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8 Business Practices That Increase Productivity

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Productivity is on the decline in America: The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that during the fourth quarter of 2014, nonfarm business output increased by 3.2 percent, and hours worked increased by 5.1 percent; but productivity itself decreased by 1.8 percent. This is a disturbing trend for any business to deal with, for both salaried workers and entrepreneurs.

Related: 10 Tips for Staying Focused From 10 Very Busy Young Entrepreneurs

Accordingly, businesses need to look for tools to help their workers become more productive. This is especially important for new startups, where the margin for error is less than generous. Some suggested tools to try:

1. Focus on creating value at work.

Identify one habit, one action that you do daily that is detracting from your productivity, then remove it. Once you do that, you'll be headed in the right direction. Even better, replace that habit with something that has value. Humor is one such idea: Studies show that humor can actually increase workplace productivity.

2. Beware the afternoon doldrums.

Do this while avoiding chugging so-called energy drinks, which are mostly sugar and caffeine. Try an alternative energy booster, like green tea.

3. Say "no" to distractions.

Mobile apps offer a tempting opportunity to tune out of your mundane work tasks and tune into an exciting game of killing zombies, or an attempt to balance your checking account. Promise yourself a reward of 30 minutes of zombie killing after work, if you get a certain project completed -- and save your online banking duties until you can sit down to a nice meal, or you're headed home.

Related: 21 Apps to Boost Productivity, Accountability and Success

4. Live a healthy life.

Small business operators pull long hours. They snack when they should eat a good meal, and they miss an inordinate amount of sleep. A finance director we know says, "I help bad credit customers attain car loans for more than 14 hours every day, sometimes with little more than a snack to keep me energized." The result? Success, sometimes -- but also poor health.

Productivity is all about working steadily at a goal, not about burning out, with a visit to the hospital thrown in. Break your goals into small, bite-sized chunks of work that can be done in less than an hour. And take mini-breaks in between, doing healthy things like deep breathing or snacking on celery and radishes.

5. Start your day the night before.

Lay out your work clothes, plug in the coffee maker and check tomorrow's weather and traffic forecasts. Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol after 6 pm. Go to bed early. Sound like you're in training for something? You are in training, for the sport of productivity. You can break training for the weekends and holidays.

As for those longer sleep times, they are what made Benjamin Franklin so productive during his long life: "Early to bed and early to rise." The early morning hours are the least distracted hours in the day. Set your alarm for just 30 minutes earlier to test out the results for yourself.

6. Cap your business meetings at just 15 minutes.

Seem impossible? Try it and see. Or hold all your meetings standing up -- that might have the same result!

7. Don't be so reactive.

Time management is crucial to the success of every startup. Every email does not have to be answered right away; every person who stops by your desk does not need to be allowed to eat up a half hour with idle chit-chat; every voicemail does not need an immediate response. Focus on priorities instead of reacting to every immediate stimulus.

8. Don't forget your employees.

As an entrepreneur, you should know that your employees will never be happy or very productive if they worry excessively about tying productivity directly to compensation. The gap will continue to widen. Work with them to create ways to make their work a source of pride and pleasure. Awards and bonuses are nice, but it's even better to take a personal interest in all your employees, from janitor to VP. When they know you care about them as people, their productivity will increase.

Enhancing team productivity is often at the top of the to-do lists of many managers, owners and entrepreneurs. And it should be. Where you can go wrong is putting the pressure on the teams themselves to "work harder" in order to boost efficiency and productivity. Instead, use these 10 tips to increase team satisfaction, reduce turnover and streamline business processes without burning everyone out.

Related: 10 Habits You Should Ditch Now to Bring Productivity to an All-Time High

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