5 Common Productivity Barriers and How to Eliminate Them

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on May 12, 2010 in: Business - Plain & Simple, Time Management Strategies


Business owners face two blocks to great productivity each day. The first block is of their own choosing – they may or may not choose to procrastinate. The second block is a series of external barriers that keeps them from getting more done in the day. While the first blocks is completely in their control, the second block is seemingly outside of their control yet influences how much work gets done. I think these outside-of-your-control blocks are manageable, so in this blog post I’m going to talk about what you can do to eliminate them.

The first thing you need to do is figure out what your external blocks are. Typically, there are common ones and you might have others that are specific to your industry. I’ve listed the ones I see most frequently and I’ve suggested ways to deal with each.

Problem: Big piles of email
Solution: Start by unsubscribing to email newsletters you don’t read any more. There always seem to be some. Then use filters to get rid of persistent and annoying emails that aren’t spam but aren’t what you ever read. Then create folders for various kinds of emails that you need but don’t need to deal with right away (such as ezines or updates from teams, which you can read later) and use filters to auto-sort those emails based on the sender or the subject line to put them in the right folder.

Problem: Writer’s block
Solution: If you create content (perhaps for your blog, for online marketing, or for clients), you can’t afford to be delayed with writer’s block. Brainstorm subjects ahead of time (I like to brainstorm a month’s worth of content in advance). Then, a day or two before you write, open the document and write the topic as a title and put in a couple of bullet points or subheadings. These will percolate while you do other things and you’ll find it a lot easier to write when it comes time to get started.

Problem: Incoming phone calls
Solution: This can be a challenge because you want to be available for your clients but getting pulled off of projects can be costly. This might go against what you feel is good customer service but it’s good to set up some boundaries. Let them go to voicemail or have an assistant answer the phone. You should include in your voicemail message that you are returning calls at a specific time in the day.

Problem: Waiting for customers to review something
Solution: For someone who likes to cross stuff off a list, this might be frustrating for you if your clients end up reviewing things longer than you’d like. Manage these times up-front by setting project deadlines for you AND for the customer. Don’t be afraid to ping them if they are pushing their time limits. Realize that sometimes reviewing work can be overwhelming for customers so offer to help them. Or, if the customer tends to be slow in reviewing, send them smaller pieces of the project at one time.

Problem: Meetings that take longer than they need to
Solution: Presumably we’re talking about meetings that you are not in control of! This is easily solved by (politely) stating up-front how long you have to give to the meeting. For example, you might say, “Unfortunately I only have 30 minutes”. Also, ask for the agenda up-front to make sure that the meeting will be relevant to you and gracefully back out if it’s not.

There are plenty of barriers outside of our control that can keep us from being productive. But using a few people- and information-management techniques like those listed above, more productive work can be accomplished!

Let’s get productive!

Heather Recommends:

Running a business can be busy, challenging work. I can help you become more productive and successful. Find out how.

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