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Beat the Clock: Productivity Tips from the Small Business Trenches

If you’re like most business owners, you’ve probably lost track of how many times you’ve uttered the phrase, “There’s just not enough time in the day.”

It’s only through experience that we develop our own unique methods for being more productive. Lisa Fahoury here, with some thoughts prompted by a recent time management workshop about the habits I’ve developed in search of those elusive extra hours to get more done.

Try these five communication-related productivity techniques and see if they might work for you as well:

Don’t use a headset at your desk simply out of habit

I love my headset — it frees up my hands to take notes during online meetings and calls. But when I keep it on out of habit all day, I find what should be brief calls lasting longer than average. Why? Because I’m comfortable and not juggling an annoying handset, I’m unaware of the amount of time I’m spending on non-essentials like personal calls.

Never go into a meeting without an agenda you’ve circulated in advance

Even a brief outline pays huge productivity dividends. It helps you to organize your thoughts, not catch meeting participants off guard, and avoid time-wasting miscommunications like, “Oh, I didn’t realize we needed to make a decision on X today.” When everyone — clients and staff alike — knows exactly what’s on the agenda in advance, it’s a lot tougher to make excuses or to show up unprepared.

Use an “action items” list to keep the meeting momentum going

Whenever appropriate, I follow up on the majority of meetings with a quick email recap. It includes an outline of what was discussed, agreed-upon next steps, action items assigned to particular participants, and timeframe(s) for response. Clients appreciate your going the extra mile, and it’s an easy way to ensure that everyone’s on the same page moving forward.

Make sure you’re using your existing technology to full advantage

Despite being a writer for 30+ years, I’m still a pretty crappy typist. Whether I’m transcribing meeting notes or writing a blog post like this, I can talk much faster than type. So, I simply hit the Function key twice (on a Mac) and start talking or reading. It’s not 100% perfect, but it helps you capture your thoughts more quickly. Google “name of software”+ shortcuts — you’ll be amazed at the keyboard shortcuts and other built-in features at your fingertips.

Check your spam folder

This may seem counterintuitive, but it can be a true time and sanity saver. By scanning — and then emptying — your spam folder once or twice a day, you’ll catch the vital communications that got snagged in error. Imagine the value of reducing those frantic  “Didn’t you get my email?” client calls and maintaining control of your daily schedule, rather than having to put out yet another suddenly urgent fire.

We’re never guaranteed a smooth workday; inevitably the unexpected will rear its head. But by taking a proactive approach to identifying opportunities for more productive communication, one day you may find yourself looking at the clock and realizing that you’ve accomplished everything you’d hoped, with time to spare!

Fahoury InkBeat the Clock: Productivity Tips from the Small Business Trenches