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The First Place to Look for Efficiency

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I met a client at his office a few months back. He was full of ideas. He was going to grow the business in a myriad of ways. He would use technology to turbo charge productivity. He would invest in sales training to make the client experience flawless. He would nail his pricing for once and for all, to make sure the business was completely profitable. Energy flowed with every word. His ambition was infectious.

The only obstacle is none of those initiatives would make the slightest difference until he solved his biggest problem; self-management.

Sometimes I’ve been in to undertake the initial analysis that begins any coaching work I do with a business. Together, we look at the business from all important angles, seeking to find the blocks that might stop/ be stopping the business from growing.

Sometimes the blocks are small, no more than 2mm adjustments left or right. Often (so often!) it comes down to the way that the people in the business are working together or, to be more accurate, how they are not working together.

We live in a world of distraction. For all the benefits of technology and the communications revolution, it’s harder than ever before to isolate ourselves from the digital noise of life. The problem is; to produce great work, weHAVE to isolate ourselves just to be able to think clearly.

Many sports fans will be familiar with the concept of flow. Some also know it as “being in the Zone”. It’s that state of unconscious competence that occurs when suddenly you find yourself sinking every basket, making every pass or hitting every shot without thinking.

It happens in work too. It’s those moments when you find yourself nailing every client appointment, chewing through strategy planning at double speed or smashing out an SOA in half the usual time.

Thing is though flow isn’t something that just happens. It takes time – around 30-40 mins on a average – to reach that state of complete focus. And if something interrupts you in that period? It’s back to the beginning, which is why you sometimes have those days where it feels like nothing of any substance has gotten done.

This is important stuff! If you’re going to grow a business quickly, you need to be able to think, analyse and strategise with an uncluttered mind. The reality for most business owners is they have unknowingly created the exact working environment that will make sure they and their employees can’t do that.

Thankfully, a few mindful adjustments can make the difference

1. Structure your week – There is no way in a month of Sunday’s you’re going to manage your business if you can’t plan for what’s happening from day to day. Not having a structure to the working week is like putting random ingredients in a pot at random times and expecting a gourmet stew. Instead, set aside time on a Monday for the team to come together and plan the week, and time on a Friday for debrief. Work out which days are client-days and which are for working on the business. Then stick to it at least 80% of the time and watch productivity soar.

2. Adopt a system of non-distraction – Open plan offices are the Devils’ gift to focus, giving license for interruption far too easily. Whilst social engagement is hugely important in a working environment (and I wouldn’t suggest going back to cubicle nation for a second!), everything has a place. Establish guidelines around when someone can be interrupted and when they can’t. Using a “do-not-disturb” flag or some other marker can work well. Even better, have one or more areas of the office set aside as areas where people can go where they need solace to work

3. Remove temptation altogether – I do all my business planning sessions offsite. Firstly because it gets people outside their comfort zones, but secondly because it takes them away from all those office distractions that are so easy to get drawn back into. Frankly, when it’s a big important piece of work, getting well away from the office is a strategy that gets results.

4. Manage your diaries – If something needs to get done, book out time in your diary as you would any other appointment. Simply speaking, if you don’t commit time to a specific action that needs doing, it’s very unlikely it’ll happen. Seeing as most of us “live” in our diaries from a work perspective these days, it’s the most effective way to manage it.

5. Find out where you spend your time – Sometimes there are those times when you just can’t work out where time has gone. If this is the case, it’s time for some deeper analysis. Apps like RescueTimeTime Doctor orHours will analyse where you or your team are REALLY spending your time. Plus, when it comes to doing your pricing, you’ll have a truly accurate picture of how long things take.

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