The 3 Factors That are Limiting Your Productivity

Today I have a special video edition of Ask Evan. One of the most common questions I get asked is: How can I be more productive? There just never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. Today we’re going to talk about how you can eliminate, automate, and delegate your work to help you focus on your highest priority tasks, what I like to call CEO tasks.

Getting Started

It’s easy to improve your performance once you start measuring it.

The first thing you need to do is make a list of all the tasks that you do on a regular basis. This means everything from selling to customers, working with suppliers, invoicing, managing your cash flow, etc.

The second step is to bundle all your tasks into common themes. For example, making cold calls, attending networking events, and doing your email campaigns can all be under Sales & Marketing.  Paying your staff, billing your clients, and keeping track of your expenses can all be called Admin. Continue classifying all your tasks until you have 5-7 main categories.

The third step is to figure out how much time you’re spending in each category. For example, you might spend 20 hours per week on Sales & Marketing, 10 hours per week on Admin, and so on.

It’s easy to improve your performance once you start measuring it so make sure you go through this exercise to determine where your time is currently being spent. Once you know how your week is broken up we can work on freeing up your time for the CEO tasks.

From doing this exercise with many entrepreneurs I usually find that the one area we find that we spend too much time on is Admin. I’ve never met an entrepreneur who loves doing the admin side of their business. We tend to want to focus on tasks that we like, we find interesting, and that make us money. Who wants to spend time figuring out your tax calculations?

I’m going to show you how you can Eliminate, Automate and Delegate to reduce your time wearing the Admin hat so you can focus on your business growth. You can use these same steps for any area of your business but I’m going to focus on Admin because it seems to be the biggest area of concern.

Step 1: Eliminate

We tend to do things because that’s how it’s “supposed to be done” or because someone showed us how they do it – but that’s not always the best way. Sometimes the best option is to do nothing!

As business owners, we never seem to have enough time in the day to get everything done and yet other entrepreneurs seem to rocket to superstardom. How does that happen when we all have the same 24 hours? The answer starts with elimination.

Elimination is at the core of every successful business. You have to focus on what you’re really good at, what drives your business forward, and what you’re legally required to do in order to stay in business. Everything else should be eliminated.

Spending too much time on Admin? Look at the tasks you do on a regular basis. Do you actually need to do them? Yes we need to pay our staff, balance our books, invoice customers, etc. But are there other tasks that you’re doing that aren’t absolutely necessary?

We tend to do things because that’s how it’s “supposed to be done” or because someone showed us how they do it – but that’s not always the best way. Sometimes the best option is to do nothing!

He’s an example: I used to take detailed notes at all my meetings and then send a nicely formatted summary of meeting minutes to everyone. It took me almost as much time to create the minutes as it did to be in the meeting but I thought it was a high value add thing to do. After a particularly long meeting I decided not to send the minutes. You know what happened? Nothing. Nobody asked about them.

After swallowing my pride, I realized that most people didn’t even open my minutes and if they did they only took a quick glance at them. They kept their own notes and wrote down what was important to them. How many hours did I waste on these minutes thinking I was providing a high value service when nobody really cared? Too many to count but I don’t do it anymore. I instantly had less admin work and could spend more time growing my business.

Take a look through your list and see what you can eliminate. Just because everyone else does it or because you’ve always done it that way, it doesn’t mean you have to continue doing it.

CEO

Step 2: Automate

If you want to squeeze more hours out of your day without coming into the office any earlier the answer lies in automation.

We’ve already eliminated the non-essential tasks but, if you’re like most entrepreneurs, there are still a lot of tasks left on your Admin to-do list that have to get done. What we’ve got to do here is find you the tools that can get the same quality results (or better) in far less time.

A great example is accounting software. Depending on what study you believe between 65% and 80% of entrepreneurs don’t use accounting software.

That number blows my mind.

Instead entrepreneurs do all their accounting on a spreadsheet or by hand. Want a quick way to boost your productivity and save you hours of frustration? Buy an accounting software package.

For starters check out Simply Accounting. Using this software you can prepare bill payments and invoices, track cash flow, revenue and expenses, track customers and suppliers, automatically calculate government sales taxes, write cheques, and generate reports (it even supports multilingual functions).

How much time do you waste doing any of those tasks when it can all be done easily for you?

My favorite feature is that my bank allows me to download my bank and visa statements directly into the software from their website. No more manually typing in each expense into an Excel spreadsheet – it downloads everything in, categorizes everything for me, and I’m done!  Less time spent on admin and more time to focus on growing my business. I now put everything I possibly can on my Visa instead of paying cash just so that the accounting process is so much easier.

Simply Accounting starts at $69 and it’s one of the best investments you can make into your business.  You can even get a free trial that’s risk-free for 30 day if you want to test it out.

And that’s just one example. Look through all your admin tasks and see what software and tools you can use to make the tasks more automated. You need to raise your standards and value your time properly  if you want to be a successful entrepreneur. Making a $69 purchase is not an expense, it’s an investment into your business to give you better results and free up your time.

Step 3: Delegate

You can gain more hours by leveraging the time of other people – that’s the secret – you don’t have to do everything yourself.

The last step to successful time management for entrepreneurs is to delegate. Even after you’ve eliminated the non-essential tasks and automated other tasks through software tools, you’ll still have some final nagging tasks that need to get done.

What you need to ask yourself is: Am I the best person do to this?

For admin tasks, the answer is usually no. If something takes 5 hours away from your month every month then why not delegate that function so you can focus on your business growth? Yes, it’s an expense but you’re now a CEO and you need to be doing CEO tasks , not admin tasks.

If you only focus on the costs and do everything yourself you’ll always be limited in how much you can grow because you only have so many hours in a day.

You can gain more hours by leveraging the time of other people – that’s the secret – you don’t have to do everything yourself.

Look at your admin task list and see what’s left. Some of them might be things that require a specific skill set. For example, you might hire an accountant or a bookkeeper for some of your financial tasks. Other tasks you might be able to hire a part time worker to help you.

The first person I hired in my first software company worked for 1 hour per day for me on admin tasks. It was boring work that I didn’t enjoy but, more importantly, it also took up an hour of my time away from everything else. I didn’t have the budget to hire someone full time but I could afford one hour per day.

That freedom gave me an extra hour per day to spend growing my business which is exactly what I did. And then I could afford to hire him for more hours to take away even more admin tasks from my plate. You don’t have to start with full time staff.

I’ve had great success by using interns from various colleges and even high schools. I’ve also used odesk.com and elance.com for work that can be done by someone who doesn’t physically have to be in my office. Both are excellent resources and you can hire skilled labor for highly competitive wages – on an hourly basis or contract basis.

Effective delegation is the final step to freeing up your time to focus on the opportunities that are ahead of you and help you reach your full potential as an entrepreneur.

Summary

The order of Eliminate, Automate, Delegate is very important.

Eliminate is first. You don’t want to automate or delegate something that can be eliminated because it’s a non-productive task. Automate is next. You don’t want to delegate something that can be automated because it is more expensive and more prone to error.

Follow the steps I laid out to put your regular tasks into groups and then Eliminate, Automate, and Delegate everything away until you’re working only on the top priority CEO tasks.

It all starts with that first little step.

Thank you for joining me for another edition of Ask Evan. If you liked this video and want to see more please give it a thumbs up below. I’d also love to hear your thoughts if you leave a comment below the video and stay tuned for the next episode!

Readers, what have you done to improve your productivity? Have any simple changes led to dramatic results? I’d love to hear your thoughts if you leave a comment below!

About the Author

I #Believe in entrepreneurs.

92 Responses to “The 3 Factors That are Limiting Your Productivity”

  1. John Carter says:

    Great video Evan, good tips too. Outsourcing my bookkeeping was one of the biggest moves I made a few years ago, and my income drastically improved. Also helped change the way I view my financials and kept them current for lenders when refinancing etc.

    Keep up the great work Evan, you’re the king of effective and efficient productivity!

    John Carter
    http://www.JohnCarter.ca

    1. Thanks John – I appreciate the feedback! It’s great to hear your story as well!

  2. Jay says:

    That was good.

    Jay

  3. Great job again, Evan. I agree with everything you shared here and I ended up getting a good accountant as well as a bookkeeper when I first started my business. I think another good time saver is when you speak about changing your thinking style from admin to running the business. Lots of folks also get lost in e-mail so while it’s important to answer e-mail, it’s also good to delegate certain times to respond to it instead of just living to click the reply button. Your 3 ways to get focused and categorized are not hard to do, but in sharing this tutorial and your personal examples will help trigger quite a few ideas for others. Thanks for sharing it.

    1. I appreciate the insights John – I might have to do a follow up one on email! Great point!

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  7. Julien N. Buenavides says:

    great tips sir, very interesting!

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  9. John Carter says:

    Great video on entrepreneurship, and productivity. http://lnkd.in/KgrCZs

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  11. Anh says:

    Great Video!This will surely help me a lot.

    Cheers!

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  15. gyam dhendup says:

    hi evan
    I enjoyed this article and it was very insightful. good tips. how can i get the software simply accounting. i wish u can help me. here in my country bhutan very difficult to transit to buy on line because of payment process rgds gyam

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    1. Thanks Talesh – great to see you on Twitter!

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  19. Hernan L. Velarde says:

    It’s so great Sir Evan! You’re very generous in giving nuggets of wisdom to many entrepreneurs! Keep up the best job ever! It’s motivating! It’s so lasting! God bless u evermore!

    1. No problem Hernan – Glad you enjoyed!

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  22. Raphael says:

    Fantastic! Let me try to translate it into actions

    1. Good luck Raphael – let us know how it works out!

  23. Another excellent video with time saving tips from Evan Carmichael
    http://bit.ly/eNIVvX http://fb.me/H62bWs93

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  25. Memory says:

    Keep up the good work Evan, the tips you have provided make a lot of sense and i have just realized how much time i waste on unnecessary things.

    1. That’s great to hear Memory – time for a change!

  26. Thato Molise says:

    As an M.D. of my business, thank you very much Evan. This has been very useful to me. I have just realized that I have been wasting time for the past 12 months of my new business. “Eliminate, Automate, Delegate” fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I’m glad I could help Thato – make the next 12 months great!

  27. Jaime says:

    Hi Evan

    Thanks for this insightful clip, my business is a year old & I have noticed that it can only grow if i delegate certain tasks. I now have a part time sales person and a freelance accountant/bookkeeper. This has assisted me in landed an extra large client and given me the time to focus on more importnat things. Still just have to find someone who will handle the marketing.
    Thanks a mil, your clips & emails always help.

    Kind regards,
    Jaime

    1. Congrats Jaime on the progress! You’re already ahead of most entrepreneurs. You will find the marketing person that’s right for you.

  28. RT @EvanCarmichael: The 3 Factors That are Limiting Your Productivity http://tiny.ly/EJbg

  29. anjaniveer solanki says:

    It’s so great Sir Evan! You’re very generous in giving nuggets of wisdom to many entrepreneurs! Keep up the best job ever! It’s motivating! It’s so lasting! God bless u evermore!

    1. Thanks Anjaniveer – I hope you can apply these lessons!

  30. I loved the the ask Evan video. I definitely vote for more

    1. Great to hear Charles – I’ll work on it!

  31. alexander mensah says:

    great job EVAN,i suppose and suggest you do more,your articles is really inspiring and boosting me.it has reflected positively in all my actions i have taken.i have now thought delegation is really effective in all organizational department,since i have practiced it and it has worked positively in many aspects.keep on doing the great work,EVAN! we are behind you.

    1. Thanks for writing in Alexander – as long as you guys keep enjoying the content I’ll keep creating it! Deal?

  32. Okecho says:

    Thanks, my life has imporved today

    1. Okecho – I’m really happy to hear – time to go out and make some positive changes!

  33. abrham cole says:

    hi,
    great impact Evan, but i must confess that i dont think the whole of the 3 factors works in all market,
    like for instance u not sure of who to deligate ur account and workflow to, sotherefor u try to run them all, expecially if u re a starter,

    maybe u want to make a tutorial to solve beginners challenges

    1. Abraham – the key is to start small – as I mentioned in the video, the first person I hired was for 1 hour a day. That freed up an extra hour of my day to grow my business. Then I could make more to afford to hire him for more time. You don’t have to start off spending lots of money. Good luck!

  34. I agree that eliminating non-value/low-value work should be done much more often. Automating makes a great deal of sense though I would generalize it to process improvement. Automation is great but really I think that is probably a specific for of process improvement (that is wise, but maybe limiting).

    I also think there is an important area for people to think about – new ideas. Spending more time on something might seem counter-productive to productivity improvement. It takes time after all. But one of the things I first found when looking at using internet technology to improve performance was that we had new opportunities that were not feasible previously. People often focused just on how to improve what we had done. People forgot to look at things we didn’t pursue before that were now possible. In a similar way I think it is smart to look for new things to improve productivity. Maybe you would get a big productivity improvement by coaching someone – or by being coached yourself. Or by reading about how to apply successful management improvement strategies that are too often ignored. Or…

    1. Great feedback and thanks for sharing your insights on new ideas!

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  36. Nick Temple says:

    RT @BeUnreasonable: RT @evancarmichael: The 3 Factors That are Limiting Your Productivity http://tiny.ly/EJbg

  37. Balaji says:

    Hi Evan,

    This is my first comment for your work, really superb.

    I have a comment to be discussed with you personally, is it possible to give your peronal mail id,pls….

    Keep on motivating us,,,

  38. Nada says:

    thaaanks a lot
    It’s great video

  39. sikandar says:

    great video

  40. Sharon says:

    Excellent video Evan! A great value for all entrepreneurs!

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  43. simbi evidence says:

    thanks a lot for your video,keep on

  44. Alfreda says:

    Thank you Evan for this particular video. It was a big help, and I intend to utilize all of the wonderful information.

    1. Great to hear Alfreda – thanks for writing in and good luck with your business!

  45. jenny says:

    It’s a tricky business to be the most productive you can be in the smallest time frame possible. No entrepreneur wants to spend 12 hours a day working. Isn’t that why we are working for ourselves in the first place -to live a life that isn’t dominated by working day and night? At least that is why I choose to work for myself. I think the above tips are helpful to get you thinking about how you can be most efficient and productive while growing your business. I like to have a ‘to-do’ list but write down one thing from the list at a time on a small piece of paper that I place next to my computer. I then stay focused on one thing, and one thing only. Ideally it should be a CEO task…now it’s time to figure out what I can outsource to someone else. Good advice, Evan!

    1. Thanks for the comment Jenny – interesting tip about actually writing something down on paper to help make you more productive with your computer tasks!

  46. GT Bulmer says:

    Eliminate; Automate; Delegate: That says it all right there! Thanks for the vid and the text article, Evan. Great insight and tips to help us refocus our priorities and our efforts and get on a more productive track.

    I appreciate Jenny’s note about notes, too. When I find my productivity slipping and my focus waning, I write a NEW post-it note of my top priorities for that day and keep it on or beside my computer. It’s amazing what a visual reminder and a list of targeted tasks can do to improve your efforts!

    :) GT Bulmer
    Affiliate Power Central

    1. Thanks GT – it’s really interesting to hear these stories about using pen and paper to keep you focused with your online tasks. Thanks for sharing your story – I’m sure others can learn from it as well!

  47. RT @EvanCarmichael: The 3 Factors That are Limiting Your Productivity http://bit.ly/efT9D8

  48. Mal Tindle says:

    Hi Evan,

    Thanks for a great article and video on The 3 Factors That are Limiting Your Productivity. I think that no matter whether you are self employed like myself or a CEO with staff, it is so important to manage your time so as to maximize the benefit to your business.

    Your expression Eliminate; Automate; Delegate is easy to remember and will certainly stick in my mind. There are many good business ideas out there but they will ultimately run into difficulty without proper planning and execution and these tips will certainly help.

    regards,

    Mal.
    work from home gems

    1. Hi Mal – thanks for the feedback. I’m glad I was able to make an impact!

  49. […] The 3 Factors That are Limiting Your Productivity by Evan Carmichael Elimination is at the core of every successful business. You have to focus on what you’re really good [at], what drives your business forward, and what you’re legally required to do in order to stay in business. Everything else should be eliminated. … Just because everyone else does it or because you’ve always done it that way, it doesn’t mean you have to continue doing it. … The order of Eliminate, Automate, Delegate is very important. […]

  50. RT @EvanCarmichael: The 3 Factors That are Limiting Your Productivity http://tiny.ly/EJbg

  51. Daniel says:

    Good post. As an engineer I only recently grasped that delegation is about improving productivity not nessessarly about ‘management’.

    1. Hi Daniel – there definitely is a human component to delegation. You have to factor in that you’re dealing with a person who has emotions, fears, and their own goals. They’re also going to make mistakes. You should always look to eliminate and automate first and then look at delegating the rest. Good luck!

  52. mentor says:

    thanks for your motivational writeups i have gained alot.God bless you.

    1. I’m glad you enjoy them! More to come soon!

  53. Thank you very much for the educative information you send out to the world.

    1. No problem – I’m happy you’re finding it valuable!

  54. You amaze me with the knowledge that you have Evan, I’m going to purchase that software so that I can be more productive. Thanks again.

    1. Good luck Keller – let me know how it works out!

  55. Orando says:

    thanks Evans… this is really priceless advice.. for us who are just embarking own on our entrepreneurial journey…

  56. Al K says:

    Great article Evan! Just one recommendation on your example of skipping “note taking.” The key here is efficiency, although spending time on nice formatting and perfect grammar may be a bit unnecessary, keeping track of action items, responsibility and due dates are key to ensuring there is value for participants spending time in your meeting. The worst thing about meetings are when people leave and forget all about what was discussed or what was actioned making the entire meeting a waste when a follow-up meeting is required to revisit the same topic. If what you’ve spent an hour or two talking about isn’t worth capturing in a few bullets sent to the group as a summary, sometimes I would question the value of the hour or two spent on the topic.

    1. Great insights – thanks for sharing Al!

  57. 3 Factores que están limitando tu productividad (inglés) http://ow.ly/5F01Y

  58. Richard says:

    The information is great but the music in annoying. At times the music made it difficult to understand your words.

  59. Bobbie says:

    Thanks, Evan, for the information. It helps to validate that I’m moving forward in the right direction.

    Bobbie

    1. Happy to help – good luck Bobbie!

  60. Alistair says:

    Hi Evan, instead of filing i prefer to set up a specific email address so i can just forward relevant emails to that inbox and check later when needed.

    Thanks for the consistent e-peptalks!

    1. Thanks for sharing Alistair!

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  62. Excellent justification!! I’m really a new comer to this distinct but adore the process.

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