Business Styles and Personal Productivity

Productivity styles can mean the difference between entrepreneurial success and failure. I’ve taken some time to analyze this topic and provided some tips and techniques for overcoming some of these productivity inhibitors.

Scrappers are people whose offices and desktops look like modern art with a collage of post-its and paper scraps. While conventional wisdom accepts that a cluttered desk indicates a cluttered mind, disorganization can result in missed deliverables and over-commitment.

If this is your style, whether you are working solo or in a partnership, adopting a method that serves to remind you of what you have to get done can be useful. For example, if you have a partner, ask them to send you email reminders before important deadlines.

Pilers don’t throw anything away and file nothing. They can sometimes find what they’re looking for quickly but watching them sift through their piles of books and papers can be unnerving. Many years ago, I adopted the tactic of dating a hard copy document if I decided I needed to keep it after reading it. These days, most of my files are kept on my hard drives, and I still tend to precede the document name with a date, year first, if I’ve taken notes using notepad.

My work entails writing business proposals, marketing plans, project plans, website code, creating artwork, and researching business niches for good keywords. These sorts of files must be saved for some reason, even if the project has ended.

A couple of years ago, after a cross-country move, I spent several hours moving client folders off of removable storage and onto a secure location within my network. Using a standard folder hierarchy allows me to go directly to a client folder to locate content related to those projects immediately. My clients seem grateful for my organizational skills when they call to ask for a password that they’ve lost!

At the beginning of each month, I set aside a few hours to sift through file folders in my inbox and in the folders related to my clients. It takes time, but the time is well spent.

Multi-taskers have millions of things they hope to get done simultaneously and seem to take great pride in talking about their long lists. A downside for some can be that a lot of things get started, but none get finished.

If you are an entrepreneur with clients or own multiple websites, multi-tasking is essential, but if you’ve begun to notice that you are feeling frazzled or overwhelmed by your work, it is time to take a serious look at your short and long-term goals. Document all the things you have committed to do and organize them into doable chunks that are prioritized by relevance. Aside from family commitments, your most important thing to do ought to be money-making activities.

Interrupters are people who do not respect the fact that just because they have time to talk about something now doesn’t mean that you do. Because I am sensitive to this myself, I’ve always allowed the person whom I think I need to talk with know why I’d like to talk with them right away and never fail to ask if it is a good time for them. If not, I will negotiate a more agreeable time for them.

When someone unexpectedly requests my time, I’ve found that my best defence is to be honest with them, and if I don’t have time for the interruption, I force myself to refuse and also let them know when I’ll be free. If I feel that I can take a few minutes at the time of their request, I inform them up-front about my time constraints and hold to that schedule by curtailing the conversation or text chat when the boundary is reached.

Procrastinators claim to work well under pressure and use this as an excuse for putting things off to the last minute. Their real crime is that they work on things that they would prefer to work on, which pushes the less desirable and often more complicated tasks back and puts them at risk. Sure, we all are guilty of this sometimes, but the pursuit of business success doesn’t guarantee that everything you will work on will be easy to do or fun.

Unmanaged, a procrastinator on a project can create havoc for other members of that group. While their creativity and talents might be welcomed, they require firm guidance and follow-up from a more focused team member.

Socializers waste incredible amounts of time communicating in frivolous ways. With the advent of social networking, people I was fascinated by and lost a lot of time on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook profile updates and responses. In an effort to recover my productivity, I established an hour or so at the end of each day to research topics that I wanted to post to Twitter and set up those transmissions using one of the many tools available for timing them. Many of these sites allow you to update multiple social networking profiles at once and always include the highest quality sites.

I use a very similar tactic with both phones and Skype. Turning off the ringer during times of the day that I need to focus on avoids phone interruptions. Similarly, putting Skype on “do not disturb” allows me to see when someone is trying to contact me and choose whether or not an immediate response is required.

Meeting addicts are obsessed with convening to talk about what needs to be done. So much time can be spent talking about such things that forward progress is hindered, however. If you’re invited to attend a meeting, ensure that the organizer has a clear purpose and that an agenda is issued in advance. If the topics on the agenda do not mesh with what is critical to your immediate needs, take care of yourself and decline the meeting.

If you are in a meeting and have something to say, make sure to apply the “So What?” rule before opening your mouth. This may sound like a statement from a belligerent child, but it does force you to evaluate, in advance, whether what you have to say is relevant or useful to the group at the meeting.

E-mailers never use the phone to deliver a short update and love to broadcast their news to everyone on their list. It’s easy to ignore superfluous emails, but, IM broadcasting software has opened up a new arena for pointless intrusions. Without exception, everyone who uses a Skype broadcast tool to communicate useless BizOp updates has been blocked from my list.

Although it is “polite” to acknowledge communications, not all emails or IMs require a response, especially if it is an uninvited solicitation.

Crisis creators dwell in a state of anxiety, and everything is critical to them. The slightest problems can be exaggerated and their alarmist mentality can draw you in, if you are close to them.

Fire-fighting is a part of my business, at times, but keeping a cool head is what my clients seem to appreciate. If I cannot see an immediate way to help them with their problem, I will get offline with them and decide or do what needs to be done. If I am able to resolve the issue without another conversation, I will provide a real-time or email update apprising them of the cause and the solution. If not, I get back to them with a strategy, at the very least.

Packrats have never thrown away anything in their lives. This obsession has become a matter of public interest, but not all packrats are obsessive. Like clearing your desk on a regular basis, making sure that you are eliminating clutter from your office or household is important. If you are looking over stored items and realize you haven’t opened the box or envelope in years, then you might want to honestly evaluate whether or not you need to hang onto it. Heirlooms and sentimental keepsakes are excluded from this, of course.

As a funny aside, I once dated a fellow like this. The first time I visited his apartment, the ancient computer equipment and stacks of printouts astounded me. There was but a narrow path between spaces to a chair in the living room, his bedroom, and the kitchen. When he moved to a new place, all of these things wound up in his garage too.

Perfectionists are so interested in doing things perfectly that they often neglect to get them done. Impressively long lists and generous offers to contribute are part of their style. I have known people whose lists were so long that their lack of completion caused them distress. I recommended that they write shorter so things could be checked off quicker.

This actually could be related to the multi-tasker style and the suggestions that were made there are certainly applicable here. Organizing and prioritizing “to-do” items into chunks that are easily accomplished not only gives a sense of personal satisfaction but also demonstrates to your clients that you are capable of getting things done.

Workaholics can’t seem to think of anything but work and also can’t seem to avoid reminding people about how much they work. As an entrepreneur working from my home, it has sometimes been difficult for me to separate my work and personal life, but assuming dual expenses for internet, phones, utilities, and rent is not desirable to me.

I’ve learned to schedule “free time” for family, play, and personal projects figuring that, as human beings, we were given life so we could experience pleasure and fun too. I like to call these things mini-vacations, for all work and no play can make one dull, and this is the last thing any of us wants.

This is a fairly complete list of things that could be hindering your entrepreneurial output, but I’m sure that those of you reading this post can think of others. Any thoughts that you have and want to leave as comments are welcomed.

During the holiday season, when stress levels are higher, make sure to take care of yourself. Business success is critical to your survival, but so is your emotional health.

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