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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

Tips for Improving Business Productivity

Written By: Carol Roth | 2 Comments

Today’s blog post is brought to you by Microsoft*, who has an entire suite of products and tools to make you more productive.

Inspired by Microsoft’s dedication to productivity, we asked the CarolRoth.com Business Unplugged contributor network of entrepreneurs and experts to give their best tips for improving small business productivity. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.

I myself use Microsoft’s Outlook calendar tool to supercharge my productivity. I am not only able to schedule my day efficiently, but the pop-up reminders let me know when it’s time to move from task to task.

You may notice some similar ideas and themes listed below, but I kept their insights separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.

*Disclosure- Carol Roth has a client relationship with Microsoft.

Now, on to the list…

1. Tech to Increase Productivity

Time is precious, especially for small business owners who are looking to maximize productivity each day. Fortunately, modern technology can increase productivity and efficiency. Cloud solutions like Office 365 are ready to empower small business with enterprise grade capabilities at an affordable cost. You can have it all – power, agility and the freedom to work how you and your team work best so that you can spend time on the things that matter most. Research also shows SMBs that leverage modern technology grow revenue and profitability at a much faster rate. Don’t let outdated tools hold you or your business back.
Thanks to: Cindy Bates of Microsoft.

2. Pros Are Proactive

The most productive and successful professionals are those who are proactive in managing their time. They plan their days and follow through.

They have processes for handling most interruptions like phone calls, emails and day-to-day fires. They have systems for recurring tasks.

By setting these structures in place, they can focus on their core responsibilities and maximize their efficiency.
Thanks to: Susan Greene of Greene Marketing, LLC.

3. Know When to Just Say No

One of the biggest challenges to being productive is getting sidelined by distraction- emails, IMs, who's online on Skype, what's happening on Facebook, LinkedIn, or what's happening on your favorite newsfeed. If this sounds like you, you need a site blocker. Site blockers will help you turn off the noise (selectively), so that you can eliminate the distraction and get back to being productive. Then, you can surf the internet AFTER your have-to-do list is DONE.
Thanks to: Jennifer Martin of Zest Business Consulting.

4. Open Office Spurs Productivity

Our open office design allows team members to quickly collaborate and share information, increasing workplace productivity. The open plan also keeps our employees aware of what is happening in each department, so there is greater transparency throughout the company. Finally, our open office contributes hugely to our sense of shared purpose, promotes collaboration and teamwork and in the long run, benefits our company clients.
Thanks to: Rob Biederman of HourlyNerd.

5. Stop Trying to Do it All

The best ways to increase productivity revolves around delegation & systems. If you are still doing it all in your business, there is a chance you get stuck & even paralyzed on a regular basis. The keys to consistent productivity are:
• Implement systems
• Hire support to handle the stuff causing you to get stuck or paralyzed

If you can, embracing these 2 keys will double your revenue while reducing stress so that you can focus on the things that you love to do = more productive = more revenue!
Thanks to: Robin Hardy of Integrity Virtual Services.

6. Learn to Listen

Communication is the means and basis upon which business ideas are conceptualized and implemented. Productivity in business is always enhanced when worker participants engage in operationally efficient communication. One of the best ways to facilitate better communication is to ensure that all participants have a 'listening skill set'. Listening is the key to executing on team ideas effectively and improving productive interaction and cooperation among team members.
Thanks to: Matthew Reischer of Legal Marketing.

7. Even an Admin Can Be Automated

Daily detail & monthly summary reports were created by the IT division for distribution to the businesses supported.
Since each business was only interested in the section specific to them, the managing director's admin would cut & paste these sections and then email them to the appropriate groups, taking 20 minutes for the daily and over an hour for the monthly.
This entire process was automated using Microsoft Outlook and visual basic, cutting the time down to 2 seconds and one keystroke.
Thanks to: Abdul Jaludi of TAG-MC.

8. Fill Your Time With Rocks

Using the "Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand" metaphor has helped me categorize and prioritize my business's needs, thereby improving productivity. The concept is simple, prioritize the "rocks" first -- those things that are the crux of who/what your business is. Give those things the most of your time and effort. Save some room for the "pebbles" -- things that support the rocks. Lastly, fill in the rest of your time with the "sand" -- little things that are generally more distracting than necessary.
Thanks to: Arlissa Vaughn of Special Event Painter.

9. Have Meetings That Don't Suck

Meetings have a reputation of being a waste of time, yet we keep having them. Often, companies don't have a policy for making sure that their meetings don't suck, but creating some ground rules is a simple way to increase productivity. First, always have an agenda and stick to it. Second, everyone should come prepared for the meeting, which starts with the organizer letting each participant know how to prepare. Third, determine outcomes for the meeting and always end with action steps.
Thanks to: Pedro Santana of SolidProfessor.

10. Encourage Intrapreneurship

Make it easy for employees to approach you with their new ideas and empower them to make decisions outside the chain of command. Intrapreneurerial behavior should be rewarded. This will lead to more contributions and creative endeavors within the company, as well as happier and more productive employees.
Thanks to: Shai Atanelov of Fundz.

11. Countdown or Delete...

You have to delete as many projects as you can so only the tasks with the biggest impacts (R.O.I/R.O.E) get done.

Once you have the list (you can always add the deleted ones, once the scary ones are ALL completed), DOWNLOAD A TIMER, work flat out for 1 hour, rest for 15 minutes and return to the next hour.

If you have to make calls, remember the 2% conversions, so to get 2 yes decisions, you have to make 100 calls.

For tasks too large/scary on the chart, break them into smaller tasks.
Thanks to: Carl Barton of Staffordshire University.

12. Tame the Inbox

McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the average worker spends 28% of their work day processing emails. That's about 2.25 hours of non-productive time.

It's simple; follow the one hour rule and only reply or create emails that create value.

Keep it under an hour!
Thanks to: Bob Shirilla of Keepsakes Throw Blankets.

13. Communication is King

There's one simple thing that every business can do that, if implemented, would change their business dramatically. That is the communication process between management and employees. Nothing is more effective than creating an efficient system whereby people can easily communicate with anyone in one's company and someone actually responds. More time and energy is wasted by people getting lost in a bureaucracy where employee needs and questions are not met in a timely manner. Fix this and productivity soars!
Thanks to: Craig Wolfe of CelebriDucks.

14. Fix Your To Do List

Most of us are used to writing a To Do List in the hope that it will make us more productive. However, a To Do List isn't necessarily the best way of increasing productivity in business. What I've found to be more effective is having a To Done List, which is simply a list of things that you've done by the end of each day. The desire to fill up your To Done List should spur you on so that you accomplish as much of your key tasks as possible each day. It works wonders!
Thanks to: Victoria Olubi of The Tutoress.

15. Give More Praise!

Recent research confirms that we perform better and faster when we get praised after learning something. The desire for appreciation is deeply rooted in humans. So, making others feel appreciated and valued is intricately woven into drive, motivation, connection and loyalty. No need for complicated recognition when simple compliments work. I put a sticky note "You're a good writer" up on my monitor when I am writing blog posts, for instance. Got it? Aren't you smart!
Thanks to: Monica Strobel of The Appreciation Advantage.

16. Your Words Become Your Actions

A favorite productivity tip of mine is to collect 5 quotes each Sunday in my ‘Quotables’ note page on my smart phone. These selections support critical meetings, articles, speaking engagements, personal goals, and business column contributions for the next 7 days.

My treasured quote of the week: “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm” - Abraham Lincoln
Thanks to: Kelly Isley, Author of Adapt Now.

17. Master To-Do Wins By 10 AM

The early bird really does get the worm.

I plan my weekly To-Dos -- each with benchmarks -- on Sunday. I break them down into their order of importance, adding ad-hoc ones that arise throughout the week, accordingly.

I'll prospect via a sales call or webinar as early as 6 am, making sure that I compose/respond to pressing emails by 10 AM.

Now, my day is open for writing and taking courses, while my evenings are ripe for B2B networking. Weekends are my time for family, etc. Easy.
Thanks to: Annesa L Lacey, B2B Ghostwriter of @.l.interpretations.

18. Delegate! Delegate! Delegate!

Hire the best. Tell them the end result desired and then, let them do it their way. Watch from a distance, but do what you have a passion for and let others joyously do what you do not want to do. This creates a positive team environment, expands collective intelligence in the work place and creates greater efficiency and effectiveness on all levels. Micro-managers often suffer and are less able to address the issues that truly require their sense of vision.
Thanks to: Lewis Harrison of Lewis Harrison Speaker.

19. You Will Get What You Pay For

Every business owner is aware of the amount of work each one of their employees produce. An interesting way to increase productivity is by providing the employees with an incentive. The way to do that is by adding 'X' amount to a workers daily wage for each unit of work they produce, over & above their usual production. It must be with the understanding though that the quality of work MUST be up to par.
This not only increases your productivity, but puts additional $ in the employee's pay check.
Thanks to: Harris Glasser of Serving The people Press.

20. Dive into a "Deep Shift"

Becoming more creative and strategic in thinking and focused on designing products and services that solve effectively today’s customer needs is essential to productively advancing a successful business.

1) Understand the dynamics of human behavior
2) Understand technology and its enabling capabilities to solve problems
3) Understand the art of using strategy within a clear vision.

Keep this focus to maximize productivity.
Thanks to: Mike Leigh of Strategic Business Management.

21. Productivity Starts on You

Why is productivity sometimes a lost cause? Chanting "Higher, Stronger, Longer" is a worn out phrase when the productivity mix is outdated and declassee. Winning strategies require new paradigms. Those paradigms fall on YOUR lap, Mr. and Ms. Boss people. Sorry, no buck passing is permitted. So, before things commence, assure yourself that EVERYTHING in the product mix is ready. Assembly parts are ready, tests denote product clarity, and even field research in focus groups is solid. YOU'LL SEE POSITIVE RESULTS!
Thanks to: Tony Marren of Operation Just One Can.

22. 1,440 Minutes in a Day

Businesses need to know what is important and focus on that, as not everything can 'get done' in a day. A way to do this could be to use the Eisenhower matrix - which really helps drill into the 'what's important' question. It's all about focusing and staying on task.
Thanks to: Matt Cox of Purcus.

23. Productivity & Social Media

Social media is a natural fit for rewarding highest productivity. There is no greater reward than having peers and family see just how important they are to their company and society than an official company recognition photo posted on the Company's Facebook page. This allows a repost to the winner's Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram account for their own personal family and friends' recognition, the recognition that really counts. To increase productivity, increase social media recognition.
Thanks to: John Alexander of John Alexander's Wealth Systems.

24. Right Tasks - Right Time

Studies have shown that we are more creative in the mornings and excel at analytical tasks later on in the day.

By choosing the right time to perform your tasks, you'll get more done in less time.

For example, I block out most mornings for writing and leave editing, planning and responding to emails until later in the day - this helps me make the most of my time.
Thanks to: Adam Connell of Digital Velocity.

25. Limit Those Distractions

I've found that when I need to hunker down and get productive, I do best with quiet and no distractions. That means no pop-ups alerting me to new emails, Twitter responses, or even computer updates. So, when I need to write, I head on over to my Ommwriter app. It essentially over-rides my computer and takes over the entire screen. It doesn't allow for pop-ups, notifications, pings, or updates. It's a basic word processing tool with a zen-inspiried soundtrack. I can't recommend it enough.
Thanks to: Katy Tafoya of Success for Solopreneurs.

26. W. M. Q.

We have what we refer to as "Green" Calls. Green calls are the short, definitive conference calls we have weekly, monthly and quarterly, thus W. M. Q. These calls help us keep goals and activities ahead of us, everyone is aware and reminded of what our goals are, past/current progress reviews and the time frame we should accomplish our various goals in. These short, focused calls help keep our goals fresh upon minds and moving towards the goal(s). They keep us accountable and progressive.
Thanks to: S. Capri Edwards of AGC Worldwide LLC.

27. Handle Once

The best tip I have for increasing productivity is to handle something only once. Paper on your desk? Deal with it once, then file it or throw it away. Article to read? Read it- then move on. If you handle each piece of paper or item only once, you don't waste time moving it from place to place. You don't get stuck in an unproductive cycle with half-finished projects sitting on your desk. Finish the project- then move on.
Thanks to: Becky Boyd of MediaFirst.

28. Improving Productivity

Businesses can improve productivity by having more face-to-face interaction. When you can actually look someone in the eyes while talking to them, there is a lot that can be learned.

Our company installed video cameras and monitors at all of our communities throughout the country. We have drastically improved productivity by being able to speak with our leasing managers face-to-face.

A lot can be lost in translation with just email and phone communication.
Thanks to: Larry Connor of The Connor Group.

29. Nobody Wants a Long Meeting

We started cutting back even the most important meetings to no more than 15 minutes. We have a company policy of scheduling 5, 10 and no more than 15 minute meetings. 1 hour meetings were just too floppy and unfocused. We started wondering why we even schedule for 1 hour. We found that with shorter meetings, you get in, attack the topic at hand and get out. It's more focused, cuts out small talk and rubbish and builds momentum. Get in and get out, straight back to work like a slingshot!
Thanks to: Jacob Tanur of Click Play Films.

30. Don't Write - Record

I write articles and blog pieces a lot – both for myself and for other sites and publications. The intention is always to market my business. In order to write articles more efficiently, I “write” while I am driving, using an app called QuickVoice Pro. It allows me to record my article and then email the recording to a transcriptionist (in So Africa), who has the articles back to me within a day for clean up.
Thanks to: Nanette Miner, Ed.D. of The Training Doctor, LLC.

31. Implement Collaboration Tools

A productive work environment is built through transparency, effective communication and more open collaboration, which is a catalyst for that transparency and increased communication. Open collaboration is becoming more challenging, as traditional work environments are changing. Employees are more mobile than ever before. So, collaborative tools like video conferencing and content sharing are essential to fostering collaboration, increased communication and innovation.
Thanks to: Laura Owen of Polycom.

32. Real Employee Engagement

Most organizations do not develop well-defined strategic initiatives and as a result, they are not typically engaging to the stakeholder and ultimately,
not acted upon. Organizations that use game mechanics and socialization can increase returns on strategy by over 50%. In fact, as much as 80% of the Fortune 1000 companies will have enterprise social networks that leverage game mechanics, socialization and innovation pipelines to significantly increase productivity.
Thanks to: Nicholas Webb of Lassen Innovation.

33. Stop Showering in the AM

Seriously! My creative flow and genius happens in the AM. So, I stopped going in to the office first thing, I grab a cup of French roast and spend the first hour of my day focusing on my intentions, goals and the must get done list. Then, I execute. I have most of my list done before I take a shower! In terms of productivity, you will see instant results with this approach. Of course, if you believe in the laws of attraction, you will also see how this approach delivers so much more.
Thanks to: Michelle McGlade of MM International, Inc.

34. Use the Cloud Wisely

Don’t just use the cloud: Use it wisely. Install the same note-taking and information management app, like OneNote, on ALL of your devices - phone, tablet, laptop - and use it religiously to capture ideas, thoughts and plans. By never having any device outside arm’s reach, you’re never far from the critical info you need to make great, fast decisions. Over time, your ever-expanding personal database becomes your competitive knowledge-driven advantage, no matter where you are or what you’re up to.
Thanks to: Carmi Levy of www.voices.com.

35. Hack Productivity by Standing

It's an odd recommendation, but nothing has improved my productivity more than standing and working.

I have been at a standing desk for 6 months and the productivity boost is easily recognized. I find that I'm more focused on the tasks at hand and
although I work from home, there are fewer distractions when I'm standing and working. I also feel more relaxed when finished with work; it makes
sitting so much more enjoyable!
Thanks to: Corey Barnett of Cleverly Engaged Marketing.

36. Pleasure Breaks & Productivity

Only focus on a single task; be fully present and available. Stay mindful by taking 30 seconds of deep breathing breaks every 30 minutes, a minute of joyful walking around every hour and 2 minutes of mediation breaks to stay cool, calm and mindfully productive. These pleasure breaks are important for physical, as well as mental relaxation. Deep breathing, stretching and yawning keeps you focused and productive. You will not feel overwhelmed & will be able to achieve more. Be productive!
Thanks to: Shawn Chhabra of ShawnChhabra.com.

37. Got Focus Days?

To maximize your team's productivity, add two "Focus" Days to your week. During your Focus Days, there are no meetings, calls or "busy work". Basically, no interaction with humans for they are usually the biggest cause of distraction & interruption. You focus on big picture thinking, complex projects, revenue-generating activities, and planning. This is the day all of those projects that are on your back burner get done.
Thanks to: Erica Duran of Erica Duran International.

38. Self-wielding Torture Device

Email is a self-wielding torture device and productivity killer. The more emails you write, the more emails appear in your inbox. It's important that you maximize your efficacy. Now, I didn't say "efficiency". Efficacy is focus on doing the RIGHT things. Before cracking open that email - ask yourself, "what's the one thing I can do today that would make it a success?” Block out 2 hours to focus on that one... freaking... item. Let the ‘urgent’ BS fade to the background (it'll still be there tomorrow).
Thanks to: Greg Archbald of GreaseBook Oil Production Software.

39. Quit Wasting Time in Meetings

Clients tell me how much time they waste in meetings where nothing gets accomplished. This can help you focus on what's important in meetings. 1. Identify what energy you need to see as a result of your next meeting. (Maybe you need them to get interested in some idea or perhaps you need them to become strong champions?) 2. Where is their energy today? 3. Is your agenda likely to create that shift? If not, try something else.
Thanks to: Rick Maurer of Maurer & Associates.

40. More Screen Real Estate

We use multiple computer monitors (at least 4) on each employee’s desk to improve productivity 20-30%. We measured the difference in our office and it works.
Thanks to: Carl Mazzanti of eMazzanti Technologies.

41. It All Starts with Listening

$37B is lost yearly from poor productivity. When traced to the most basic cause, it is poor listening that leads to uninformed decisions, disengaged workers, dissatisfied customers, and sloppy processes. As odd as it might seem, when listening intelligence is instilled into the entire organization, productivity ensues. People can learn tools and techniques to improve productivity, but without the intent to hear one another and share understanding, they are just band-aids applied to a serious wound.
Thanks to: Marian Thier of Listening Impact.

42. Avoid Email Overload

Schedule times to check and respond to email. Spending your day constantly checking your email inbox could be killing your productivity. Instead of checking and responding to emails as they come (causing ongoing distraction to daily tasks), try scheduling 3 times throughout the day for reviewing and responding to emails. For example, 9am, 1pm, and 4pm could be pre-scheduled times for email that allow you to work most of the day uninterrupted.
Thanks to: Daniel MacDonald of Filter Butler.

43. Focus on Less, Cut More

The most direct, most effective, but hardest way to improve productivity is to focus on much, much fewer tasks/goals, and cut everything else.

It's hard to say "no" to things that can have a positive outcome, but if you're not willing to double down on what you think works, then you won't improve as quickly as you'd like.
Thanks to: John Turner of UsersThink.

44. Versatility Means Productivity

Be ready for change. The only way to be productive is to be agile. Your workspace should offer a variety of choices that allow staff to collaborate, connect, create new ideas and foster a sense of community. Flexibility is key to productivity.
Thanks to: Kathlene Buchanan of Metro Offices.

45. Boosting Employee Morale

We've found that people who lead an active lifestyle tend to be happier at work. That’s because they feel good about themselves and have a healthy way to relieve stress. Many companies have realized this and actively encourage their staff to exercise by paying for their gym memberships and arrange classes for people to workout together. This can boost employee morale and productivity, and working out together through group classes can help strengthen team bonds and bring employees together.
Thanks to: Emilie Sillett of DW Fitness Clubs.

46. Re-purpose Your Downtime

Many entrepreneurs balance passion projects with the responsibility of family and a day job. To maximize productivity, examine and re-purpose your daily downtime. Turn moments of inactivity into something that drives your vision forward. For instance, during your daily commute, listen to podcasts. At your kid's practice, jot down strategic plans. While waiting for your coffee to brew, let your mind drift to the possibilities of what's next. It's not about working more. It's about making time count.
Thanks to: Jeff Stephens of Crazy Dad Life.

47. Get Together as a Team

As a company, we have weekly team meetings. We sit down and discuss what we've accomplished in the past week, what we plan to accomplish this week and in the future. It helps us work together as a team to achieve goals and keeps us all individually accountable for what we say we'll do each week. The team, therefore, is more productive in their work and we create an open atmosphere where our team feels comfortable to talk about their projects.
Thanks to: Tom Bukevicius of Supero Media.

48. Productive Motivation

Improving employee productivity means knowing how to motivate employees on both an individual level and by generation. People have different motivating factors, and those factors change as they age and move through their careers. Also, understanding the motivating factors for each generation as a whole can give you some insight into their belief system. Knowing how your employees think and what is important to them can make all the difference for an engaged and productive workforce!
Thanks to: Julie Wiseman of Access HR.

49. Capture, Organize & Prioritize

As David Allen outlined in his book on productivity, ‘Getting Things Done’ – The key is finding an external system for recording every task outside of your already overflowing brain. It needs to be a system that works for you that you can trust inherently.

Once you’ve input everything that needs to be done, you can start processing and prioritizing each task before taking action. Find a system to capture, organize and prioritize tasks and your productivity will skyrocket!
Thanks to: Frederik Vincx of Prezly.

50. Get Feedback to Leap Forward

Senior leaders are often far removed from what is really going on in their organizations-the barriers employees face, incompatible systems, contradictory processes, and confusing messages. By proactively soliciting feedback from employees at all levels- through multiple methods (walking the floor, town hall meetings, pulse surveys)- and acting on what they learn- leaders get the data they need to eradicate barriers AND to build relationships, foster trust, and enhance engagement.
Thanks to: Barbara Trautlein of Change Catalysts.

51. Break Down Workflow Barriers

To improve productivity, companies need to break down the traditional barriers between apps, content and data sources that are located in the cloud, the data center or on a plethora of mobile devices. Ideally, each employee receives a personal workspace that is tailored to his or her role within the company and can be further customized, as needed. In the best-case scenario, these workspaces offer built in self-service, IT support capabilities and are consistently delivered across devices.
Thanks to: Torsten Volk of ASG Software Solutions.

52. Password Managers

Password managers allow for automatic completion of online forms which can then increase productivity. The right password manager can make filling out forms a snap. Employees just enter their information one time and the next time they encounter a form, the password manager automatically fills in the relevant fields instead of the employee having to re-enter the same information.
Thanks to: Bill Carey of RoboForm.

53. Impose Time Limits!

A great way that I have found to increase productivity is to impose time limits on specific tasks. It's easy to become distracted in the office and get pulled away from tasks at hand. If I find myself or one of my employees loosing focus on a project, I put 15 minutes more into it and then move on. Knowing there is an end in sight gives us a new energy to push through it and get it done.
Thanks to: Nellie Akalp of CorpNet.com.

54. Tips for Productivity in Biz

I'm an advocate of lists. I treat my inbox like a to-do list. I'll first get all of the quick emails off of my plate, meaning the emails that just require a response from me and then, they're done. Then, I'll go through the projects for the day and check those off. Whatever I don't finish, I can leave in my inbox to be completed ASAP. I'm also a fan of reminder features. Because it syncs to all of my devices, my to-do list is always right in front of me. This helps me stay on-task.
Thanks to: Rich Kahn of eZanga.

55. Connections on Auto-pilot

Automating your marketing allows for consistent follow-up, nurtures connectedness, and develops relationships with your clients and prospects, so that they are ready to buy from you. However, most businesses don't understand what or how to do that while establishing and advancing those relationships to grow the business quickly. Take the first step towards automation and document all of the steps that you repeat daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. These will be the easiest things for you to automate.
Thanks to: Jen Levitz of Connect With Your Client.

56. Productivity Equals Value!

Understand the fair market value of your business, track that value, and make decisions that maximize that value at all times. Often, it is a struggle to even define productivity. By establishing value and then making decisions based on what increases that value the most, you have defined measurable productivity. This allows you to know the productivity of a decision and lets you concentrate on items that are most productive! Without this, you WILL always lose productivity in some way.
Thanks to: Bill Watson, (former CPA) of Advanced Business Group.

57. Put it Away the First Time

Improve productivity simply by putting things away the first time.
Ask yourself, “Where should it go?” Putting one item away may not seem like much. But over a week, your entire office will be cluttered.
Making this step part of your daily routine means that you must have a place for the item to go.
For paper or electronic files, you need a filing system that has a place where you can store all of the information you use in your business so that you can find what you need when you need it.
Thanks to: Judy Owen of Terrace Consulting Ltd.

58. It’s All About Company Culture

We have found that hiring candidates who fit our company culture encourages employees to collaborate with one another to build a stronger overall team. This company-wide collaboration not only creates a strong working environment, but it also it creates an environment that is set up for success.
Thanks to: Tony Sorensen of Versique.

59. Save Time and Costs: Automate!

Most of today’s background business processes are (or should be) scheduled by a job-scheduling tool(s) that is often limited and relies on manual, human intervention. To avoid the resulting resource inefficiencies and errors, enterprise workloads can be automated with trigger-based capabilities that mimic human activity and streamline backroom operations. This reduces setup time and errors so that employees are freed up for more strategic projects and businesses maximize their systems’ value.
Thanks to: Steve Leverett of ASG Software Solutions.

60. New Clients, Old-school Tact

Since constantly filling your funnel with new prospects is key to a thriving business, I make it a point to craft a hand-written note to someone I'm interested in doing business with while I'm having my morning coffee. My assistant then drops the note (along with a stamped reply card) off at the mail box. This not only sets the tone for my day (I love connecting with new people), but also helps us avoid the trap of getting too caught up with current contracts to plant seeds for future growth.
Thanks to: Pamela Schott of Schott Communications.

61. Productivity Requires Passion!

The key to productivity isn’t just perks, it's passion. Leaders set the company’s main direction and let their teams’ passion drive their contributions to that direction! Perks can't make you love a job that you loathe. Employees want to contribute their own talents and experiences to that vision. Team members that have a passion will go the extra mile, constantly trying to make operations better. Productivity increases because people are fully invested and care about what they are doing.
Thanks to: Michael K. Matus of Tower Marketing.

62. One Size Doesn't Fit All

As a leader, one way to improve business productivity is to identify what motivates your employees and reward their efforts based upon their individual motivators. One size doesn't fit all, so once you get to know your people and what their interests are, you can reward their efforts based upon their personal motivators, which could be anything from achievement, life balance, autonomy, security, power or relationships. Then, allow your stars to shine and base performance rewards on their motivators.
Thanks to: Mary Anne Kochut of Champions for Success, LLC.

63. Mix Business with Pleasure

One way to improve productivity is to get yourself and staff to marry their personal goals with the company goals and task at hand. When they see how accomplishing this task actually helps them accomplish their own goals, they will step up and happily finish the task at hand.

Write 100 ways accomplishing this goal/task will help you to accomplish your personal goals. Doing this exercise helps to align the two sets of goals to become one and the same.
Thanks to: Leo Willcocks of DeStress to Success.

64. Walkie Talkie

Businesses should encourage walking meetings with their colleagues and/or clients if the meeting is three people or less. Walking meetings increase creativity, improve mood and promote daily activity. Walking reduces the hierarchy of sitting across from each other at a table. Participants are more likely to share true insights and feelings due to the conversational nature of walking side by side. In addition, you are getting off your butt and preventing glute amnesia from sitting all day!
Thanks to: Marcey Rader of Marcey Rader Coaching.

65. Learn from the French

Eat lunch! Our data shows that Americans need to work smarter, not longer and that starts with taking a break for lunch. The data taken from our sales management platform analyzes 1 million sales activities. It shows that American salespeople don’t take time away for lunch and that their productivity levels drop quickly in the afternoon. Alternatively, the French are not only productive in the morning, but even more productive after their leisurely two-hour lunch break.
Thanks to: Timo Rein of Pipedrive.

66. The Lost Art of Communicating

The thing that we are losing, both in the work place and socially, is the art of spoken communication. Asking questions of one another, expressing to others what we have on our daily to-do list, letting people know where we will be if we aren't in the office, and in so many other scenarios, a quick "Hey" would help everyone be more productive.
Thanks to: Lori Bruhns of Lori Bruhns, LLC.

67. Organized Organization!

The best way that businesses can improve their productivity is by created organized standard of doing business. The more efficient the company can be in every facet within, as without, it will run more smoothly as well. Remember that spiritual saying as above, so below and as within, so without.
Thanks to: Vickens Moscova of Moscova Enterprises, INC.

68. The Nutrition Decision

The most important aspects of life— including physical well-being, mental function, productivity, optimism, and energy levels— are directly impacted by the choices we make when we consume food. Provided with nutritious options in the workplace, whether via healthful snacks or onsite lunch options, employers and employees alike benefit from the increase in productivity long after the 2pm slump hits.
Thanks to: Sean Kelly of HUMAN Healthy Markets.

69. 3-Minute Productivity Cure

Research has shown that productivity increases by 36.93% when teams are exposed to 3 minutes a day of music that is targeted and customized to produce sounds of specific frequencies.
Thanks to: Lorna DiMeo, MSW of Success On Purpose, Inc.

70. De-Clutter Your Inbox

Email is a core business function that’s not going away anytime soon. But, the influx of emails that employees receive daily can be seen as a productivity barrier at times. By offering employees inbox organization tips, such as reminding them to “think before you click” and suggesting that they create inbox rules to automatically organize certain email types, a company can both boost productivity and use employees to help weed out malware that can infiltrate the network via a malicious email.
Thanks to: Mounil Patel of Mimecast.

71. T'was the Night Before...

Quiet time provides the ability to recapture your grandest vision in terms of where you are today, while focus allows you to concentrate on where you need to be tomorrow. Performing this exercise the night before your next working day enables you to prioritize what must get done, should get done, and the extra learning to improve. Maintaining a running list at all times helps you to achieve a 15 month stretch goal in 12 months. This produces high value efficiency to be at the top of your game.
Thanks to: Elinor Stutz of Smooth Sale.

72. Sharing is Productivity

Make accessibility a priority; use a shared drive, like Microsoft OneDrive, to keep everything organized. This will enable anyone to work on anything, no matter where they are. Being able solve any work problems the minute they happen will prevent them from escalating. Ensure that there is team connectivity and transparency for your team so that they can accomplish tasks, even on an unconventional schedule and always be collaborating.
Thanks to: Slisha Kankariya of Four Mine.

73. Clarity Improves Productivity

People do better when they know what to do.

1. Set goals that support the goals of the business and are simple, clear and achievable.
2. Clearly communicate these goals in a way that everyone involved understands.
3. Give constructive feedback, so that they are clear on their progress.
4. Reward them for achievement.

The key to overall success is starting small so that people can experience individual successes. This builds momentum and allows the group to achieve greater goals.
Thanks to: Greg Bush of PitView for Forex.

74. Show That You Care

Fostering high morale among everyone in the workplace is key to increasing the productivity of a business. When it comes to boosting morale, it's the little things that make the biggest difference: supplying their favorite brand of coffee, bringing in bagels on Friday, or running a 15 minute yoga session in the afternoon. Break up their workload with small, thoughtful gestures and you'll see a positive change in their moods that will translate into higher productivity.
Thanks to: Dhugal Gardner of Chatter Buzz Media.

75. Stop the "OOPS"!

OOPS = Over-operationalized syndrome. Everyone tries to squeeze more into every minute, every day. Over-scheduling works for awhile, but inevitably, the unexpected project, question, customer complaint or other "fire drill" destroys our best laid plans.

The solution? Plan it & accept that you need "wiggle room" daily. Whether it's blocking time between meetings or scheduling blocks of buffer time each day, these reserves of SCHEDULED unscheduled time increase productivity overall.
Thanks to: Elene Cafasso of Enerpace Executive Coaching.

76. Context is Key

It has become standard practice to use mobility to improve business productivity and communication, utilizing vast amounts of data from many sources. Without being able to provide contextual and relevant data to applications when needed, they fall short or fail to meet goals, rendering them useless. Thus, they must focus on ways to proactively provide this disparate but inter-dependent data to consumers as they need it, lest they find themselves out of context and therefore irrelevant.
Thanks to: Sean Bowen of Push Technology.

77. Find Space Within Your Space

Make space in your office for more productivity-enhancing areas, such as creative pods conducive to brainstorming. Do so by recording over a month-long time period – either manually or with sensor technology – which desks get used and how often. You will likely find that your entire office is never at full capacity but actually is only 30-60% utilized on any given day.
Thanks to: Denise Lage of Condeco Software.

78. Crystal Clear Communications

The biggest productivity obstacle I face is when disorganized clients send sporadic thoughts and instructions for me to sift through. My solution is to ask the client specific questions, one at a time, even if they might be answered in a previous email.

As I said to one of my subcontractors today, "Let me first get approval on this one, and once it is loaded to the live site, I will ask about the next item. Always best to leave a client with only one question to answer at a time."
Thanks to: David Leonhardt of THGM ghostwriters.

79. Don't Stop Before the Miracle

If we were all walking a tightrope or on a zip line, of course we wouldn’t stop ¾ of the way across or down, am I right? Don’t stop before the miracle simply means keep going for what you want and don’t let anything stop you. Be tenacious. Stay focused, stay on point and stay results-oriented and productivity will increase!
Thanks to: Rosanne Dausilio of Human Technologies Global Inc.

80. Breaks + Coffee + Cre8ivity!

My rule of thumb for being the ultimate cre8ive, yet productive entrepreneur is as follows (it's as simple as your ABCs)!

a. Take breaks (4-5 a day)

b. Drown yourself in coffee (water and green tea help too sometimes)

c. Embrace your cre8ivity (always, even if you're not)

Every now and then, I sprinkle music, dancing in the office, painting with glitter, chatting online with friends and weekly meetings with new clients or interesting people!

It works wonders for me!
Thanks to: Julie Holloway of JMH Art + Design Studio.

81. Let Your Stars Shine Bright!

Let your stars shine bright; don't eclipse them! Trust your staff to be excellent; stay out of their way and give them room to do amazing things. Sincerely sing praise about them to management and peers, and your staff will eagerly go into battle for you even when overwhelmed by challenges. Let them have the credit they deserve; your reward will be recognition for developing an incredible team that works miracles. But remember to allocate some time to just have fun!
Thanks to: Jim Newman.

82. Invest in Your Employees

One of the largest costs for most businesses is their employees. Improving overall company productivity starts with hiring people that are well suited to the position and are a great fit for your company culture. However, even with top talent, it is important to implement a skills development program to increase efficiency and engage employees. A measurable, ongoing skills development program is key to staying up-to-date on the latest best practices and technology in your industry.
Thanks to: Tony Glockler of SolidProfessor.

Do you have a tip for helping businesses improve productivity? If you do, please share it below. And many thanks to Microsoft and everyone that contributed to this article!

And if you would like to become a part of the CarolRoth.com contributor network and find out about opportunities to contribute to future articles, sign up here: http://www.carolroth.com/carolroth-com-blog-contributor-sign-up/

Article written by
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice) produced technology competition series, America's Greatest Makers, airing on TBS and Host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy show. Previously, Carol was the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country, and a contributor to CNBC, as well as a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and other stations. Carol's multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics. Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011-2015) and has her own action figure. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth