The one thing that small business owners have in common is that their to-do list keeps getting longer as the day gets shorter. This is because most people confuse being busy with being productive.

Do any of these “so busy” symptoms seem familiar?

  1. You get less done despite “furious” multitasking. You are working harder and longer than ever while balancing multiple things at one time in your head, desk, smartphone and other computer devices.
  2. Your day is filled with constant distractions. Unfortunately, the World Wide Web can be a “World Wide Waste of Time”. You constantly stop what you are doing to check out new Facebook, Twitter and email alerts. In fact, you go “looking” for interruptions as a form of procrastination.
  3. You start the day with no committed daily action plan. What is worse, your action plan gets blown up in the first 15 minutes of the work day.

Being busy is just doing stuff at the office; being productive is specifically working on things that will move the company ahead. To run and grow a profitable business, each owner needs to figure out how to be productive, not just settle for being busy.

When it comes to increasing our own productivity, we are our worst enemies. We continue to do things wrong or inefficiently even though we know better. As Albert Einstein, this is the definition of insanity that we “keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect to get different results!”

Here are actions small business owners can take to be 100% more productive:

Choose two tasks.

Use five minutes at the end of the day to make a prioritized list of two things that must get accomplished the next day. Do these first before opening up email, checking social media or doing anything else on your long to-do list. Choose these two items by answering the question “What two tasks, if I completed them today, would make my day productive?” Use Any Do not only to sync any list with all your devices, but allows sharing with other team members to make sure they get their tasks done.

Turn off notifications.

Stop being reactive. Make sure you control the attention your electronic devices want and that they do not control you with nonstop notifications. Turn all these off including your phone for set periods during the day. If you work in an office, put up a sign to prevent interruptions at certain times.

Stop multitasking.

It is a myth that helps you to get more done. It actually allows you to partially complete more tasks poorly. The brain can really only focus on a single task well. Instead of completing two things with average proficiency, do one thing “fantastically” well. In this way, having a split focus makes you less productive. I have a sign on my computer that simple says “FOCUS” which has helped me alot.

Schedule times.

Schedule certain routine tasks during the day when your energy is lower. Build your day around your best times for getting things done. If you are on top of your game in the mornings, set aside this time for focused work. Do you get a drained 2:30 feeling? Plan an hour here for administrative and less mentally draining tasks. These are a good time to proactively check voice mail, email and social media feeds.

Track your time.

The only way to truly know how you are spending your time is to track it. Use time tracking software on a smartphone or desktop such as Toggl to become aware of your work habits, so you can actively change them. When you see what you are actually doing, you’ll be amazed how much of it isn’t productive and how many times you switch tasks hourly.

Hold 15 minute meetings.

Most subjects can be handled in less than 15 minutes. Put all smartphones on the table so no one can use them. Standing during meetings will always shorten them.

Get your inbox to zero.

Most inboxes are a mess. Do a massive inbox cleaning weekly. Delete messages and organize them into separate folders to get to the goal of having zero unread messages in your inbox. Unsubscribe to unnecessary newsletters you never read. After this massive clean is done, commit to handling every email only once. After reading it, reply, delete, file or set for follow up to get it out of your inbox.

Create templates.

Most communication is repetitive. Create templates for different types of customers and prospects to prevent from rewriting the same emails over and over again. Use a password manager instead of trying to remember all the different ones that are set.

Don’t underestimate small chunks of time.

Instead of wasting the 15 minutes between meetings, have a go-to list of little tasks that can be completed in a short period of time. Schedule calls for your drive time.

Take a break or get some rest.

Take a break about every 90 minutes. Continuously monitor yourself and your productivity level. Getting up from your desk to grab a snack or water can be just what you need cut that hour-long task in half. Get a good rest with the smartphone app, Sleep Pillow. Experts show that the key to being more productive is to get a good night sleep. This sleep machine app plays sounds that make it easy to fall asleep (especially when in a noisy hotel room).

Be honest: Are you productive or just busy?

Barry Moltz helps small businesses get unstuck. His latest book is “How to Get Unstuck: 25 Ways to Get Your Business Growing Again”.