How To Plan Now For The Next 10 Years

Business author Rich Allen says that running a successful business requires a clear idea of where you want your business to be 10 years from now. It means having your own North Star that not only inspires you, but inspires your team as well. Essentially, if you want to get somewhere and you want people to follow you there, you have to visualize it first; you can’t be a leader without vision.

While that seems like obvious advice, the problem is, most of us are too busy tackling the everyday challenges to sit back and look at what we’re doing and where we want to be. Buried under the daily pressures of running a business, most small-business owners can barely think six months ahead, let alone 10 years.

Here, we are sharing Allen’s four simple steps to picture your business a decade in the future, and chart the best course to get there.

1. Start with the mountaintop. Imagine your business 10 years from now. Write down all the particulars you can of what your business looks like. There are no right or wrong answers here. The point is to focus on your vision of your business in the future: where you want to go, and what you want it to look like. Don’t worry about whether it will actually turn out this way.

Think about:

  • How many team members you’ll have
  • What locations you’ll have
  • What products and services you offer
  • How your business is structured
  • What your ideal customer or client looks like
  • What kind of volume you’re doing

 

2. Back up five years. Once you have the 10-year vision in writing, back up halfway. In five years, where do you need to be in order to be on track to hit that 10-year point? Cover the same details, and write them down. For instance:

  • How many people are on your team?
  • Do you have half the locations as in 10 years?
  • Are you offering the same products as services as now, or the same as in 10 years?
  • Have you found your ideal customers yet?
  • Are you doing half the volume you’re doing in 10 years?
  • Are you still going into work every day? What’s your own life like in five years?

 

3. Back up two more years. Now that you have your five-year vision, take it back to the three-year version of your business. Ask the same questions, and think about whether or not your three-year vision backs up your five-year vision: are you on the right course? Where do you have to be in here years in order to achieve your five-year goals?

4. Back up to next year. Finally, flip the script entirely: You need to take a sharp look at the next year—and now you have a 10-year perspective to do it in. So ask yourself: where do I need to be next year to be on track to reach my three-year vision? Use the same criteria, and make sure it’s as specific as possible.

By starting at the top and working your way back, you’ve already set up your goalposts. And with a very specific outline of your one-year, three-year, five-year and 10-year vision, you can start to create a plan and structure for your business that will get you to each benchmark. The truth is, if you just go on about your daily activities and hope you’ll one day end up where you want to be, changes are, it won’t happen. Instead, plan out where you want to be and use a vision to guide you.

Source: Rich Allen helps create businesses with solid foundations, unique marketplace positions, reputable processes, high-performance team and a visionary leader. Prior to becoming an advisor, he was vice president of human resources for Texas Instruments, then division president/COO with Pella Corporation. His new book is The Ultimate Business Tune Up: A Simple Yet Powerful Business Model That Will Transform the Lives of Small Business Owners.

What Your Employees Really Want To Know About Change

Organizations are organic. They grow, shrink, shift and evolve to stay responsive to customers and the ever-changing business climate. Sometimes change is good and sometimes it’s not. Either way, change can affect people’s jobs and create a sense of uneasiness or fear.

Today, we’re sharing key tips for planning and implementing change from Liz Kislik, a contributor to HBR, who helps guide organizations through change.

Plan more time than you ever thought necessary to prepare the content, delivery and necessary follow-up. When communicating across your organization, you should expect to hold not just one initial “all hands” meeting or videoconference, but also a series of smaller team and individual conversations as follow-ups. Also, coordinate the timing of the announcements so that no one is caught flat-footed if the news is released at different intervals by individual managers and organization-wide outlets. Giving people multiple opportunities to take in and process the announcement is essential for thorough understanding; receiving the information from the right sources in the right sequence is crucial for credibility.

Equip all levels of management to explain the context. Provide training and rehearsal or role-play time to everyone who will need to communicate the message; don’t assume they’ll have the right instincts.

Describe the organizational pain, and how the new solution alleviates it. Instead of just announcing a disruptive change, give the background of what’s not working today and why the new plan is the best way to get to the desired outcome. Focus on how customers have been hurt, how the business is incurring extra expense, the negative brand impact—and how the change will help mitigate those problems.

Personalize both the impact and the resolution. If you don’t, employees may not understand which specifics apply to them, or even how the company is providing support or services to help them cope. For example, in the small group or individual meetings, be prepared with all the necessary details to answer personal questions immediately. Without this, you’ll create even more anxiety and aggravation as people wait for someone to work out the specifics you didn’t research in advance.

Give the affected people as many options and as much participation as you can. When they have choices—and the necessary information or support to make them—employees feel more respected and maintain more pride and autonomy. The closer people are to the work, the more likely it is that they’ll generate practical ideas. Kislik gives the example of one organization that was having financial difficulties and provided a series of meetings about cost-cutting measures that asked everyone to look for ways to help—even though they were adversely affected by some of the very measures they proposed.

Demonstrate humility and responsibility, not just authority. Many leaders mistakenly believe that they’ll be given a pass for shaking up people’s lives if they say they’re suffering over the decision or the disruption themselves. Even treating the problem as a shared responsibility can backfire and feel manipulative to employees. Instead, say, “I’m sorry I didn’t anticipate …” or, “I was too enthusiastic about x…” This shows that you take seriously the impact of the situation on others. You can’t prepare for every curveball, so if you don’t have the answer to a question, say something like, “Wow, that’s a question we didn’t think about, but it’s a good one. We’ll get back to everyone with an answer early next week.”

Whether announcing cost-saving measures, a company restructure or an acquisition, by carefully planning your communication and providing the right level of detail at the right time, you can support your employees through the process with transparency and authenticity.

Source: Liz Kislik helps organizations from the Fortune 500 to national nonprofits and family-run businesses solve their thorniest problems. She has taught at NYU and Hofstra University, and recently spoke at TEDxBaylorSchool. Request her free guide,

How to Resolve Interpersonal Conflicts in the Workplace, on her website.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

Retrain Workers Now For Your Future Business

Look around your organization. Do your employees possess the skills needed to lead your business into the future? Mostly likely there are a few but the tendency is to hire new employees who bring the needed skills. In fact, 62 percent of executives believe they will need to replace more than a quarter of their workforce between now and 2030 due to automation and digitization. However, “upskilling,” or teaching new skills to your existing employees, can be a better and more affordable option, while building engagement and longevity with them.

Upskilling programs can’t be one-size-fits-all. Each employee has a different learning style, a different schedule and, potentially, a large amount of information to learn. Herey, we’ll share suggestions for developing employee retraining programs from Daniel Newman, CEO of Broadsuite Media Group.

The Best Retraining Programs Engage and Teach. Studies have shown that the most effective training programs combine engaging elements with specialized training modules. These modules should have online options as well as in-person instruction that focuses on completing skilled tasks. This training should also include digital and physical simulations for real-world, hands-on education. Digitizing the process and using technology like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) can achieve effective results with lower cost to the company.

Personalized Learning For All. On top of engaging learning programs, technology can make it possible to tailor programs to the needs of specific individuals. Part of the capabilities of machine learning happens in the back-end where voice recognition and patterns live. As employees are going through the training program, it recognizes who is using the program and adapts to their specific needs. Employees can experience personalized learning that continues to adapt to their specific learning styles. They can also get real-time feedback based on their performance. This personalized learning fills those gaps on an individual level, boosting confidence and morale. This kind of tool replaces those boring modules that are a pain to implement.

Pattern Building For Retention. Learning is only the first step. After all, have you truly learned anything if you have no ability to recall that information and put it into practice? This is where training reinforcement through pattern building is essential. Most companies struggle with this, seldom reinforcing the information given to a new employee after the initial training.

To be effective, employees must practice these skills they have learned in order to retain and use them. Intelligent applications can be used to improve retention by helping employees to produce patterns throughout their daily work. Once a pattern is established, new techniques can be implemented without confusion and strain. It is all about retraining without huge effort on your end and a new possibility thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Measure ROI Through Learning Success. Using technology for reskilling and retraining allows organizations to gather data on both the employees and the training effectiveness. This data also allows the organization to determine the ROI per employee for retraining. This will help you tailor your program to meet the unique needs of your business while remaining productive, efficient and cost-effective.

Planning For The Future. As AI is permeating many aspects of our lives and businesses, digital transformation is taking hold and we must do everything in our power to keep up. Our employees are the future of our business and must be skilled in these areas of technology to keep us competitive. By starting now, you are ensuring your employees are receiving the education through retraining programs they require to be successful for themselves and for your business.

Source: Daniel Newman is CEO of Broadsuite Media Group, a principal analyst at Futurum and author of Futureproof.

Trust Your Notes, Not Your Memory

When it comes time for your annual review or to ask for a raise or promotion, you’ll need to back up your request with examples of your good work. If you’re in sales, it’s comparatively easy to track how you are doing. But, if you are in customer service, for example, charting those accomplishments requires more attention. And, with the fast pace of daily work, it’s hard to find the time to stop and document achievements when you’re constantly in motion.

Today, we’re sharing these tips from blogger and personal finance writer Alicia Adamczyk on how to save and document great work throughout the year.

Take Contemporaneous Notes. Make notes in Google docs or the OneNote app, or write them in a journal book documenting each time you have a major “win” at work and when you routinely do tasks above your pay grade. You don’t need to make a record of every accolade but do catalog times when you’re singled out in a staff-wide email, for example, or you help a coworker with a big project.

Be certain your notes include dates, and if you are including an email or message from someone else, make sure the source is identifiable.

If you want to go further for your own reflection, use these steps from Idealist Careers to examine your accomplishments:

Think of a challenge that needed to be resolved.

What obstacles did you have to overcome to resolve it?

List the steps you took to resolve the challenge one by one.

What happened as a result of your actions?

You might also document additional wins such as:

Difficult situations with co-workers that you successfully worked through and how you did it.

Tasks and projects that were completed on time, and how you did it: Track all projects and tasks, even ones you think are small.

The times you overcame pressure and still succeeded in meeting your goals.

Track those situations when you know you exceeded expectations and explain why.

Take Screenshots of Everything. If your boss compliments you in an email or Slack conversation, take a screenshot and include a copy of it where you keep your notes.

Go Through Your Calendar. If you keep meetings and project due dates in a calendar, go back through it to jog your memory. You can also make note of accomplishments on your calendar, and be sure to set calendar reminders for occasional mini-reviews with yourself.

Make a Spreadsheet. If a journal app or accomplishments box aren’t your thing, try logging everything into a spreadsheet, which is easily sortable and can be customized however you like.

When it comes time to sit down with your boss for that review or raise, refresh yourself on what’s in your notes, and come with a page or two detailing your best metrics and biggest contributions. Then, write a follow-up email laying out your achievements (with dates and supporting evidence as needed). These extra steps will take you a long way to a top review and future promotion.

Source: Alicia Adamcyk is a personal finance writer and lifehacker.

Asking Questions Can Make You A Better Leader

The Greek philosopher, Socrates, once said the ability to be a great leader comes down to one very important skill: asking questions. The challenge is that too few leaders, managers and employees know how to do this well.

Here, we share these insights from business author Michael Lindenmayer on asking good questions and other key elements of Socratic leadership.

1. Quest For The Best Answers. The key to getting your team to embrace questioning is to help them see it as a tool to get the best answer versus an interrogation. In getting the best answer, everyone has a role to play and different insights to bring to the table. If it feels like an interrogation, morale will drop and defensive attitudes will stifle the ability to find the best answer. So, make the quest for the best answers a part of your corporate culture.

2. Be Humble: Admit You Don’t Know. Check your ego at the door when finding the best answers. If a team member is missing an answer, then the next question to put forth should help them find it. This eliminates any excuses and sets everyone right back on the path to finding the best possible answers.

3. Build Stamina: Get a Brain Work Out. Most people can handle only a few questions before they experience cognitive overload. Too many questions with too few answers kicks in the flight response. People can shut down. The good news is that people can build up their stamina so that they can handle more questions. The best way to do this is to work the brain out like a muscle. Engage. Rest. Recover. You will get stronger and better at asking questions and engaging in the quest for answers.

4. Empower Everyone. Want to unleash the potential of your team? Then ask questions and be up for digging for the best answers. Also encourage others across your team to ask questions. When asking questions becomes part of your company culture, you drive consistency across the organization.

5. Concentrate. If you want good answers, you need to concentrate on getting them. Our brains are splintered by multitasking. Stanford Professor Clifford Nass’s research showcases how multitasking both reduces the speed of decision-making as well as the quality of the decisions generated. Instead, engage in thinking that is deliberative and logical. It helps you clear through the rapid, automatic and subconscious default settings that often guide us and push us further to get at thoughtful decisions.

6. Questions For The Three P’s. The three P’s are: possibilities, probabilities and priorities. Certain questions generate possibilities. Other questions sharpen the team’s ability to assess the probable outcome of potential decisions. The third set of questions help empower team members to prioritize. Learn to apply different questions to the three P’s; it will help advance your endeavor.

Try this Socratic method with your team. Determine great questions you will ask your team that will advance your mission.

Source: Michael Lindenmayer, a Forbes contributor, is a purpose-driven entrepreneur, writer and systems designer. He is the co-founder and CEO of Toilet Hackers, a social enterprise focused on securing 100 percent sanitation for the 2.6 billion people living without a toilet. He is an advisor to Sesame Workshop’s Global Health Initiative. And he is on the advisory board of the Girl’s Fund at the World Wide Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. He also collaborates with the leading minds at the University of Chicago’s Booth Business, where he is an associate fellow at the New Paths to Purpose Project.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

Four Reasons To Be A Lifelong Learner

Continuing your education and learning as both an individual and as a professional is important. While you may already be a very capable marketer and you read plenty on the subject, but learning is a lifelong skill that keeps one motivated.

It’s a popular belief amongst many professionals that continuing education should be reserved for people who need to learn new skills to stay employed. But, lifelong learning can benefit everyone. What’s more, lifelong learning can also directly benefit your employer, so it’s important to let them know that you wish to continue your professional development.

Today, we share the career benefits of professional development and education from career writer Mariliza Karrera.

1. It Keeps You Current And Up To Date: According to research, adult learners are the fastest growing segment pursuing education. The reason behind this trend is the fact that many professionals are beginning to realize that to remain competitive in the ever-changing world of business they need to stay current and updated. This is especially important since recent graduates may be a threat to your position as they will be more up to date with the changes in the industry.

And it’s not as simple as learning a few computer skills here and there. Professionals across all industries should closely follow trends and seek to provide depth in industry knowledge to remain relevant.

2. It Can Motivate You: Lifelong learning can also help make you happier, which in turn, can make you more productive. According to one study by economists at the University of Warwick, employees who are happy can be 12 percent more productive than unhappy employees.

Therefore, it’s especially important for professionals who aren’t satisfied with their careers to try and learn something new. The process of applying the new information to your job can help stimulate your brain and help you become more interested in your work. So, if you feel like you are losing interest in your career, consider signing up to learn a new skill. You might find meaning in your career again.

3. It Can Help You Grow Your Network: If you are interested in changing careers, taking a course is the first thing that you should do, not just because you’ll need to learn new skills but because it can also help you grow your network. Continuing education is a great way to meet other professionals in your industry. Your teacher or instructor is a great professional connection, so make sure that you form a close relationship with them as well.

4. It Helps Keep You Employed For Longer: According to recent data, it’s estimated that by the year 2020 over 60 percent of jobs will require post-secondary education. Many professionals are beginning to realize that a bachelor’s degree is not sufficient. You can’t expect information you gained before you started your career to keep you up to date, especially at the rate that the world is changing. Continuing education will help you remain equipped with valuable tools and information, and it will help you achieve the career development you seek. Keep in mind that the more current you keep your knowledge and skills, the better your chances are of remaining valuable to the team.

Source: Mariliza Karrera is a staff writer for Career Addict, the leading online career and employment website that provides tools and industry knowledge to help people succeed in their careers and achieve professional goals. Career Addict provides a wide range of services, from a comprehensive career advice blog and professional CV writing services to a state-of-the-art job board.

Ask The Most Important Interview Question

Business blogger Brendan Reid says there is one specific question you can ask during an interview that will help you to clearly understand a job candidate. 

Ask this question: Walk me through how this role and company will be different from previous experiences you’ve had.

The Research Test: Reid says he likes this question because the answer always reveals how much the candidate has researched the company and the position. If they don’t refer to specifics or cite examples that indicate they’ve done their homework or if they don’t demonstrate a clear understanding of the role, then it will be apparent.

The Self-Awareness Test: Self-awareness is an attribute that Reid says should be highly valued in candidates. If you aren’t self-aware and you can’t evaluate yourself objectively, it’s very difficult to be successful on a team. This question is great at revealing self-awareness. The candidate is forced to think critically about their own experiences and compare them with this new one. In the process, they must point to gaps and deficiencies to provide a thoughtful answer. The best candidates will be able to thoughtfully analyze and identify areas of difference and speak to how they will manage through them.

The Depth of Competency Test: Many candidates can speak at a surface level about a topic or function. The Internet makes it easy to prep basic answers to most questions, so the goal here is to force candidates to demonstrate a depth of understanding. It allows them to show how they can apply concepts from one job to a different situation.

The Learning Test: Another important attribute to look for in candidates is dedication to learning. The best teams are the ones that learn and improve every day. By asking a question about differences and gaps, you provide the context for the best candidates to talk about learning. Some candidates will try to minimize the relevance of differences. The best candidates, on the other hand, will speak to specific steps they intend to take to close the gaps. They’ll talk about learning.

Try this question in your next interview as an efficient way to discover the capabilities of your job candidates.

Source: Brendan Reid is an executive at one of the largest software companies in the country and the author of Stealing the Corner Office. He also writes a business blog and provides one-on-one career coaching.

Managers: Pay Attention To The Back Row

I recently read an article about a woman attending a  Zumba class at the local recreation center. It’s a class made up of all ages of women and men (yes, men do Zumba too) from high school to retirement age. Some people try it a few times and never come back. Some are seasonal attendee, and there are the regular diehards-those of us who show up as often as we can.

Over time, a pecking order has emerged among this hodgepodge group. The back row is typically made up of newbies who are trying to learn the steps or who have a difficult time keeping up in class. The next two rows are typically a mix of regulars and sporadic attendees. Some of them are uncoordinated and need some extra space to move around in. Others in these rows tend to be somewhat experienced, but they don’t want any attention as they go through the steps. In the next two rows, right behind the instructor, are the regular attendees. They know the steps, they put in 100 percent effort and sometimes they even throw in some additional moves or use hand weights for the added challenge. Finally, we get to the front row-those who do Zumba alongside the instructor. Obviously, space there is tight here, so this self-appointed, elite group is typically comprised of three to four proteges who like to interact with the instructor and don’t mind having all eyes on them.

During the time in this class, what she noticed about the front row. No matter how crowded the room is, these people always make their way to the front assuming they have a reserved spot there. These participants like to observe themselves in the mirror and they are confident in knowing all the steps. This group has confidence, expertise and there’s a sense of elitism. But if anyone else from the class attempts to step into the front row, there’s an unspoken threat that they don’t belong there.

One of the most difficult jobs as a manager is to create a fair and equitable approach to team development and team dynamics. In an environment where personalities and personal agendas impact team dynamics, sometimes the loudest get the most attention and others with potential but softer voices go unnoticed.

As a leader, what can you do to optimize your team members to get the most creativity and productivity? Try these steps:

1. Manage the spotlight. Every team has a super star—that individual or group of individuals who stand out. They are experienced at what they do and they let others know it. While they might be cordial to the team, they control the team culture. They believe they deserve the spotlight and can take up the boss’s time and attention because of this.

It’s easy to give into these individuals because they make their presence known. Sometimes these individuals will self-appoint themselves as “second in command” due to their tenure or experience. Be careful with this as it can be confusing, and frankly, degrading, to other team members. As a leader, you certainly don’t want to discourage high performance. However, you also need to manage your time and attention across your entire team if you are going to optimize the team and get results. These individuals do best when they know they’ll have time with you, so set up one-on-one meetings with these individuals so they can share ideas. And make it clear that your job, as the leader, is to set the direction and goals. It’s not up to them.

2. Give the second and third rows a chance to break through to the top. Often there’s great talent on a team that’s held back or doesn’t get exposure because of the front-rowers. Take time to identify that second- and third-row talent. Who does their job well? Hits deadlines? Brings new ideas to the table? Identify those individuals and give them some additional responsibilities that will grow their exposure across the organization. Whether it’s running the next staff meeting or planning the next corporate customer event, give them their own spotlight moments that won’t get overshadowed.

3. Groom those diligent attendees into front-row experts. Remember the team members who show up each week and are getting better and better at their skill sets. These team members might not have the skills down like other team members, but they are learning and have the potential to be part of the “front row” someday. If that’s the case, invest in these team members. Send them to professional development programs to hone their skills. Set them up with mentors in your organization. Help groom their skills and give them the confidence that they are up-and-coming high performers. By investing in them, you are not only building your bench strength for the future, you are also building employee engagement and, hopefully, employee tenure.

4. Don’t let those back-row success stories go unnoticed. Finally, don’t ignore the back row. The truth about the back row is that some of these team members will drop out or move to other teams. However, there are a few who will begin to move their way up in terms of skill development.

Be available to coach these back rowers and provide them with clear direction and instruction. With these team members, you’ll need to be proactive, reaching out to them individually and assessing their level of interest and engagement. By spending the extra time, you can determine where there are opportunities for improvement and where there are gaps in skills and contributions to the team.

There is also the opportunity to identify back-row success stories. These are individuals who quietly and unassumingly contribute in a very significant way to the team. Discover these successes and let others know.

Pay attention to your team dynamics and adjust the time you spend with team members based on their level of expertise and visibility.

Source: Cassandra Johnson is a tech-savvy marketing communications consultant and freelance writer. She reports on the latest trends in the promotional products industry, public relations, direct marketing, e-marketing and more. She supports clients in a variety of industries, including promotional products, hospitality, financial services and technology.

Are You Ditching Decision Making?

Have you ever made a bad decision, then looked back and wondered why? Of course, we’ve all done this. I look back and wonder: Why did I turn down that offer to work for an agency in New York? Why did I charge the customer so much? Why did I hire that friend of a friend who wasn’t really qualified?

We all make bad decisions, but as business blogger Darius Foroux points out, those bad decisions never seem like bad decisions in the moment.

In a recent post, Foroux shares some key points about the decision-making process from two of the most successful investors of all time, Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger, who were featured in Buffet’s biography by Alice Schroeder. 

Don’t Overthink. Smart people are way too preoccupied with doing the right things. They want to have the perfect life, career, house, business, car, holiday, etc. When you put too much pressure on yourself to make the right decisions, you get analysis paralysis with no good outcome. The only way you can stop overthinking is to make yourself aware of your thinking process.

Do This Instead: Make Small Decisions Early. Foroux referred to the way Charlie Munger thinks. One of his decision-making strategies is to avoid mistakes. But that can be interpreted in different ways. You can fear decisions altogether because you might make mistakes. What happens is that you don’t make decisions at all. As Munger says: “The difference between a good business and a bad business is that good businesses throw up one easy decision after another. The bad businesses throw up painful decisions time after time.

Foroux interprets this as follows: When you make small decisions early, before they become big—it’s easy. When you put off decisions, they become big—and painful.

For example, Foroux said he was not happy with the email provider used to send out his newsletter and for a long time put off moving to another vendor. The hassle of making that move got bigger every day. Had he moved it early, it would have been easy. By waiting, it became a more painful process.

Earlier Decisions Lead To Better Decisions. The earlier and more you decide, the more chance that you make better decisions. Not making a decision is also a decision. If that’s a conscious move, that’s okay. You think about something, and you decide that doing nothing is the best option.

However, if you are putting off a decision, then you need think why you are doing it. No matter what, you’re making decisions all the time. Instead of making fewer conscious decisions, we need to make them earlier.

Source: Darius Foroux is an entrepreneur, blogger and podcaster who focuses on productivity, habits, decision-making and personal finance.

Four Things That Decrease Productivity At Work

I’ve been working in my professional field for a long time, but it seems that lately I’m not getting as much work accomplished. It may be the changes I’ve experienced. My physical office has changed from a separate space with a door to an open work environment. My role has changed with added responsibility and more people needing to meet with me and needing direction. And well, I’ve changed—older, wiser and maybe not as available to jump in and volunteer at work.

If you feel like you aren’t getting the same results that you once did, it’s time to carefully consider the underlying causes of your diminishing returns. Here, we share these recommendations from John Rampton, founder of the payment company, Due.

1. Poor office ergonomics. You may think that office ergonomics is just a buzzword used by furniture and equipment suppliers who want to pad their bottom lines, but the reality is that issues in this area can have a tremendous impact on productivity.

According to one research study, an insurance company saw a $620,000 improvement in productivity from a $500,000 investment in ergonomic furnishings. Things like poor back support, cramped spaces, lack of elbow support, harsh lighting, noisy settings and other factors could be slowing you down. By fixing these issues, you may see a direct uptick in output.

2. Complex approval processes. Few things are more frustrating than roadblocks when decisions need to be made. Approval processes can often be unnecessarily complex, and it can take days or weeks to get green-lighted on something simple. Sometimes instilling steps, like opting for electronic signatures, can save a significant amount of time that you can apply to something else.

3. Excessive multitasking. The average professional in today’s work environment assumes they’re proficient at multitasking. But the question is, are you actually being more productive? According to research conducted at Stanford University, multitasking makes you far less productive than doing one single thing. Furthermore, the long-term effects of multitasking result in poor information recall, lack of focus and a lower overall IQ.

4. Poor lunch diet. Something as basic as what you eat for lunch probably impacts your productivity back at the office. This is especially true if you’re grabbing fast food on a regular basis. If you have a heavy lunch, your body is going to spend energy trying to break down the refined carbohydrates, causing you to feel sluggish or sleepy. Focus on those foods that will give you energy and boost through the afternoon.

Try these basic tips to get your productivity back on track. When handled properly, the results can be transformational.

Source: John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, online marketing guru and startup enthusiast. He is founder of the payments company Due.