Maybe you're in the startup phase, or you've scaled to a small- or medium-sized business. As the leader of your company, you're a "jack or jill of all trades" — the person wearing most or all of the hats. You've tried to get more done in less time by multitasking, but you're finding that some things aren't done as well as they could be.
That's because like 98% of your colleagues who can't effectively multitask, you may actually be reducing your productivity without even realizing it according to a study covered by Psychology Today. When we attempt to juggle two or more tasks at once, we do worse at both tasks. So how can you instantly improve your productivity?
Simple—focus. The concept is easy, but it takes a bit of active decision making and preparation to make it possible to stay focused on the current task. So, we've collected eight things you can start doing immediately to get more done in less time—without sacrificing the quality of your work.
1. Block time on your calendar for groups of tasks and treat them like client appointments (which you'd never miss). In our office we use Microsoft Planner, which is included in Office 365. Planner is great for entrepreneurs as well as teams. You can easily create new plans and organize tasks in buckets. You can also assign, share, and chat about what you're working on. There's no need to clutter up your calendar with individual tasks either. Just create an appointment for yourself on your calendar noting which bucket or group of tasks you plan to focus on for that block of time—we suggest blocks of 30-60 minutes. We also suggest leaving a small buffer around your blocks of time to respond to emails, text messages, and phone calls. Don't let these focus thieves steal your attention during your blocked time!
2. Automate as much as possible. One of the best productivity hacks is to automate as much as you can. Office 365 lets you connect your most important apps using Microsoft Flow and automate actions based on common scenarios. There's a built in template library with ready-to-go automation flows to help you find ways to eliminate repetitive work. Anything you are doing repetitively should be automated! For example, you can track social media posts about your customers and analyze positive and negative posts. You can even automate work flows like on-boarding new vendors, allowing them to submit form details, sign agreements, and receive automated replies along the way.
3. Schedule your most pressing projects during peak performance times. We all have internal clocks and function at our best at different times of the day. Schedule your day accordingly and be sure to put your most intensive tasks within the time you're the most high-functioning. There are a few ways to guard this premium time on your calendar, including billing a premium rate to clients whose work can only be accomplished during this time frame.
4. Create a workspace that elevates your work. When the clutter on the end of my desk began to topple, I bought a second desk to add more "work space". That work space quickly devolved into more clutter space. I had enough room for my keyboard and my mouse—as long as I didn't need the whole area of the mouse pad.
Visual clutter becomes mental clutter, so I decided to get rid of it all. By decluttering, reorganizing, and eliminating distractions, I was able to design a space that allows me to focus and be more productive. Just be sure to keep your area stocked with what you need to work, and spend a few minutes at the end of the day tidying up so you can start fresh in the morning.
5. Use a to-do list and prioritize it. We spoke already about Microsoft Planner and its benefits for entrepreneurs and teams alike. If that's not the right match for the way you work, consider using Microsoft Outlook's To-Do List pane. You can create multiple To-Do lists in Outlook similarly to the way buckets are used in Planner. Then schedule blocks of time for yourself on your calendar to handle items on a specific To-Do list. Outlook lets you set start and due dates, status, priority, and scheduled reminders.
To-Do lists in Outlook are synced with the Microsoft To-Do app as well, which has a sleek design and allows you to focus on what's most important each day by making suggestions from across your lists and recommending the important tasks for you each day.
6. Make your work day easier with the right technology. Office 365 contains the worldwide standard apps for businesses including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—and dozens more. Use common technology that your clients are most likely working with to avoid technology gaps and productivity hurdles. Whatever technology you employ should make your job easier, make communication more efficient, and protect you from wasting hours—if not days—searching for workarounds.
7. Institute a weekly no-meeting day. Microsoft and Atlassian each conducted separate studies and came to the same conclusion—more than 60% of those surveyed find meetings to be non-productive. Meetings might feel unavoidable—and maybe some are—but they don't have to take over your work week.
To keep meetings in check, choose one day a week to just say no to meetings (all meetings). By scheduling yourself a full day to focus on work, you can crank through large projects, tackle small tasks, stay on top of your to-do lists, or spend time finding ways to grow your business. While it may sound like a radical idea, you'll likely find that productivity, in terms of number of tasks completed and work accomplished, increases over other days of the week.
8. Foster relationships. Our final productivity hack might sound like the least productive way to use time in your work day, but building relationships with colleagues is important. By promoting meaningful friendships at work, you're creating a culture of human connection, accountability, and productivity, which can help your team stay on task and help you grow your business.
Encourage the use of team chat tools like Microsoft Teams, which supports a collaborative culture, widens the ideation pipeline, and helps your team accelerate time-to-market. And for more light-hearted conversation, Teams is packed with all the smilies, giphies, stickers and memes you could hope for. With Microsoft Teams, your employees can discuss everything from preparing the presentation for the CEO to meeting at the bowling alley on Friday night.
You don't need to make large, disruptive changes to get more from your day. Instead, most productivity hacks are about making small tweaks to your schedule or shifting your approach to organization at work. The tools we've highlighted are all included with an Office 365 subscription and most can be implemented with very little technical skill.
In some cases, you may find the need for more advanced customization and implementation of automated workflows, team site organization, or administration of your Office 365 configuration (email, governance, compliance, etc.). Protect your newly discovered productivity habits, and let our Office 365 experts manage your applications and configurations for you.
We are a trusted Microsoft Partner practice and manage Office 365 and Azure resources for clients ranging from small startups to large enterprises worldwide. We source, build, implement, and manage solutions that fit your operation like a finely tailored shirt. Whether you have an existing Office 365 subscription or still need to set up your company, you can easily get started with our Microsoft product experts by scheduling a free 30-minute online consultation.