Boost Productivity by Optimizing Your Work Environment
For many entrepreneurs, profitability is directly correlated with their productivity. Yet from time to time, even the most disciplined entrepreneur might not be able to focus on work.
Even though you're constantly busy, you might feel like you can't accomplish anything.
The solution is to make better use of your time and become more efficient. Here are four questions to ask yourself so you can determine how to boost your productivity and optimize your work environment.
1. Where do you work best?
Regardless of whether you like it, your environment may affect your ability to be productive.
Some entrepreneurs work better in isolation with less noise and fewer distractions. These individuals should avoid busy settings like coffee shops.
If you work in a co-working space, opt for an enclosed office rather than an open desk.
Other business owners thrive in the hustle and bustle of busy atmospheres. They might even watch TV or listen to music while they work.
If this sounds familiar, perhaps commotion doesn't distract you but energizes you. Be sure to work in a space with some background noise. Even if you prefer a workplace that's somewhat in between those two extremes, seek an environment that suits your style.
2. When do you get your best work done?
Every person has a unique daily rhythm. One entrepreneur might have more energy in the morning and accomplish a lot of work before noon. Productivity may begin to wane in the early afternoon, though.
If you're unsure about the times you work most efficiently, track your schedule for a few days. Recognize the natural fluctuations in your energy level and cognitive ability. Then plan your workdays to maximize your body’s rhythms.
3. How do you prioritize tasks?
Evaluate how you manage your workload. Many entrepreneurs have multiple projects in the works at once. Employees, clients, tasks, emails and meetings demand attention all day, each day.
When every to-do item on your list seems equally urgent and important, how do you decide what to tackle first? If you don’t already have a system in place, create a strategy to prioritize and manage your workload.
Designate blocks of time on your calendar for large, time-consuming tasks. Accomplish the largest tasks first thing in the morning. Leave smaller to-do items for the afternoon.
As your day goes on, you might experience interruptions or delays. It's easy to send emails between meetings but difficult to find a few quiet hours for in-depth brainstorming.
So set deadlines. For larger projects, set a soft deadline of one to two weeks before the deliverable is due to the client or stakeholder. This will keep you on schedule and allow for unexpected situations. On your daily agenda, schedule time for small tasks like email and client phone calls to keep your day on track.
4. Does technology focus or distract you?
Businesses are heavily dependent on technology. It’s almost impossible to completely unplug for electronic devices but you can be more selective about what you give attention to and the amount of time spent. Some tools can help you keep focused while others might become a distraction. Use software that includes calendars, task managers and client-relationship tools every day to grow your business.
If you wish to limit your use of email, social media and other online pastimes, try Freedom, a useful app that locks a person away from the Internet for as much as eight hours at a time. At the end of the offline session, Freedom lets the user go back online.
The Internet is full of useful information, if tapped wisely. Take advantage of quick searches and news articles to stay informed and knowledgeable. But unless it’s directly related to work, limit the time you spend on sites like YouTube. Other sites including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn can loom large in your content-marketing strategy, but be sure you use these platforms for business. Don’t let social media hamper your work productivity.
In addition to optimizing your work environment, refine your schedule and time management skills. Keep track of your productivity so you can accomplish as much as possible throughout the day.
Related: Make Your Waking Hours Work for You
Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Fla. She is the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press, 2005).