Tuesday, April 3, 2012

4 ways to slow down and become a better business owner

Hey business owners, it's quiz time! Do you move from one task to the next without finishing what you started? Do you jump out of meetings to answer calls to your cell phone? Do you respond to emails while on conference calls? Do you scarf down lunch while responding to emails while on conference calls?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you're like most business owners. It doesn't make you crazy (at least, not necessarily ...). But it certainly makes you crazed. Operating this way nearly always carries a hefty price tag.

For starters, multitasking has repeatedly been found to lower productivity, and in some case, by as much as 40 percent. Racing through 14-hour marathon days burns you out, which reduces your mental sharpness and clarity. This increases the chance you'll make mistakes, and decreases your ability to think creatively and strategically. Your team is also effected. They will either try to model your behavior or, worse yet, reduce their effort because they conclude it is impossible to keep up.

But I probably don't have to tell you this. You know first-hand the detriment that a harried work life can have on your energy, sanity, and personal life. You also probably know that during your slower days, you're able to concentrate better and get more accomplished. It's not science. The best way to fuel improved productivity, innovative thinking, and smooth business operations is not to go, go, go, but to SLOW DOWN. Here are four tactics worth trying:

1. Clear your mind and desk. It's difficult to plan what you want to accomplish when your mind is rife with to-dos, papers are piled on your desk, and your inbox is bursting with unread mail. Organize it. Get rid of clutter. Then think about and decide what you want to do.

2. Set early wins. Taking small steps to reach your goals will enable you to generate positive, ongoing momentum in the right direction. If you want to close more sales, for instance, try scheduling specific time blocks to pick up the phone and call the people you've been meaning to call, write the people you've been meaning to write, and schedule the meetings you're not getting to because you're too busy reacting to fires.

3. Don't confuse activity with productivity. Raise your hand if you think you're an adrenalin junkie. Many business owners are. They often get immediate satisfaction by going fast and doing a lot at once. But just because you're busy, it doesn't mean you're accomplishing your goals. Realize that you might not be as effective or efficient as you could be if you just slowed down, and took a break to regroup and do the task better.

4. Encourage your employees to slow down too. This will help you create a more productive, cohesive organization. Explain to your employees why it's important to slow down at work and share your methods for doing so. Invite suggestions from your team on how to improve productivity, decompress, and re-energize. Hold a fun event for employees or treat everyone to free ice cream at lunch to foster break time.

You probably have heard the saying, "I don't know where I'm going, but I'm sure making good time." Resist this idea. Instead, strive to know where you are going and make good time. I'll leave you with one important reason why, in the form of a question: Are you more attracted to and willing to follow people who appear erratic and frantic, or people who appear calm and centered, and know where they're going? What kind leader do you need to be?

I encourage you to try these approaches for slowing down, and see how they affect your productivity and ability to reach your goals. And please let us know how they work out for you! We'd love to hear how things are going, and other ideas you have for slowing down to work smarter and more efficiently.