We all know someone who seems like they have more hours in the day than everyone else. How do they make time for everything? How do they balance personal and professional development with, to put it simply, getting stuff done?
Well, we decided to ask. We reached out to leaders from five different companies to get their best business productivity secrets. We wanted to know: what’s your best advice when it comes to being efficient and effective?
Their answers did not disappoint. If you’re always looking for ways to increase productivity in your business, you’ll find gold in what these leaders shared. Even if you’re only somewhat interested in working more efficiently, you’ll take something valuable away from this post.
Business productivity into practice
However, this advice is easier said than done. Finding the time management method that works for you, and committing to it, is probably the hardest part.
So here comes the challenge: take a test run. After hearing from these pros, try out the productivity hacks that are most relevant to your work routine. See how it goes. Make sure to tag us or report back on your progress in the comments. At the very least, mention us in the acknowledgements when your book on productivity secrets for entrepreneurs comes out.
Without further ado, here are the keys to productivity for these five thriving businesses — as told by their leaders.
CloudTask focuses on people and places
As a managed workforce provider for B2B sales, sales chat and customer support solutions, CloudTask gains productivity by making their team and their workspaces the best they can be. Their mission is to find prospects, nurture leads and satisfy customers, which they do with a team of 80 people.
David Lemus, corporate trainer, and Tom Jenkins, sales and marketing alignment specialist, elaborate on what makes the CloudTask offices so special, and how that leads to a more productive, engaged team.
As Tom explains in the video, it starts with creating an environment where employees want to come to work every day. That includes the physical space, the social activities they encourage, and the processes they’ve put in place to promote growth.
The people part of the productivity equation means dedicating energy to hiring the best talent, and giving them the tools and training to succeed. It seems to be working, as the company’s retention rate is 50% higher than the industry.
Part of that retention is based on the office’s location. CloudTask’s head office is located in Miami, Florida, but the main hub is in Medellin, Colombia — named the most innovative city in the world in 2013. (Check out the tour of that office.) The company also has regional offices in the UK and the Philippines.
Tom explains, “When your central hub is located in the heart of innovation, in such a progressive city, there is always a large pool of talent to hire from. Even if people are not here, they are prepared to move to a city that has great business potential, and is known for the warmth of its people and climate.”
Acknowledging that flexibility also helps productivity, CloudTask offers remote work as an option. “We have a great model and good practices that bring us together in one seamless unit.”
Unlock productivity through better talent acquisition practices
If you want to improve your business’s growth by hiring top performers, take a page from CloudTask’s networking book.
“To help us attract the best talent, we are regular attendees at networking events, feature our open positions across social media and in prominent job groups, and use our internal network to promote opportunities and hire based on personal recommendations” Tom explains.
When you focus on creating a positive workspace, team members are happy to spread the word about CloudTask, as well.
Fora Financial’s VP of marketing makes time for the extraordinary
When you start your workday, do you first focus on today’s tasks or future-thinking? How much time, in general, do you set aside for planning vs. executing?
If you haven’t asked yourself this question before, Elissa Feldman, VP of Marketing at Fora Financial, recommends giving it a try. Her advice? Schedule brainstorm time.
Elissa explains, “Make a mental note of one impactful thing that you will accomplish that day. This could be coming up with a fresh idea to market to customers, an improvement to a current process, or a new way to analyze data and look at it from a different perspective.”
This can be the difference between keeping your head down so much that you miss an opportunity, and presenting a brand new solution to your company.
Think bigger than checklists
You might think that dedicating time to more strategic and creative endeavors is counterproductive, or takes time away from the urgent requests you get throughout the day. For Elissa, making time for this bigger thinking is crucial to a company’s success.
“Everyone is guilty of getting stuck doing their normal daily tasks. Instead, force yourself to devote time to the extraordinary things that will really change your role, your department, or your company.”
Through this process, you may discover that those urgent requests aren’t so urgent after all. Or maybe there’s a better, easier way to accomplish the same goals.
“Being productive isn’t always about checking things off your to-do list. Sometimes, it’s more important to focus on the things that never make their way onto a checklist!”
To try out this approach, follow the Act Learn Build Repeat model, which can help you take the right steps to plan and execute new ideas, without going too far down the path.
Testly.com’s founder thinks ahead to keep moving
You’ve likely heard the expression, “Good is the enemy of great.” Depending on how strong your perfectionist tendencies are, that sentence either speaks directly to your soul or sounds like nails on a chalkboard.
The good vs. great (also known as the done vs. perfect) debate is a tale as old as time. Is it better to do something, or to do something perfect?
Brad Callen, Testly.com CEO and Founder, explained that this is something entrepreneurs struggle with. Early on, business owners are working in overdrive to deliver a high-quality product while still meeting deadlines.
That push and pull of productive entrepreneurship (get it done or make sure it’s 100% flawless?) led Brad to come up with a simple mental exercise. In order to get past a roadblock, Brad goes through this process, which works for his analytical and numbers-driven personality:
“I imagine a fictitious person. Let’s call him John. I imagine myself looking at a spreadsheet that lists John’s name along with a series of tasks or things that he’s done over the course of one week, one month, six months, and a year.
This spreadsheet also contains a bunch of other fictitious people’s names. The other people have a much smaller list of tasks or things they’ve performed in those timeframes.
Then, I try to imagine what type of person John is. How talented is he in certain areas of his life and in his business? I do the same for the other people, who have fewer tasks on their lists than John.
Using my analytical thinking, and looking only at the number of tasks accomplished, I can reasonably assume that John is in a better place and is more skilled than the others in the list.
This is where my process helps me accomplish things in my own life. I imagine myself as John. And that if I did X, Y, and Z over the course of one week, one month, six months, and a year, logic tells me I’ll be positioned better in life than someone who didn’t.
And that’s my starting point for, not only setting my goals, but following through and achieving them.”
Doing more leads to doing better
For Brad, imagining a completed list of tasks in the future, and how accomplishing those tasks will make him better off personally and professionally, is what empowers him to start working now. Improvement, for Brad, happens by accomplishing the things you set out to do. Makes sense to us.
“In order to get me over that hurdle and actually be productive and do something that will benefit myself and others, I go through that simple process.”
Hubstaff laser focuses on what matters
We’d be lying if we said we don’t spend a ton of time here at Hubstaff talking about how to get things done in the best, most efficient way possible. As a productivity platform that helps growing businesses track time, teams and projects, we’re always on the lookout for techniques, processes and tools that make business owners’ lives easier.
So when we decided to explore this topic, we had to ask our co-founder Dave Nevogt for his key to increasing business productivity. Over the years, Dave has written extensively on the topic of growth and team management, so we knew we’d get a great answer.
Here’s his best kept productivity secret: the Theory of Constraints.
“My key is to focus on what matters and let the rest fall behind. At Hubstaff, we deliver on this approach by following the Theory of Constraints, which is a management process that aligns all tasks towards goals, eventually compounding to successfully achieve a major goal.
To get started, you have to set the right priorities. Establish your biggest goals, then the tasks needed to accomplish those goals.
If you get this right, then you’ll quickly realize which tasks don’t matter. You end up being a lot more efficient with your time, and your team stays on the same page. That also leads to more efficiency.”
Get your goals on paper, then get after them
Dave has written about the Theory of Constraints in the past, so you can try out this practice for your own business by following these clear steps. By following this management process, your team will have a direct path toward success, and you can tailor your schedule around the tasks that help you reach those goals.
It’s easier to say no to certain tasks or projects when you have a clear vision for what you want your business to become.
Exposure Ninja measures for best success
Sometimes, you make adjustments to your schedule, your workflow and your approach, without seeing an improvement on output. Or, maybe you don’t know if it’s working at all?
The answer to both situations? Measurement. That’s the approach Tim Cameron-Kitchen, founder of Exposure Ninja, takes when it comes to staying focused and driven. Measure, review, improve.
Exposure Ninja is a digital marketing agency that helps businesses generate more revenue from websites, SEO, PPC, content marketing and social. Like Hubstaff, Exposure Ninja loves a good time management discussion, and has written extensively on the topic.
Tim has three pieces of advice on how he stays focused and driven:
- Check emails once per day. It’s not possible for every job role, but if you can avoid checking, it allows you to get a lot done without constant notification fatigue.
- Plan each day at the weekend, with your goals/KPIs in front of you. That way, you block out time for important stuff and won’t get derailed by “busy” tasks. Things will inevitably crop up, so build in fire gaps and be realistic about how much time is needed for general day-to-day catch ups.
- Analyse your days/weeks/quarter after the fact, and stack up actions against your goals. What were your biggest frustrations? These are usually things that you failed on because you didn’t assign proper priority/time.
Following Tim’s business productivity tips, you can start by setting up rules for yourself to limit interruptions and time wasters, and then check in with how you’re doing along the way.
The key to productive meetings
When we first spoke to Exposure Ninja, they mentioned that productivity is a company-wide focus, and that other leaders in their organization offer different approaches. Of course, we had to find out more. So here’s some bonus advice about meetings from Charlie Marchant, Exposure Ninja COO and General Manager:
“Set meeting agendas and end goals ahead of time. Always follow a structure of set questions to keep the meeting on track. Have a meeting chair who will move the meeting onto the next point if there’s too much talking in circles and not enough action coming from the discussion.”
Do you demand a meeting agenda at your organization? Do you clearly assign a meeting chair for every discussion? If not, now’s the time to start. In one episode of the Beyond the To Do List podcast that we reviewed for the Best Business Podcasts for Entrepreneurs, Mamie Kanfer Stewart, founder of Meeteor, said she wouldn’t have a meeting without an agenda or goal. In fact, the act of preparing an agenda might make you realize you don’t need that meeting after all.
Check out Meeteor’s meeting agenda template below to outline your own meeting goals.
Involving your team in the process
No matter which productivity tips you decide to try out in your company, be ready to get your team on board. When introducing new practices aimed at upping efficiency, you might see some resistance at first. Change, in general, can illicit some feedback.
To help balance out the additional work of trying a new idea, make sure to look at how you inspire and motivate your team before, during and after.
As we all know, keeping employees happy and engaged during periods of change can lead to better retention. And when employees stick around longer, there’s less onboarding and hiring overall — which is great news for productive types.
Stacey Overton, Content Marketing Ninja, shared a few examples of initiatives that Exposure Ninja takes on to boost employee morale, and thus, productivity:
- Ninja of the Month, Ninja of the Quarter and Ninja of the Year awards, where team members get a voucher for a training or book/ebook.
- Virtual employee engagement activities such as:
- A pumpkin-carving competition where everyone carved at home and then uploaded the snaps in a Slack channel.
- An online egg hunt that Stacey described as, “A feat to behold!”
- Slack quizzes where the first person to respond correctly gets merch or a voucher, which is a nice bonus incentive to pay attention and stay active. Stacey added, “Not to brag but I won the Christmas competition last year and got an awesome branded mouse mat that I now use everyday.”
- Annual summer party in two locations: one for the UK/Europe-based ninjas and one for ninjas based in the Philippines.
Here’s one simple but powerful idea to try out. At Hubstaff, we have a Slack channel dedicated to recognizing team members who are doing great things. That could mean building a new feature, keeping projects moving forward or finishing an Olympic triathlon.
Spill your best productivity hacks
It’s your turn to share. What’s your company’s best kept productivity secret? And if you’ve implemented newer, more efficient processes in your organization, how do you get team members involved and excited?
Let us know so we can try them out, too.