How to Work Less
Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights
Are you a leader or business owner who dreams of earning more money and working fewer hours? It feels like an impossible conundrum but a healthy injection of systems into your business is all it takes.
Most leaders and business owners work ‘in’ their business too much. They are absorbed in day-to-day tasks associated with branding, PR and product development that will only provide them with short-term gains. Their time is more wisely spent ‘on’ their business, securing finance to create stability and growth.
So, how do you get there?
Embracing a systems mindset
It has been reported by some experts that a 10% effort for 30-90 days to improve your business’ productivity equates to a 50 to 80% reduction in work over a lifetime.
The benefits of having a productive workforce who work smarter not longer means you’ll maximise profits, pay higher salaries and offer better company perks. It’s a win:win solution where both you and your employees are happy and efficient.
So what’s the drawback?
It involves effort and that’s the one thing most people are turned off by. However, if you can commit to making the change and getting over the first three difficult months, you’ll discover that your business is the most successful it’s ever been and that your workforce will be the happiest it’s ever been.
I’ve mentioned before that systems underpin productivity. Most people don’t realise the true benefit of systems. They’ve either never used them or used ones that haven’t worked well. Documenting your business’ key systems is like building assets that you can use for the long term.
Organic vs mechanical systems
Most businesses operate using organic systems. An organic system goes something like this: a phone rings in your sales office, anyone can pick up the phone and take the call. Sometimes you make a sale during the call and sometimes you don’t.
If you want to work less you need to move away from organic systems and towards building mechanical systems. When you use mechanical systems the scenario outlined above would be quite different. There would be a dedicated person receiving the call and they would have a ‘script’ to work from so that the right information was captured and every conversation finished strongly.
The healthcare industry is a good example of how well mechanical systems can work. When you call your dentist to make an appointment they will ask you a series of questions to ensure you are seen by the right person at the right time and receive the correct treatment.
The more mechanical systems you can create, the more successful your business will be. By documenting your systems you will uncover the pitfalls of how you are doing business today so that you can make improvements and be able to sacle your business in the future. In short you will spend less time working ‘in’ your business and more time working ‘on’ your business.
The ‘how to’ of systems design
Time is the magic ingredient here. Commit the time to improving your business and you’ll reap the rewards in the long term.
Here’s how to do it:
1) Mindset – to achieve anything you have to have the right mindset and in this instance it’s a growth mindset i.e. a belief that you can be better and achieve greater things.
2) One pager – create a one page document for your business that identifies why you do what you do, how you do it and what you do. Then write down what the game plan (strategy) is for your business for the next year and beyond. Knowing this information will help you focus on the next step.
3) Systems documenting – this is the biggest piece of work you need to. Now you have identified where you’re headed you can focus on the systems that will get you there and write them in a way that will achieve your game plan. Don’t forget, they need to be mechanical rather than organic so double-check they are repeatable and scalable.
Three things to keep in mind
As with most things in life committing to using systems is a way of life rather than a five-minute fix.
Here are three things you can do to keep your good habits going:
1) Capture your wins – keeping people motivated can be hard, especially when times are tough. Make sure you record and celebrate successes along the way to foster team spirit and keep people focused on the goals that lie ahead.
2) The small stuff counts – writing systems is tough and even if people are enthusiastic at the start enthusiasm can wane over a period of time. So keep a project plan, break down big pieces of work into smaller chunks and schedule time in to work on one thing a week. Those small actions will contribute to larger successes in the long term.
3) Keep it simple – systems management isn’t a one off task. Make sure they are written down clearly and simply so that anyone in your business can update them and improve them in the future. This will empower your team to create positive change and build a culture of continuous improvement.
If you need further advice, get in touch via LinkedIn.
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