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10 Productivity Life-Savers for Small Business

Running a small business can be tough, since it demands a seemingly endless amount of time and attention. Even minor tasks like reading and responding to emails, managing employees or reviewing paperwork can eat away at your productivity. The time required for those tasks doesn’t even include what it takes to do some of the bigger stuff like growing your business or exploring opportunities to boost ROI.

Problems really start to compound when you find yourself in a mood to procrastinate, and let’s be honest — that happens to everyone from time to time. Long story short, it’s difficult to stay productive, especially when you are your own boss.

While we can’t really help you with the procrastination problems – you’ll have to figure out a solution for those on your own – we can offer some useful tips to boost your productivity. Keep in mind, you don’t have to do all of these things at once, but it certainly helps if you combine one or two throughout your day.

Some of these productivity hacks may seem a little silly at first, but we’ve got the stats to back them up. By enacting any number of them you should see your daily grind becoming more and more efficient.

1. Get Another Display

If you spend part of your day working on a computer, then pick up a second monitor or display. Believe it or not, studies have shown that productivity greatly improves when another screen is around, improving it about 9 – 50 % more. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it, seeing as you can have multiple apps or windows open at once and transfer information or perform actions much faster this way. At the least, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.

2. Get More Sleep

Fifty to 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders, and as a result it’s ruining their productivity. A recent Harvard study found sleep deprivation costs a variety of American companies an estimated total of $63.2 billion a year. That’s a lot of money going down the drain because some folks have trouble sleeping. Unfortunately, it’s a fact; even just losing 1.5 hours of sleep for a single night can decrease alertness, and in turn productivity, by as much as 32%.

Naturally, be sure to rest up every night and try to cut down on all those times you spend burning the midnight oil — it’s not good for your body, or your productivity.

3. Take a Nap

Who knew that sleep has such a huge influence on productivity? Piggybacking off the stats listed above about sleeping, studies have shown that just a 20-30 minute nap can improve performance by 34% and mental alertness by 100%.

Mid-day naps are best, offering a complete refresher for those long days at work. Keep in mind, you’ll also want to take care not to sleep too long or it may have the opposite effect on your body. Keep your naps short, and don’t pepper too many into your day.

4. Get In and Out of Your E-mail

The research is there to back it up, but you don’t really need it — we all know that e-mail is one of the most time consuming tasks. The McKinsey Global Institute has found that knowledge and interaction workers spend 28% of their week reading and responding to e-mails. Admittedly, it can be difficult cutting back on e-mail tasks because it also happens to be one of the most important ones. Here are some helpful tips to help you remain productive during your e-mail ventures:

  • When it comes to your work e-mail, remove any and all distractions: unsubscribe from newsletters, mailing lists and content curators that are not work related or essential
  • Keep your work e-mail separate from your personal one, and do your best not to blend them; don’t waste time responding to personal e-mails while you’re at work
  • Use virtual assistant or automation tools, which will help you generate automatic replies to less-important e-mail contacts
  • Cut down on the number of times you check your e-mail and limit the time spent, i.e., check once when you first get to work for thirty minutes, then again before you leave for another thirty minutes
  • Keep e-mails as brief and to the point as possible
  • Try to clean out your inbox as much as possible throughout your day, so that the following day you’ll be starting from scratch – you don’t want e-mail work carrying over to another day
  • Prioritize your contacts and respond to your most important ones first; worry about everyone else after you’ve done the brunt of your work

5. Stay Away from Social Media

If you must be on social media for your work, then limit your time. Otherwise, stay far away from it. It’s best to hire a social media team or manager to focus on your brand’s social content, that way you can do what you do best.

According to, 57% of all work interruptions come from social tools and content such as e-mail, social networks, messaging, community forums and more. Muster up a bit more self control and stay away from social media, including social networks, while you’re at work.

6. Keep Your Documents and References Organized

You shouldn’t need scientific evidence to prove a chaotic and cluttered workspace hampers productivity. That problem transcends into the world of materials as well. If your documents or references are out of whack, working with them is going to eat away at your time. This can even relate to your digital documents, which may be spaced haphazardly all over your desktop, or spaced between a great deal of file locations. Simply put, if you have to go digging around to find something important to your work, then you’re not organized.

Take some time to organize your documents, digital and physical. There are many different options for PDF support programs too, which should help you organize your internal content better.

7. Get Some Gum and Chew It

Researchers from Cardiff University in Wales found that the act of chewing gum reduces occupational stress levels and makes people more productive. It naturally increases cortisol in the brain, boosting alertness while decreasing stress. You can’t really argue with science.

8. Stop Trying to Multi-Task

You’d think that the art of multi-tasking would increase productivity, because logically you’re cramming more work into a smaller period of time. It turns out, you may be doing more work but you’re losing a hell of a lot of time switching between those tasks. A 2001 study by Rubinstein found that people actually waste so much time switching between tasks it almost negates the point of doing more than one thing at a time. Worse yet, as those tasks became more complex, the time it took participants to switch between multiple duties increased. Participants experienced a net loss of about 40% productivity.

Long story short, focus on one task at a time and devote your full attention so you can complete it faster.

9. Sometimes a Little Noise is Okay

Too much noise can be a distraction, especially when you’re working on something that requires a close attention to detail. However, too little noise can also ruin productivity. That’s why it’s a good idea to add a little white noise to your environment. Researchers at Mehta discovered that a moderate level of ambient noise, about 70 decibels, will improve performance and efficiency. Since most of you are probably not familiar with noise levels like me, 70 decibels is the level you’d get from leaving a TV on in the living room or at a coffee shop with music playing in the background.

10. Check Your Temperature

During a study, Cornell found employees working in a room with temperatures below 68 degrees made more mistakes than those working in a room with a more reasonable 77 degrees. It has something to do with the fact that at extreme temperatures, people often find themselves uncomfortable. It’s not a stretch to believe that discomfort can ruin productivity, by as much as 5% if you want to get technical.

Now that you know these productivity helpers, hopefully you can take your small business’s productivity levels to the max.

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4 Responses to 10 Productivity Life-Savers for Small Business

  1. Nathan Ambrose October 14, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    Hi Kayla.

    Those were interesting tips. I’ve not heard the one about the other display before. But it sounds good and does help with multitasking – which maintain does work if done properly.

    I know from experience that he ambient temperature is also very important too.

    • Kayla Matthews November 3, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

      If you’re not used to using a second monitor it can be kind of tricky to get used to, but once you start using two of them you end up wondering how you ever got by with just one before. Thanks for reading, Nathan!

  2. Siobhan Cassidy October 15, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    Good article – I find staying away from social media the hardest!

    • Kayla Matthews November 3, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

      Haha, oh don’t we all, Siobhan! =) Thanks for reading.

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