The web is full of small business productivity tips. From suggestions on how to best work from home to the right tools to maximize your effectiveness and efficiency, there are articles galore. (In fact, you'll find more than a few here on the Kashoo blog.) But here's the rub: all the productivity tips in the world are just words without discipline. So the real question is how do you create and maintain discipline as it relates to business productivity?
Discipline is a Frame of Mind
Say you run your business from your home. Virtually everyone you share this with will gasp, "How do you not get distracted?!?!" The answer, of course, is discipline. The discipline to keep "office hours." The discipline to physically stay in the work environment you've created, be it an actual office or a garage or a kitchen table. The discipline to develop a routine. Are we saying you create a Spartan existence that offers no flexibility. Certainly not. (Flexibility is an important asset and benefit when it comes to entrepreneurship.)
We just mentioned this idea of routine. This can be exemplified at a tactical level by assigning various business tasks to specific times in your week. For example, you could dedicate Monday morning to reviewing activity in your accounting app, creating invoices, analyzing cash flow, managing expenses and reviewing useful reports like the P&L and your balance sheet. Similarly, you could spend Friday afternoon scheduling and automating (where possible) the coming week's marketing activities. You could also dedicate Wednesday morning to business development and research. The point is, developing a routine creates discipline. Of course you could argue that developing a routine requires discipline, which brings us to our next point...
If you maintain discipline in your personal life, you'll be more inclined to see it in your work life. It's going to sound silly, but if you do things like keep a clean organized home, never let your car's fuel gauge drop below 1/4, regularly review your personal finances and pay bills on time and simply do things that need to be done as they need to be done, those behaviors will show in your work life.
Identify and Eliminate Hurdles
If you think about it, all the promoting pressures in the world can still come up short when it comes to driving behavior. Taking it upon yourself to objectively identify and eliminate hurdles (or impeding pressures) can ultimately make it easier for you to stay discipline when it comes to your work. We'll explain this in an accounting example (shocking, right?). Say you have a recurring expense; a monthly internet bill. Recording this expense on a monthly basis is, in itself, an inhibiting pressure. So rather than always playing "catch-up" with this expense, you can automate it with Kashoo's repeating transactions feature. By doing this, you will have removed the preventative hurdle of having to record the same transaction every month. The result is the disciplined payment and recording of that monthly expense. (Note: since recurring expenses like an internet bill can fluctuate, you should always do a monthly expense review.)
Make an Hour an Hour
If you conduct a high volume of calls or meetings, you know how irritating it can be when a call that was scheduled for an hour extends into an hour and 15 minutes... then an hour and a half... then... you get the idea. This is irritating because it impacts the rest of your day and the other tasks you have on your list. Discipline is not a fan of this. Depending on who you're on a call or meeting with, there are a couple of ways to combat "running long..."
- Send "Exact Length" Meeting Invites. In calendaring products like iCal, Outlook or Google Apps, you can set event durations to the minute. The more your counterparts see that you are specific about these (and not just sticking with the pre-set hour), the more they will recognize that the duration you set means something.
- Make "Hard Stops" Known. When scheduling calls or meetings, make the times at which you have to depart known.
- Make Agendas. Whipping up a quick, high-level agenda for each meeting can insure that things end on time. How? Literally. The last item on the agenda is a time-stamped "Wrap Up." (Time-stamp every item on the agenda while you're at it.)
- Show Overages. This is a smart tactic for those that bill by the hour. If a weekly meeting is supposed to be an hour but runs over by 30 minutes, bill them for 90 minutes. But instead of just describing that the call went 90 minutes, make it known in the line item description that this was due to an overage. This will prevent them from thinking you're padding (because they will almost certainly have forgotten that your call went long). After a few experiences like this, they may be the ones with the proverbial stopwatch!
Examine Your Profit & Loss Statements—Regularly!
Your business's P&L is a great—and often unheralded—way for you to get a sense of your discipline as it correlates to productivity. Take mileage for example. If your mileage expense is excessive (and thus chipping away at your net revenue more than it should), review your travel. Could you have combined trips? Did some appointments really require a trip at all? The point is, discipline can be a great driver of expense reduction. At the same time, your P&L will tell you a little bit about your top line discipline too. Did you reduce your rate just to win what has now become an expense (and perhaps unprofitable) project? Do you have a lot of invoiced revenue that hasn't been collected yet? (Check your Accounts Receivable for that.)
How do you stay disciplined? Tell us in the comments!