Becoming a solopreneur can be exhilarating, especially when growth is high and there appears to be no end in sight as to how far you can go. But the truth is, there’s only so much you can do by yourself. In most cases, in order to keep growing, all solopreneurs will eventually need to hire a team.
The only problem is: Hiring more people doesn't always equate to more work getting done. Even the founder may find themselves being less productive after you add people into the mix, as you increasingly become distracted with small, non-revenue-generating tasks.
So, what’s a business owner to do?
To start, you can try the productivity management tips in this short guide.
What is productivity management?
Productivity management refers to any action or process that a business implements in order to increase the productivity of its employees.
It requires a manager (or business owner) to prioritize tasks and delegate responsibilities to ensure tasks are completed on schedule and as efficiently as possible.
Implementing productivity management requires great organizational skills. It can also be helpful to use project management tools that can help you streamline how you assign and track tasks for yourself and your team so that everyone remains productive.
Why is good productivity management important?
Being a great productivity manager isn't just a nice-to-have skill — it’s a must-have if you want your business to succeed in the long term.
Case in point: According to Gallup's State of the American Workplace, only 33% of employees are engaged at work. But at the top-performing organizations, 70% of employees are engaged. What this tells us is that productive workers translate over into increased profitability and growth for companies.
After studying 2.7m employees across over 112k workplaces, Gallup found the following benefits of highly engaged workers:
- Customer loyalty and engagement increases
- Profitability goes up
- Productivity boosts
- Turnover rate decreases
- Safety incidents reduce
- Shrinkage caused by theft goes down
- Employee absenteeism reduces
- Quality increases
- Well-being of employees increase
- Organization citizenship (AKA participation) goes up
Personal productivity management
What better place to start improving business productivity than with the founder? As the business owner, you’re responsible for setting the tone for your leaders, as they then do for the members of their teams.
By staying on top of your most important tasks, it enables your team leaders to do the same. Having a CEO that’s slow to respond to requests and approvals causes unnecessary bottlenecks. Don’t be that type of boss.
You can improve personal productivity management by:
- Setting clear and measurable goals: Have a vision for your business? Start by creating operational goals that contribute to this vision. Then create goals for yourself that help you contribute to these organizational goals.
The SMART goals framework is a great place to start, as it will help you create goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. In addition to keeping you focused, this will also make it easier for you to determine whether a particular task should be handled by you or someone else on your team.
- Breaking down large projects into smaller tasks: Don’t get overwhelmed by the size of a project. By breaking it up into multiple, more manageable chunks you can avoid becoming overwhelmed and keep yourself moving forward.
For example, you might break up a writing project into research the first day, writing the next day, and editing the third day. Alternatively, if you know you have a large investor presentation at the end of the month, you might have an easier time with things by completing one slide each day until it is done.
- Prioritizing tasks: Figure out which tasks need to be completed first to reach your goal. Determine this using a rubric that rates each task based on urgency and whether they must be done by you or whether they can be delegated to someone else.
- Establishing a daily routine: Having a regular schedule can help you prevent disorganization and chaos. You’ll know exactly what to do at the start of each day and how to wrap it up, so you never over- or under-work. This is especially important in the early days of transitioning from solopreneur to entrepreneur.
- Using task management tools: Take advantage of project management tools, such as Trello or Asana, that empower you to track tasks in one place and have better visibility over the progress you and your team make toward your various goals. In addition to simply making management easier, checking items off a to-do list and seeing progress in real time can be very motivating.
- Taking breaks: While it may be tempting to always be “on,” in most cases that’s a surefire path to burning out. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to take breaks throughout the day in order to take a breather and reset your energy. You can take a walk, eat a snack, or even take a cat nap (if you work from home).
- Delegating tasks: Don’t bite off more tasks than you can chew. Part of running a business is delegating tasks and resisting the urge to micromanage. If your plate is full, give to the needy by sharing tasks with your in-house team or by outsourcing to freelancers or other organizations.
Assign tasks based on your strengths and interests — this will increase your engagement and satisfaction with the job, which means you’re more likely to complete it. Likewise, ensure that you are working on the higher-value tasks that are more likely to move the needle for your business.
While being productive is great, you want to avoid what’s called toxic productivity. This is when you take on a perfectionist and overachieving mindset that can lead to overworking yourself to the point of burnout.
Remote employee productivity management
Managing a team that works from home some or all of the time is easier when you have the right setup. It may feel like you’re leading blindly, but with the right processes, you can maintain visibility into what’s happening with everyone.
For example, you can set up team meetings at specific intervals to discuss progress and problems. But don’t overdo it — meetings are the bane of remote work and can reduce the productivity of your team.
If it’s something you can say in a Slack message, email, or Loom, then use that medium. Async is often the best option for remote teams, since everyone might not operate on the same days and hours.
Here’s an example of how you can set up your remote employee productivity management system:
- Create a list of tasks: Outline the tasks that need to be completed and assign them to team members. If one member of your team must complete a task before another member of your team can do their part, make sure that this is communicated. This way, everyone knows what to focus on — and it keeps them accountable for their work.
- Set reasonable deadlines: Having deadlines helps keep people motivated and focused on getting the job done in a timely manner. Provide plenty of time for tasks, but not so much that it takes away from the overall productivity. And not too little that it stresses out your team, and they produce mediocre work. Deadlines should be aggressive, but reasonable.
- Track progress: There’s no way to tell how far you’ve come if you don’t track your progress. With that in mind, using a task management tool like Trello or Asana can help you track progress, ensure everyone’s on track, and to stay informed of your team’s performance.
- Provide feedback: Give constructive criticism when needed, and ensure your team knows their efforts are appreciated. A positive work environment is essential for productivity and morale.
- Reward success: Recognize when team members have done a great job, and reward them with bonuses and incentives. This can motivate them to continue working hard and remain productive. Depending on the size and maturity of your business, you might even implement a formal structure for determining who gets rewards and when.
Productivity management solutions
Setting yourself up for success with productivity management is possible when you have the systems to back up your processes.
Here’s a glimpse at the different types of productivity management solutions you can use in your business:
- Time-tracking software: Don’t just track time to see hours worked. Identify areas where you spend too much unproductive time and cut it down, so you can use your time more wisely. Many task management tools (see below) include timers that you can start when you begin a task and stop when you complete a task. This can help you see how long it actually takes you and your employees to complete tasks, which will empower you to set more realistic deadlines in the future.
- Task management tools: Use a project management tool — such as Clickup, Teamwork, Asana, Trello, or Monday.com — to track progress and assign tasks to team members.
- Automation tools: Automate low-value, repetitive tasks to save time for more important work. For example, you might automate your invoicing process with FreshBooks or Bonsai. You might be surprised by how many tasks (or portions of tasks) you can automate in order to free up your and your team’s time.
- Scheduling software: Create a schedule for yourself and your team that outlines when tasks need to be completed and when breaks should be taken.
- Communication software: Stay in touch with your team using videoconferencing, instant messaging, and other communication tools designed for remote teams. Determine what works best for your team and lean into those communication styles.
- Team collaboration software: Collaborate with your team in real time using virtual whiteboards, shared documents, and task boards to keep everyone on the same page.
- Outsourcing: Build a team of freelancers you can use, such as virtual assistants you assign certain tasks that don’t need your attention, so you can focus on more important duties.
Productivity management tools
Having the right tools streamlines implementing your productivity systems and processes. So here’s a look at the best productivity management tools for small businesses:
- Asana: Project management tool for managing tasks and workflows with your team. It has features like tagging members, leaving comments, and setting due dates. Users can also choose various views, like Kanban boards, lists, and timelines, to make visualizing tasks easier.
- Calendly: Scheduling tool that allows you to select dates and times (and time frames — 30-minute slots) you’re available. Then, share your link with others so they can choose which of your available times to have a call or meeting.
- HubSpot’s Marketing Hub: Suite of marketing tools that allows your team to collaborate and execute content marketing, SEO, ad management, social media, email marketing, conversion, and other strategies. Many options to automate tasks.
- Slack: Communication tool to talk in real time through instant messaging, voice, and video calls. It also offers file-sharing capabilities, so businesses can store important documents in one centralized place.
- Loom: Screen recording tool for creating videos with just a few clicks. Create instructional videos or sales demos for teams and customers without video editing skills or software. Push record, do your video or screen capture, and hit stop. Then it’s ready to share using a link.
- Boomerang: Email productivity tool to schedule emails for specific times in the future and receive reminders when messages need responding to. This ensures you’re managing correspondences with clients or colleagues in a timely manner. Available for Outlook and Gmail.
- Google Workspace: Business applications for creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets, presentations, calendars, folders, and emails with clients and teams. Can be more efficient compared with saving files locally on your machine.
- Zoom: Video conference tool for hosting virtual meetings and recording them to watch later. There’s also screen sharing and other collaboration features to make remote meetings more efficient.
- Toggl: Time-tracking tool to calculate billable hours for each team member, so you can pay them accurately. It has offline tracking and delivers reports to managers. It even integrates with dozens of platforms and offers features to screen and hire candidates. Goodbye, time-wasting spreadsheets.
- Otter.ai: Audio and recording software you can invite to team virtual meetings to record conversations and then transcribe them. It also has tagging, note taking, and comments to make identifying and organizing meetings easier. Plus, it has AI that can generate meeting summaries.
- Evernote: Research tool to keep all your ideas in one place. Comes with features like screen capture, note taking, task scheduling, writing to-do lists, and accessing everything from your desktop or mobile device. The tagging system also makes organizing all of your notes easier.
Don’t allow poor productivity to hurt your business’s success. With the right tools and processes, you can keep yourself and your teams on track. But not every solution is the right one — so test these platforms to see what works for your business.