By Christine Hall, freelance writer
Between the appeal of technology and lack of organization, employees can lose productivity and cost businesses time and money. However, in just five easy steps, companies can simplify their work processes and get things back in order.
Turn off technology
The typical U.S. worker is interrupted by communications technology every 10 minutes, according to the International Association of Business Organizing.
Workers need to create a consistent way to get through emails and manage commitments. Making lists and keeping a calendar are good methods, said Michael Dolan, a San Francisco-based executive coach with Truly Productive Leadership.
“You need to close the loop on everything as you go so there aren’t hundreds of loops open in your psyche,” he added. “We can’t expect to have the same creativity every day if we are overloading ourselves.”
Take advantage of your website
FAQs and product reviews are commonplace on company websites, and customers expect to have choices to find what they need, said Judy Muller, a productivity specialist and founder of True Fruit LLC, based in Tucker, Ga.
Person-to-person customer service interaction is vital for resolving issues, Muller added, but creating a dedicated question-and-answer section on the website could limit general inquiry calls that customer service representatives take on a daily basis.
Cut down on meetings
Workers who sit in meetings the majority of their time can’t be as productive, Muller said. She suggests executives be a “meeting guru” and create best practices, like making an agenda and being on time, that will set an example for others.
Muller also recommends using email blasts for information sharing rather than lengthy staff meetings. For quick decisions on a busy workday, hold a quick 5- to 10-minute stand-up meeting with just the right people.
“When people know the meeting will be short, they will more likely show up on time and focus on the matter at hand,” she added.
Learn to say “no”
One of the most powerful ways to simplify business is to encourage a mindset of strategically saying “no,” Dolan said. For leaders, there can be a correlation between the practice of saying “no” and success as long as executives also learn to say “yes” to things that are the most essential, he added.
“You have to focus resources on things that matter the most,” Dolan said. “Technology has created an epidemic of busyness and partial attention, because there is more and more stuff to deal with. That’s why it’s so important to take responsibility for not accidentally over-committing.”
Automate business processes
Get rid of all that paperwork by automating processes that will eliminate or reduce log jams — such as needing too many approvals — that can be accomplished with templates or shared files, Muller said. But make sure it is easy for employees and customers to get things done by testing processes before implementing, she added.
Muller cautions against automating bad processes or those not working as they should be. Instead, take the time to analyze and improve the process before automating it.
Adopting these basic techniques can restore productivity and help workers focus on business growth.
This post originally appeared on Forbes.