What small business owner or finance professional doesn’t wish there were more than 24 hours in a day? Short of bending the laws of physics, the best you can do is accomplish more in less time. We’ve got you covered with expert business productivity tips to help you do just that.
What is productivity in business?
Productivity in business is the amount of goods or services produced compared to the amount of resources invested in the task. These resources can include labor hours, raw materials, and capital, for example.
Chevanice Campbell, the self-nicknamed “Queen of Doing Less and Making More” and owner of The Productive Hub, which helps businesses streamline their workflows, boils this down even further: “I define productivity as basically how much time you take to do a particular task,” she says.
Productivity vs. efficiency
Productivity and efficiency are similar—but not the same. “Productivity speaks to how long it takes you to get stuff done, while efficiency speaks to how well you use your resources to get stuff done,” Campbell says. “For example, I work 4 to 5 hours a day because I'm super productive. Efficiency refers to how well I’m doing the things I tasked myself with during those hours.”
Types of productivity in business
Productivity can fall into several categories. Here are a few examples:
- Labor productivity compares the growth in goods or services produced with the growth in the amount of time worked.
- Multifactor productivity is a more complex measure of productivity that accounts for multiple factors that could impact output, such as energy and capital.
- Total productivity is an even more complex measure of productivity that accounts for all the factors that could impact output.
Why is business productivity important?
Business productivity is important because it can set you up for both short- and long-term success, as well as enhance your overall morale and well-being.
For starters, higher productivity translates to higher profits—not only because it lets you take on more work, but also because it can bolster your reputation. “When you’re productive, you can foster great relationships with your clients and business partners,” Campbell points out. “They can trust you to get the job done because they’ve seen you do it before.”
Productivity also lets you maintain a healthy work-life balance, she adds. The more productive you are, the more time you can spend catching up with loved ones, exercising, relaxing, and engaging in all the other self-care practices needed for you to stay motivated and avoid burnout.
How do you measure business productivity?
Campbell is a big proponent of tracking the time spent on each task. You can also measure productivity by the number of tasks completed, gross profit margins, and customer feedback.
What can a business do to improve productivity?
Ready to level up your business productivity? We’ve rounded up our favorite tips to help you get started.
1. Audit your systems
Every quarter or so, evaluate the systems you use for onboarding, day-to-day operations, marketing, and other aspects of your business to pinpoint opportunities for improvement, Campbell says. This way, you can save time managing these systems and focus on tasks that require more human thought and creativity.
Also, “listen to the questions your clients ask you,” Campbell adds. They can point to parts of your processes you may need to make smoother or clearer.
2. Document your standard operating procedures
“Everything you do, document it,” Campbell recommends. “That allows you to delegate it and be confident that the person you’ve assigned it to will do it in a timely manner—they’ll have all the steps laid out for them.”
If a video tutorial makes more sense than written instructions, leverage time-lapse technology to save time on production. “Record yourself with a time-lapse phone/video camera so that the routine is condensed into less than 30 minutes and allows others to see what you want to show without you needing to spend time editing content,” suggests Jared Kinyua, a BILL customer and founder of Kinyua Marketing Agency.
3. Automate manual tasks
Automating repetitive, manual tasks can also boost productivity. Try AI-based platforms like BILL, which automates bill pay, payment approvals, and other financial processes. Jitasa, a company that provides finance and accounting services to nonprofits, has seen major time savings, thanks to BILL.
“We had one client that required two full-time AP employees on the account that were responsible for managing the check process from printing to signing to stuffing envelopes,” says Joe Osterberg, COO at Jitasa. “Once we converted that client to BILL, we were able to move those employees to accounting roles—a much better use of their time for the company.”
4. Stay organized with digital solutions
By organizing data in one place, digital tools can help you pull up the information you need, when you need it, so you don’t waste time on wild goose chases. BILL, for example, lets businesses like Quicken access important info with just a few clicks. “The information I need is quickly and easily at my fingertips,” says Gary Hornbeek, CFO at Quicken. “That’s where the real ROI is—the time that our CFO, Controller, and I save by having information readily available.”
5. Track your time
Time tracking can improve business productivity by letting you spot inefficiencies and plan effectively. If you manage employees, knowing how long each of them takes to finish various tasks can help you more accurately gauge bandwidth and delegate tasks to those who can finish them quickly, Campbell says.
6. Block out your calendar
Take a cue from Campbell, and block out your calendar to protect the time you need to devote to high-priority tasks, without distractions. “My Google Calendar is linked to every scheduler that I have,” Campbell says, “so once I block time out on Google Calendar, you will not see that as a meeting option.”
7. Set clear goals, and break them down into actionable tasks
This can help you prioritize your tasks and sustain the focus you need to cross them off your list. Campbell suggests implementing a 3-task strategy: “I set 1 goal per day or week, and then I set 3 tasks that assist me in achieving that goal,” she says. “If it's not one of those 3 tasks, it's going to be benched until I reach my goal.”
8. Play to your employees’ strengths
“If you find what your employees are good at, focus on that,” suggests Amy Becker, owner of footwear retailer Becker’s Best Shoes, a BILL customer. “If someone’s not good at doing purse displays, don’t give them that job. Give them something they’re good at.” Chances are, they’ll not only do a better job at it—they’ll also finish it faster, helping improve workplace productivity.
9. Honor your peak hours
While we often uphold early birds as paragons of productivity, late-risers can be productive too. To maximize productivity, plan your day based on when you feel bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Campbell says. “Honor your peak hours,” she recommends. “If you do your best work from 8 pm to 12 am, make those your focus hours.”
10. Set flexible deadlines
It might sound counterintuitive, but flexible deadlines can increase productivity. They allow you more wiggle room to prioritize urgent, important tasks and account for unexpected changes or delays, without compromising the overall progress toward your goals. Plus, they minimize stress, improving focus. “If you know it will take 2 weeks to do something, give your team 3,” Campbell notes.
How BILL can help increase business productivity
In general, these hacks work by simplifying the systems that keep your business running. “Prioritize your systems,” Campbell says. “When you do that, it helps with your productivity.”
BILL can help with your productivity by streamlining your financial systems. With BILL’s financial automation, you can shift your focus from check runs and other manual financial processes to higher-priority goals, whether that’s building customer relationships or finding a better work-life balance. Sign up for BILL today to start spending more time on what matters.