5 Ways to Streamline your Business

Streamlining your business saves money. It saves time. It saves manpower. All it takes is a little time to think about how you are currently doing business and how you can improve on what you are doing. For business owners who are too busy to reinvent the wheel, here are some proven ways to ensure a more streamlined business.

1. Change direction if you need to

Streamlining isn’t limited to cutting back and dropping activities. You need to start by consolidating or changing the work you do to align it with your goals. It may feel scary now to change direction, but it becomes scarier later when you don’t reach your goals.

2. Reduce time

A task will expand to fill the number of hours given to it. Usually if you give an employee 3 days to finish a task, they will take 3 days to do it, yet if you give them half a day for the same task, they will also finish it. I have found that being results focused and specific will help save time. If you give a person an exact deadline to complete important tasks (eg. Wednesday at 14:15), they will become more productive.

3. Motivate your staff and offer incentives

In my chicken farming days (many moons ago) I had to slaughter a certain number of broilers a day. I realised that my staff’s priorities were not necessarily my priorities and that I would not get the result I needed if I simply paid them for a day’s work. I put myself in their shoes and thought about what would motivate me. I had excellent results when I told my staff at the beginning of each day what the target was and that they could leave once the target had been met. Sometimes they worked so well that they finished a day’s work at noon! There was no compromise on quality either, because the work was not deemed done until I was completely satisfied with the quality.

4. Systemize your processes

Think of how you can make things easier, faster and cheaper. Create template emails, template forms and documents, auto responders, automatic payments, a “roles and responsibilities” chart, digital timesheets, etc. Solve your problems once. If a task has to be repeated, create a system for doing that task. This will also ensure that you have a standardized way of doing business.

5. Use remote workers

Only pay for what you use. See my post on the 8 Ways small business owners can benefit by outsourcing. You have an incredibly diverse talent pool at your fingertips and can choose the best for your business. Your overhead costs are less. Your business becomes more productive and streamlined.

Be more productive: Improve! Improve! Improve!

I love challenging the status quo – not just for the sake of changing things – but because there are always ways to do things better.  Here are some suggestions to improve your business productivity.

  • Start with yourself

Take some time away from slaving at your small business.  Step back.  Read. Ponder. Analyze. Plan.

Understand where productivity takes place and what influences it.  Understand the input, processes, output model.

How do you plan to improve your own personal performance?  Your company will improve at the rate you improve.  Lead by example.

  • Involve everyone 

The people who work for you have fantastic ideas.  Your challenge is to create an environment where they feel free to share those ideas and where they get acknowledged or rewarded for their ideas.  People who are not directly involved in a process may be able to offer more objective solutions than those who are struggling with it.  Involve everyone.  Leave no one out.

  • Confront old ideas and traditions

Some traditions are good.  Really good.  Perhaps excellent. But are they the best?  People get emotionally attached to the way things have always been done.  Try to move from the emotional to the rational by focusing on your goals.  Once you have established a new best way of doing something, stick with it until someone finds a better way.

  • Keep it simple

Think of the critical results you want to improve.  What will give your business the competitive edge? Work back and think of ways to change the system so that these improvements can become reality.  This does not need to be complicated or expensive.  The people working with a particular process often come up with great ideas to improve.

  • Focus on the right things

What core business systems enable you to earn more money or to find and keep customers?  Remove any obstacles or bottlenecks in these systems so you can achieve your objectives.

  • Provide training

Set performance standards for your business systems and continually improve these standards.  Empower your most important asset (your people)  by training them to do their jobs well.

  • Don’t stop improving

Stop immediately to fix quality or customer-related problems.  Implement systems to reflect on your progress weekly, get suggestions and train your people.

Other Be More Productive articles can be accessed here:

Be more productive:  Hit delete

Be more productive:  Leave your desk

Be more productive:  Avoid the tyranny of the urgent

How productive is your work day?

Most business owners would like to run their business in an effective, economical and efficient manner to ensure the greatest return on their investment. However, is your business really as productive as you think it is?

  • How much time are you and your staff using to do what your business is supposed to do?
  • How much time is being wasted on unnecessary tasks, or redoing work because of inadequate training or skills?
  • Is all the work you are doing daily in alignment with your goals?
  • How is your productivity level impacting your profit?

The ideal model for a productive workday is below:

The ideal is that 90% of your time should be spent on productive work (doing what your business is supposed to do in producing products or services).

10% of your time should cover the necessary administration that makes the productive work possible.

What is the reality? How much of your business time is really being spent doing productive work?

Below is a pie chart depicting what the average USA worker accomplishes in an honest day’s work.(The USA is used here only as an example – there are other countries that fare worse!)

According to this illustration, 65% of a work day is being wasted! This implies:

  • wasted manpower
  • wasted money
  • wasted machines
  • etc.

Let us have a look at the wastage. 30% of the day is being spent redoing work (fixing mistakes, etc). This could be, for instance, where a manager insists that the subordinate redoes completed work simply because the manager is not personally satisfied with it. People may also make mistakes because of a lack of skills or knowledge.

Losing sight of the goals of the business is evident in the 35% of resource wastage in doing unnecessary work. If you do not know why you are doing something, stop. Being busy should never be confused with being productive.

You are at your most unproductive when you redo work that should never have been done in the first place!

In the illustration above, only 25% of the work day is spent doing productive work. If you add the necessary administration of 10%, only about a third of the day was used to reach the business objectives.

Keeping the above in mind – how productive is your business?

Be more productive: Avoid the tyranny of the urgent

The urgent can be defined as that which cries out for attention, whether or not it is important.  It could be a phone call, an e-mail alert, a desperate plea for help, or an unexpected interruption.  Giving attention to the unimportant urgent makes you less productive.

How to keep your attention on the right things

1.  Know what is important.

Keep your goals in your mind’s eye as you evaluate each new task.

  • What are you hoping to achieve in the next week, month, or year?
  • Are these activities going to help you reach your goals?
  • Which of these activities is going the yield the greatest results?

The key to effectiveness is thus to give your attention to the most important activities.  When something is working well, double your efforts.  If it isn’t working well, change course quickly and focus on that which works.

2.  Create systems that accomplish your goals without stressing your resources.

Experiment and find which methods of doing the important things work best for you.  Always look for more effective ways to do things.  The ideal management system should function automatically with little or no input from you.  Never manage what you can eliminate altogether.

3.  Remind yourself that you can’t do everything alone.

You are only human, and therefore have to be strategic as to what you give your attention to.  It may be difficult to say no to the urgent, or to leave things undone.  When this happens, try to see the big picture, your vision, and which activities will help you achieve that.  However, if you are neglecting important tasks, you can consider delegating or outsourcing them.

In summary, the key to increased productivity is to recognize the few important things you need to do and let go of the rest.

Be more productive: Leave your desk!

When I’m swamped with work, I tend to sit in front of my computer for hours, yet I don’t feel that I’ve accomplished much because I’m not productive.

However, if I force myself to get up, whether it is to go for a walk, work on my latest craft, or just to hang around my co-workers for a time, my brain rests.

I am more creative, and can think more clearly of alternative ways in which to accomplish a daunting task when I return to my desk.

There are other benefits too.  If I decide to go for a walk outside, I am getting exercise, which stimulates the blood flow throughout my body, and gives me an overall sense of wellness.  The feeling of overwhelm dissipates with the sun on my face and the blood pumping vigorously through my veins.

If I decide to work on my latest craft, or do something that is stimulating, yet at the same time totally the opposite of what I was doing at my desk, I somehow reshuffle the way my brain functions.  I challenge myself to think of something totally different.  Even while thinking of something else, the solution for my current dilemma often pops into my mind uninvited!

Getting up from my desk and mingling with those who I am working with, also helps me get a hands-on feeling of what is going on.  I am able to see how processes are flowing, what problems are experienced, or ways in which things can be done differently.  This gives me the opportunity to improve my input so that my goals can be reached more effectively.  Giving my staff some time to vent their frustrations or joys in an informal way also helps them to feel more supported and appreciated, resulting in a higher output from them.

So next time you are overwhelmed or stuck in a rut, simply get up and leave your desk!  You will be amazed at how effectively you can increase your productivity in this way.

Be more productive: Hit “Delete”

As a small business owner, people are continually making demands on your time and resources.  Have you, for instance, ever analysed the email you get daily?  You may get an email that is either inappropriate for the moment (eg. someone who insists on partnering with you)  or high-maintenance (“I don’t know you but I think you can you fix all my emotional problems with your detailed answer to this email.”)

These distracting demands on your time can be very flattering.  After all, this person believes you are the answer to all their problems.  Or they can be very guilt-inducing (“Why do you continue to ignore my cries for help?”)  However, you need to evaluate how these demands tie in with your overall business goals.

Your goals should include how you can serve your target audience best.  Your time is very valuable because you can use it to help people who really need your help (and these people are willing to pay you).  If you get caught up responding to every demand on your time, the attention you give your target audience and existing clients will not be the best quality.

If you get an email from someone you don’t know, but you have the potential to help them quickly or refer them to the right person, by all means, respond.  However, as difficult as hitting the “delete”  button may be, you will be more productive if you use it more regularly (with discretion).

Being productive really boils down to doing the right things right.  Are you serving your target audience by responding to a particular demand?  Or are you neglecting those who keep a roof over your head because you feel it might be right to respond to those who do not compensate you and never will?

False assumptions and thinking habits that hinder productivity

We all have false assumptions that have a negative impact on our productivity.  We may not even be aware of what we are doing, but that does not make them any less powerful.  We must recognize these false assumptions that are ruling our lives and make a conscious effort to let them go.

Here are a few assumptions:

  • The more you accomplish, the more worthy a person you are.
  • I’m the only one who can do it right.
  • I can do it all alone.
  • The busier you are, the more people respect you.
  • I’m a failure if my house is a mess.
  • I have to do everything perfectly or it doesn’t count.
  • I can manage time.

A few thinking habits that hinder productivity are:

  • Comparing ourselves to others who seem to be effortlessly productive.  This makes us lose focus of our own priorities.
  • Feeling guilty at all the “shoulds” and “ought to’s” that are not accomplished.
  • Making lame excuses to yourself for not setting up the time to organize your priorities.  Lee Silber said: “Dump the excuses.  They just get in the way of recognizing the important things, setting realistic priorities, and creating the life you want to be living.”
  • Fear of failure.

Warren Buffet said: “Bad habits are like chains that are too light to feel until they are too heavy to carry.” Don’t let your thinking habits become so heavy that your productivity suffers.

When you stop ordering your life in obedience to your personal set of false assumptions and bad thinking habits, you’ll find you have more time for your true priorities.

Take time to identify your false assumptions and bad thinking habits, so that you can address them.  Do you have any that you’d like to share?  You are welcome to add them in the comments section below.

If you need help with determining your priorities and setting goals, please contact Virtual Productivity Solutions. We would love to help you!

Become more productive: 10 tips for managing priorities

Do you want to be more productive?

1.  Plan in detail

Have a planner and write/type everything down in it.  The more you plan, the better you manage and the more you achieve.  The more detailed your plans are, the better.  For me planning works best at the end of the day – somehow my brain rests from trying to remember what all needs to be done and rather focuses on creative stuff.

 2. Begin the night before

After planning the next day, see if there are any small tasks that you can do now to give you a head start the next day.

 3. Deal with today

Focus on the tasks for the day.  If you think of other tasks, add them to your task list and forget about them for the moment.  What you are today is what you are becoming.

 4. Value each minute

Know how long it will take you to complete each task.  Then decide if the task is the best use of your time.  How much is a minute worth?  It is priceless or worthless – depending on how you use it.

 5. Keep moving

The principle of momentum states:  “A body at rest tends to remain at rest, and a body in motion tends to remain in motion.”  Use this law of physics to your advantage.  Try doing just one more thing after you think you are finished, and see how much you can achieve.

6.  Develop a routine

Menial tasks are performed by rote, and you save on energy-draining indecision.  Try to put as many tasks as possible into a routine.  Develop good habits.

 7. Exercise and diet

Studies have shown that exercise increases metabolism, creates energy, causes you to sleep better, and produces pleasure hormones which contribute to positive attitudes, joy in life, and a general lust for life. When you plan your day, put in a slot for exercise.

Diet refers to a way of life.  Develop a dietary way of life that gives you energy and health.

 8. Ask the “half-time” question

“If my life depended on doing this task in half the time I have allotted, what shortcuts would I take?”  Then take them.

9. Use a timer for everything

Parkinson’s Law says:   “Work expands to fill the time allowed for its completion.”  The timer helps you allow less time.  There’s something extremely motivating about hearing your life tick away!

10. Say no

Make your schedule. Let it be Plan A.  Then follow your plan by saying no to yourself and to others.  Move to Plan B only if you realize it is in your best interest to do so because you overlooked something in compiling Plan A.

What is Really Important in Life? A Look at Real and Imagined Priorities

The other day I read a statement made by Benjamin Franklin:  “Drive your business.  Let not your business drive you.”  That got me thinking.

Business people, more than any other group, tend to lack balance in their lives.  Their businesses frequently become all-important, crowding out other priorities such as family, friends, hobbies, and leisure time.  However, keeping our lives in balance is one of the keys to avoiding burnout.  It is also the key to real success in life.

Many business people know how to manage millions of dollars and hundreds of people at work, but fail when it comes to their families, friends, hobbies, and leisure time.  They have let their businesses run them instead of learning to run their businesses.

A typical entrepreneur will tell you the following:  “I always wanted to own my own business because I wanted to be in control of my time.  I wanted to be able to take time off without having to get someone else’s approval.  I wanted to make my own decisions and be my own boss.

“Now I own a successful business.  I have the money to travel anywhere I want to go, but I am so tied down with this business I can’t get away.  I haven’t had a vacation in three years, and it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to take on this year.  I think I work for the business instead of it working for me.”

This statement reflects a life that is out of balance.  He is devoting all his time and effort to the business and making money, and in the process he does not have any time left for himself.

Most business people don’t want to admit their lives are out of balance;  but when a person spends ten to twelve hours a day, six days in his business, his life is unbalanced in favour of business.

What is really important in life?

There are two kinds of priorities:  real and imagined.  We know our priorities are real because we give them our time.  On the other hand, things we talk about doing, plan to do, want to do, but don’t do, are imagined priorities.  Imagined priorities may be written down and discussed regularly, but if we never do them they aren’t actually priorities.

If you want to know what your real priorities are, look at where you spend your time – not what you say or how you spend your money!

Getting your life in balance

It isn’t always easy for business people to keep their lives in balance. Some tips are below:

  • Remove the garbage and insignificant rubble from your daily routine.  Identify the things that are really important and focus on them.
  • Make time for the right priorities.  Unproductive activity is robbing us of time that should be spent on important priorities.  Insignificant activities that take up time but contribute almost nothing to our success must be weeded out and thrown away.  Focus on the significant, letting the insignificant die from lack of attention.
  • Learn to say no to some worthwhile causes.  Most business people are high achievers.  They have a knack for getting things done quickly.  As a result, they are constantly bombarded by people who represent all kinds of good causes wanting “just a little”  of their time.  To have the best things in life, we must practice “selective involvement” – and learn to say no to most of the merely good things. If you don’t know what is most important in your life, you will always wind up doing the things most important to other people.

If you want to know a person’s values, look at his priorities.  If you want to know his priorities, look at how he spends his time.  Your own actions are a statement to others concerning the most important things in your life.

Priorities keep us on track.  They also keep us from getting bogged down in the mire of ineffectiveness.  How far and how fast you travel in life will depend on how faithful you are at developing and maintaining your priorities.

Next steps

  • Evaluate your priorities.  Are they real or imagined?
  • Write out your priorities.  Develop a plan of action for pursuing these goals.
  • Make a list of necessary tasks that you can delegate so that you can spend your time on what is most important to you.

15 Golden Rules to be More Productive

There are many ways in which to increase productivity.  However, we sometimes get so side-tracked with our many daily demands, that we forget to think about them.  Here is a quick reminder of proven tips to increase productivity.


  • Set up a fixed daily routine.  Schedule definite times for routine matters such as meetings, going through the mail, communicating with your secretary, signing letters, etc.
  • Do the things which require maximum brain capacity when you are at your best.  Attend to minor business when your brain cannot cope with anything but small things.
  • Fix deadlines for all jobs.  Stick to them.  A task takes the time set aside for it.
  • Do not postpone important matters that are unpleasant.  You will reduce your creativity and working capacity.  Tasks rarely get more pleasant by being postponed.
  • Put off everything that is not important.  Many so-called problems have a tendency to solve themselves if you ignore them for a while.
  • Analyze your interruptions.  Take steps to avoid them/or diminish their effect.
  • Fix definite times when you do not want to be disturbed.  Hold meetings with yourself.  Put a please do not disturb sign on your door, with a note showing when you are available.
  • Do one thing at a time.  Keep an overview of the next job.
  • Plan your telephone calls. Make a brief note of what you want to say and what you want to find out.  It saves time for everybody and makes for better communication.
  • When you start a piece of work, finish it if possible. If you split it up too much, you lose track of its coherence, lose your overview and waste your time warming up each time you start again.
  • Use definite times/meetings for discussing routine matters with your colleagues.  You then avoid interrupting each other all the time, saving time.
  • Arrange your breaks at times when you cannot work effectively.  For instance when the people you have to talk with are not available, when the material you need is not ready, etc.
  • Be selective.  Learn to say no.  Get used to asking:  “Am I the right person for this task?”
  • Make it a regular rule to check your use of time.
  • Avoid taking work home unless you are certain you will do something about it.  It is much better to work longer at the office until you are finished.  You can then enjoy your leisure time more.

Of course, you can be more productive if you outsource non-core tasks, so that you can concentrate on the things you do best.  Contact Virtual Productivity Solutions for a free consultation to find out what you can outsource virtually, and how you can become more productive.

Are there any trust and proven tips that are not mentioned in this post?  Please feel free to share them below.