Productivity Means Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Achieve a higher level of productivity by prioritizing your work lists of objectives.


The Oxford dictionary defines business productivity as:

"The effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input"

In order to achieve goals and objectives small business owners have to juggle multiple demands simultaneously as well as address fire drills and timelines. To avoid getting spread thin utilize lists to focus your energy more effectively.

 Here are three key tips to achieve a higher level of productivity:

  1. Break your “to-do’s” into prioritized lists of tasks across sales, operational, and financial objectives.
  2. Focus your attention on only the top priority items and set a goal of completing a certain set of tasks from your lists each day.
  3. By following this methodology, you will be more organized and more consistently achieve your goals.

Too many hats

Business owners – particularly in a small- or medium-sized business – wear many hats.  Every day you are asked to make decisions that impact every aspect of your company, from sales to operations to finance, and beyond.  Without organization and, most importantly, prioritization, it’s easy for all of the choices competing for your time to overwhelm your day-to-day.

The myriad of demands on productivity

To keep the myriad demands facing you under control, make use of clearly delineated lists of “to-do’s” to help you decide which areas need your immediate attention and which can wait.  Break your objectives into categories – sales, operational, financial – and then order the tasks needed to reach your goals based on their importance and immediacy. 

The higher a task is in importance or the sooner it needs to be done, the closer to the top of the list it should go.

Below are some typical examples which you’'re likely to encounter and show up on your to do list. Then it’s a question of prioritization determined by regularly assessing your business.

Priority 1 may be your customers-

  • Existing customers need regular care and feeding. Regular communication is necessary for both retention and feedback about how you business is providing value.

Priority 2 may be cash flow, the life’s blood of the business

  • Accounts receivable- in coming cash, billing and collecting
  • Accounts payable- timely payments to maintain credit

Priority 3 new customers- new revenue streams, out reach, prospecting, proposals, etc.

  • Whether all of the above, some of the above or none of the above are your core priorities, the bottm line is to prioritize so you don’'t get bogged down or spread too thin.

Productivity quick tip:

Start each day by reviewing your three lists and deciding which tasks you’d like to accomplish.  Tackle the most critical and timely tasks first, being sure to check items off your list as they'’re completed.  This will give you an at-a-glance view of where to focus your time and energy now, while also providing a preview of what’'s on the horizon so you can plan for tomorrow (and next week, and next month).

When new items demanding your attention arise, don’'t deviate from the task at hand unless the new task is truly more urgent.  Streamline your workflow by setting aside time to go through emails in batches instead of reading them as they land in your inbox, and as you review your messages, be sure to update your lists with any new tasks that come in.

Productivity is about being able to channel energies. It's a balance between your overall business strategy, day to day business processes and the inevitable problem or unique opportunity which requires immediate attention.

By utilizing this method to create clearly defined lists of work items, you’ll be able to attain a higher level of productivity, focus your energy, stay organized, prioritize what’'s most important, and consistently achieve your goals.

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About the author

Alex Hart

Alexander J. Hart of Cuban American decent is principal and founder of Hart Vida Raffo. With over 25 years of experience, Alex specializes in the areas of tax strategy and planning, business process improvement, and capital consulting. Whether advising on capital and financing strategy or consulting for privately-held professional services firms, Alex has the expertise and practical know-how to help any company optimize their business processes and make tactical financial decisions. He began his career at IBM in sales operations and accounting. He was a Controller for the N.Y. Post, has been a CFO for a medical device company, and has written a tax column called “Ask the Tax Guys” for Micro-Cap Review. Alex is a professional member of A.L.T.A. (Affiliated Lawyers of the Americas), a member of the National Association of Tax Preparers, and is a contributing author and mentor at Latin Business Today. Alex graduated from St. John’s University with a B.A. in Spanish and his M.B.A. in Finance. He obtained his accounting degree from Pace University.