For most entrepreneurs, technology is a lifeline. Devices mediate vital communications. Scheduling programs help organize busy lives. Data infrastructures make it possible to collect, secure, analyze and transmit information as it happens in real-time. Managing employees is much easier with project management software.
But when your technology isn’t productive, it kills your productivity, too.
Making some simple tweaks can help you optimize your performance — and that of your entire company. Ready to start streamlining?
1. Upgrade out-of-date technology
Is your equipment sluggish? Does it struggle to run new applications? Are you spending as much repairing your old devices as you would by replacing them?
No matter how cutting-edge your technology once was, its functionality will wane over time. The average office computer provides three to five years of service before retirement. Smartphones and tablets often don’t make it to their two-year anniversaries. Depending on the needs of your business, that lifespan could be even shorter.
Now’s a good time to take an honest appraisal of your technology’s performance. Try giving equipment that’s not working efficiently a tune-up. If that doesn’t suffice, it may be time to replace it.
Related: Upgrading Your IT Equipment
The expense involved sometimes deters entrepreneurs from investing in needed upgrades, but it shouldn’t. Look for ways to lower your costs. You can make some of your money back by selling or trading in used gear to a company like SellYourMac. You’ll have extra cash to buy the new tech that will help your business run smoother. Making a bulk purchase with the same vendor could get you a discounted rate.
2. Too much communication kills productivity
Communication keeps a business running. But too much communication over too many channels kills productivity.
Every day, communications inundate entrepreneurs on the go. Phone calls from clients come in. Text messages buzz in with urgency. A traffic jam of unread emails is always waiting for a reply. There are meetings and hangouts on the schedule. Even apps like Slack, which was designed to simplify office communication, are becoming one more distraction from getting work done.
What entrepreneurs need is a communications strategy that leverages the distinct advantages of each channel without overwhelming users.
Don’t jump on GoogleHangouts without an agenda for the conversation. Start replacing unnecessary meetings with emails. Implement some rules on Slack to avoid distractions. And don’t be afraid to put your smartphone on mute if you really need to focus. In most cases, the texts, calls and emails can wait.
3. Fortify your security
Nothing destroys your productivity quite like a data compromise. In 2017, breaches set individual businesses back $7 million, on average. What’s not included in that tally is the toll being hacked takes on organizations. Also missing from this calculation is the time it takes to fix things — and the lost productivity from making amends.
Those dangers should be enough incentive for any entrepreneur to take some basic steps toward securing their information.
Protecting your business can start with some very basic, but important, measures. Start by keeping up with software updates because these include patches to protect your network from bugs and hacks. Make sure you’re using an effective antivirus program. Back up your data right now, and stay on a regular schedule of doing so in case of loss. Begin making plans to educate yourself and your staff on cybersecurity. There are some investments that entrepreneurs regret; security is never one of them.
Related: 9 Steps to Better Security
4. Automate repetitive actions
A McKinsey study found the average American worker spent 28% of his day answering emails, 19% collecting data and another 14% communicating with co-workers. That left only two out of every five hours of work on role-specific activity — what they were hired to do.
If teams could get rid of some of the more repetitive tasks, they could focus on more mission-critical work. That would supercharge productivity. Good news: A wave of automation is making it easier to get rid of those chores. Start with these quick fixes.
Emails: Feel like you’re sending the same emails all the time? Try using automation software like Zapier, which allows you to choreograph responses triggered by frequently asked questions.
Analytics: Entrepreneurs spend a lot of time reporting to investors, stakeholders and workers. They have better things to do than spend time tracking down the latest data and compiling specialized presentations. GoogleStudio is a free reporting tool that integrates with your CRM and sends prescheduled updates, with the latest analytics, to your partners.
Accounting and Payroll: Making sure bills and employees get paid can be a time suck, but it doesn’t have to be. Blackline is one of a host of companies drawing on the power of rules-based machine learning to eliminate tedious (and error-prone) budget reconciliation processes. On the payroll side, there are many platforms that make compensating your employees easy through the power of automation.
Your technology can either help you run smoothly and efficiently or lead to wasted time and incomplete tasks. With some simple changes, you can make sure technology is a savior, not a productivity curse.
This article first appeared on Entrepreneur.