3 Ways to Improve Efficiency in Business
One of the most enjoyable parts of my working day is when I get through my entire task list AND keep up to date with my emails (I know right!)
Though, this doesn’t always happen.
Some days I feel like my task list has a mind of its own — creating a never-ending list of to-do tortures, or a curve ball that throws out my entire day. However on the days where it does happen, I get a deep sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and want to fist bump the next person I see (depending on how much coffee I’ve had).
This is because I feel like my day (and business) is efficient, productive and flowing.
What makes a business efficient?
Over the years I’ve read articles on productivity, business efficiency and time management. While there’s a lot of information out there, what’s useful to us can vary from one business to the next. An efficient business is one that is flowing, productive and has the right programs, systems and processes in place.
I’ve discovered that each business I’ve worked with uses a different approach to maintain productivity and efficiency. This is due to a number of factors; from the type of work that needs to be done, how much time is needed, to the number of employees in the company. While there are a number of ways to improve efficiency in business, here are three key points that are similar across the board:
1 – Manage Your Meetings
When I worked as a P.A. and had to take down the meeting minutes, I’d notice a few things; there was always someone who loved to chat, someone who was informal about meetings, and someone who liked to add in unnecessary detail. Add these people together and our meetings would go well over the allocated time. This was because there was no one in charge to ensure the meeting ran on time and on topic.
To ensure your meetings run efficiently, effectively and on time:
- Create a written agenda.
- Make sure there is someone to take down notes/meeting minutes, or even record the meeting for later dictation.
- Once you’ve decided how you would like the meeting to run, select who’ll be the timer to ensure that everyone stays on task and on time.
- Decide on the time each person will talk for. Do they have 5 minutes to talk about the topic being discussed, or only 2 minutes?
Determine whether sitting or standing is preferred when someone speaks (weird I know; however, a well-run meeting keeps task on where everyone is standing at all times).
2 – Minimise Interruptions
There are two types of focus; shallow focus, where you’re easily interrupted and can take longer than normal to complete a task, and deep focus (known as deep work) which enables you to fit in a days’ worth of work in one 2-4 hour sitting. Deep focus is intensive focus that keeps you concentrating — normally on one task and can end up wiping you out once finished. On most days we are in shallow focus due to continuous interruptions. This over time can become detrimental to our work.
A great way to manage interruptions is to block time out in your diary. Estimate how much time you’ll need to complete a task and schedule it in. The best way would be to mix it up — to do a block of work and then have a short break (make sure you step away from the computer).
My blocks are generally 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes where I move away from my laptop. This is called the Pomodoro Technique, and I really like it. However, as I work on my own, I don’t have the same types of interruptions that an office environment has, so sometimes I can get away with working longer than the 25 minutes, however if I do this, I have a longer than 5 minute break.
In an office environment, you can use this same principle and just extend the time out to allow for short interruptions. When people come over to you, mention that you’re currently unavailable and will be over in (how ever long you have left).
I read a story once where a man put a stop sign on his desk. Whenever this sign was up, his teammates knew he was deep into his work and knew not to interrupt. Pretty clever!
3 – Determine if the software the business is using is the right one.
One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my working career is using programs that don’t suit what the company needs. So much time is wasted trying to make a program that doesn’t work, work. It reminds me of the definition of insanity; trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results each time. Sometimes it wastes more time and resources than simply changing the program. Or in some cases, a program will be created with the best of intentions, except the business will forget a couple of key points.
- First, the needs of staff using the program hadn’t been considered.
- Second, new and old programs were not run side by side for a trial period to see if the new one was actually better than the current one.
- And third, there was no manual or workflow created to show how to use any programs.
To alleviate this, here are a few questions to ask yourself whether the program you’re using is the right one for your business:
- How much information is needed to generate reports for the company?
- Do you dread opening the program up yourself?
- Do you hear staff getting frustrated because it’s not working?
- Are you/or others spending too much time trying to get the program to work?
The wrong program can cause bottlenecks and hinder company productivity. Always listen out for feedback, and remember if you’re frustrated with the process, guaranteed your staff will to be too.
When it comes to improving efficiency in business, these are a few things that can help you run your business more effectively. Remember to manage your meetings well, minimise interruptions and make sure the programs you’re using are intuitive and easy to use, and you’ll be on your way to creating a free-flowing, efficient and productive business in no time.
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About the author
Hello, I’m Rebecca and I’m a Business Systems and Process Consultant. Over the past 15 years I’ve worked in various roles, as well as ran a very successful VA business. It was during these roles where I learnt how to take a hands-on approach in business systemisation. Now, I’m leveraging this experience to help business owners develop robust systems and processes for better clarity, productivity and overall business performance.
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