How working smarter and avoiding multitasking can boost your productivity

woman working on laptop

Written by Phillippa Hurrell, professional performance coach

As a small business owner, you’ll always have far more to do than time to do it. The answer to building a successful business and a balanced life does not sit in wishing for more hours of the day, working harder, losing sleep or not looking after yourself to try and get more done.

Suffering from busyness, and it is something to suffer from, will reduce your impact. The key to working smarter and feeling better is understanding what’s driving this busyness and identifying the simple steps and changes that could allow you time to focus on what really matters for you and your business. 

In fact, research from The UK Domain* found that 71% of small business owners experienced stress in the last year and that for 26% of respondents, juggling business and personal commitments was a major cause of stress.

I’ve been working with the UK Domain on a series of resources to help small business owners build their resilience and maximise their success during these times. Recently, we’ve published an online guide to boosting productivity and it’s one of the stages included that I’d like to share with you today to help you focus on achieving the tasks that will have the most impact on your business.

With so much going on around us, from breaking news reports to changes in legislation and looking after employees to managing everyday activities from social media to the books, all small business owners are living in a world of distraction. But every time you get distracted and interrupted, your brain has to change focus. It’s these repeated changes that exhaust your brain and cause you to finish the day without finishing that task that you really needed to get done.

Not only this, but quickly switching from a document to answering an email increases error rates, slows you down and makes you feel unproductive and unmotivated. Taking back control of your day and allowing yourself the time to focus on one job from start to finish will see you able to complete tasks, be more productive and often make big steps towards something that will have the biggest impact on your business.

It’s much easier said than done though isn’t it? We are all guilty of getting distracted by our social media profiles or the ping of an email. So how can you actually stay focused?

Well, although you may feel like you’re getting lots done or you’re working really hard when you don’t leave your laptop’s side for five hours straight, this isn’t the best way to be productive. Like our sleep cycles, we can only sustain concentration in 90-minute bursts.

Try blocking off and using your most proactive energy (when you’re most productive during the day, for most of us this is the morning) to cut off distractions and focus on the most important task for that day.

It’s also important to give yourself a break between these 90-minute bursts. Not only does this allow you to move information from short to long term memory, but it’ll give you a chance to reset and refocus on the next task.

Another one of the best things you can do for your productivity is taking back control of emails. By resisting the urge to check every ping of your inbox in those 90 minutes, you’ll be able to give your full attention to the task at hand.

Why not try turning off your emails and batch processing them twice a day? You can make sure that people know how to get hold of you in an emergency, so you don’t have to worry about missing anything vitally important.

Now it’s time to put this all into practice. Think about how you can plan your day so that you can have at least one focused 90-minute chunk of uninterrupted time. What are the small changes you can start to make today to help reduce the amount you multitask? What one small difference could you make to your day that will have the biggest impact on your business?

If you’d like to learn more about these steps and another six ways you can boost your productivity, why not download the interactive guide?

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