Productivity | Small biz resources
17 November 2020
This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week and to contribute to the #GEW2020 discussion, we’re diving into a topic many entrepreneurs spend countless hours thinking about productivity. Despite thousands of articles and books written on the topic, most entrepreneurs still struggle to find their productivity sweet spot. Those that do, though, usually end up being next-level successful. This article will help entrepreneurs understand how to scale productivity.
Before we jump into how to scale your productivity, let’s start by taking a look at some of today’s trends in the world of entrepreneurship and why productivity matters.
Entrepreneurship is on the Rise
A survey conducted by Freshbooks found that over 24 million Americans want to work for themselves by 2021. That’s more than the population of Florida, and almost two-thirds of the population of Canada. The main reason for this trend, the survey says, is a desire for more control, freedom and flexibility in both work and life.
- 65% of the respondents said they want more control over when they work;
- 56% said they want more control over how hard they work; and
- 48% said they want more control over their own career development.
Yet, despite this shift towards entrepreneurship, we also know that many small businesses fail within the first five years — more than 50%, in fact.
So, where is the disconnect?
Though there are many reasons why businesses fold, too often, a big part of the struggle lies in managing productivity effectively. Not enough output across critical areas of the business leads to financial loss and burnout.
The thing is, this is rarely for lack of trying or passion. Instead, it’s often a result of too much to do, mixed with competing priorities, a lack of business know-how, not enough support and other similar pressures that make it difficult to successfully grow a business.
Entrepreneurs — at least at first — have to wear multiple hats and perform tasks that they may not be experts at. Instead of having the time and space to focus on where their skills lie, they also have to worry about things like tracking expenses, filing taxes, organizing documents, setting up processes, invoicing customers, reviewing contracts, managing cash flow, booking meetings and all of the other tasks that come along with running a business. Until they have a team and business structure in place that can handle each of these tasks, they have to do it all themselves — and that can kill output and ultimately their business.
One of the golden keys, then, to entrepreneurial success, is properly managing productivity. And for wildly successful entrepreneurs, this doesn’t just boil down to increasing productivity, it’s all about scaling it.
Increasing vs. Scaling: What’s the Difference?
When we talk of increasing productivity, we’re usually talking about growing it in linear terms. For instance, if you can get better at organizing your day or increasing your focus, you can compress the amount of time it takes you to do a task and free up time to do more valuable tasks. Or, you can hire an employee and give them certain tasks so you can focus on others. Both are good ideas, however, both are ultimately constrained by how many hours you have in the day or how much money you have to throw at the problem. The level of output roughly matches the level of input, and that relationship increases and decreases at a proportional rate.
Scaling, on the other hand, is defined as achieving an increase of outputs without a substantial increase of inputs. When we apply this to the world of productivity, it means thinking beyond linear growth. For instance, by applying scalable techniques, you can do much more than before, without being completely constrained by the number of hours in the day. As the level of input increases, the level of output dramatically increases at a disproportionate rate. This is a great thing for your business because it means you can get a lot out of a little.
Tips for Scaling Your Productivity
If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s time to stop thinking about simply increasing your productivity and instead focus on scaling it. Here are some powerful methods to help you do so.
1. Rely on the Right Technology
Leveraging the right technology is one of the most important ways you can scale your productivity. It allows you to do much more in about the same amount of time, in a way that crunching your time or hiring more people cannot.
For instance, productivity and project management tools eliminate the need for multiple emails and meetings by organizing everything your or your employees need in an accessible and scalable way. Automation tools work in a similar manner by removing manual tasks. And collaboration and communication tools allow you to get your message out to many people at the same time. It’s with these goals in mind that we built Charli. Charli uses AI to enable entrepreneurs to send, file, share, and retrieve documents at scale in one simple step.
A word of warning though…make sure you choose your technology wisely, so you don’t end up needing to find more time to micromanage your productivity tech.
2. Use a Shareable Format
For this point, let’s turn to this fabulous quote by author and software developer Jon Udell, where he talks about conserving your keystrokes:
“If Brian emails me a really interesting question about ASP.net … and I send him back an exciting and long, five-paragraph with a code sample email that solves his problem, I just gave him the gift of 10,000 of my keystrokes. But there is a finite number of keystrokes left in my hands before I die, and I am never going to get those keystrokes back and I’ve just gifted them to Brian. And I don’t even know if he reads that email. So what should I do to multiply these keystrokes given that there is a finite number of those keystrokes left in my hands? I write a blog post and I mail him the link. Then after I’m dead, my keystrokes multiple—every time I get a page view that’s 5,000 keystrokes that I did not have to type.”
This is a fun example that makes a great point. For anything that you get asked to explain repeatedly, turn your answer into something shareable — whether that’s a process document, a Google doc, or even a blog post. Whatever you do, just don’t waste your keystrokes repeating yourself. Sharing a link is a great way to scale your productivity.
3. Set Up Bank of Useful Template
Along the same lines of using a shareable format, spend an afternoon setting up templates for things you do frequently. Maybe it’s creating a series of canned responses in Gmail for emails you send often (here’s a great tutorial on how to do that). Maybe it’s developing a presentation, spreadsheet, or proposal template. Or maybe it’s a daily calendar to minimize decision fatigue. Whatever it is that you do repeatedly, template it.
4. Get Smart About Second-Tier Relationships
For those close to you, this won’t work. But for those people in your network who are casual acquaintances, former colleagues, or past friends, consider a scalable approach to how you stay in touch with them. For instance, rather than sending periodic emails or texts to each person individually, start a newsletter, blog, or even a group chat (if the members know each other) to keep up to speed on each others’ lives. Using social media is another way to accomplish this.
5. Help Others Be Free
To crack the code on productivity, you need to rely on others. If you can set a vision, objectives, and goals — and then let your employees be free to act independently — you’ve just scaled yourself effectively. Rather than require approvals for every little thing (especially things that aren’t putting the company at major risk), empower people to make decisions for themselves by setting up clear expectations and a framework for success. To scale productivity you need to empower your teams to do the same.
6. Create High-Impact Training Materials
This point builds off the last one. As your business grows, you will inevitably hire new employees. To save you the time of training each employee down the road, start creating a library of training materials now. This could be as simple as writing out step by step instructions for tasks you hope to offload one day. You could enhance them with screenshots or even video clips shot on your mobile phone. These training materials don’t have to be extensive or fancy, but they will be worth their weight in gold when you share them with the new employees that walk through your door.
And there you have it! Six tips to scale your productivity.
Do you have anything to add to the list? If so, we’d love to hear it. Leave us a message on social.
We’re still looking for early beta users to try out Charli, are you looking to get more organized and start scaling productivity? Join us.