the audiobook version and get your learning in while at the gym. That’s productivity in action.
2. You Try to Multitask
We’ve already shared why this popular practice can backfire. No one expects you to chew your food and not check your emails, but beyond the basic tasks we all juggle daily, it’s wise to focus on just one thing at a time. In addition to completing your work more quickly when you’re focused, the quality of your output will increase. The best way to reach peak productivity is to avoid making mistakes in the first place, and that’s why multitasking should be benched from your efficiency game. If you can, try to delegate tasks that take your focus away from the big picture.
3. You’re Not Setting Benchmarks
What does it even mean to be productive? If you’re not sure, there’s a problem. Your job likely has some static goals that you should be meeting regularly. If not, it’s time to create some. One of the best ways to bring your productivity A-game is to know which records to beat. Just having some attainable goals is enough for most people to push a little harder and get a whole lot more done.
4. You’re Looking in the Wrong Lane
What’s Bill or Bobby doing? Does it even matter? When you get wrapped up in the affairs of our competition, it can be dangerous to your cause. It can be challenging to ignore the victories of those you consider rivals, but unless there’s a valuable lesson to be learned, you’re spending energy in the wrong place. Remember, jealousy is a time suck that never pays you back; focus instead on your team members and what they need to get the job done. They’ll appreciate the extra attention.
5. You Obsess About It
As your business grows, it’s essential to become more efficient. No one can argue that doing things better and faster can help the bottom line. But if that’s your number one thought when you wake up each morning, something is seriously wrong. Take some time to reprioritize your focus. We’re guessing you didn’t get into business to only “be the best.” In fact, most entrepreneurs have a vision of helping the world; get back to basics, and you’ll naturally just be better for it.
6. You’re Neglectful
It’s true that most business can be done by just “showing up,” but to be truly productive, you’ll have to do better. Most of the leaders in getting things done start with a regimen of taking care of their bodies and mental health. They know that running on fumes is bad for business and can only get them so far. If you’re frustrated with how challenging even the simple tasks have become, look at how you’re treating your own body. There’s likely room for improvement in health, diet, and sleep; taking care of issues now will pay off big time down the road.
7. You Work When You Don’t Have To
The best business leaders have evident boundaries between their personal and professional lives. Danish workers, who average a 37-hour-workweek, are famous for their emphasis on putting work in its place. As a result, they have a happier outlook and have been shown to be 12% more productive than those overwhelmed by heavy working conditions. While we in the States expect to work more, it’s a reputation that may not have much benefit. Don’t skip taking a vacation, and consider if your “arrive early, stay late” expectations are getting you ahead. They may be part of a cultural phenomenon that’s seen it’s best days.
Given what we know about modern business owners, there’s no chance the word “productive” will ever fall away from our conversations and articles. But there’s a false security in thinking we always have to be running at peak. There are more important things than being efficient, after all, and most entrepreneurs had bigger goals in mind when they opened shop for the first time. Sometimes, just stepping back and remembering why you started it at all is enough to put a little pep in your step and give you a natural boost in productivity.
In other words, enjoying what you do will create the formula for success. The rest is just noise and distractions. Do good business. Keep your customers happy. Treat your workers well. These classic tenants of a winning company culture will have a far more significant effect on your productivity than any app ever created.
This article was originally written on February 9, 2018 and updated on February 1, 2021.