The digital age of business is a catalytic enabler. For example, it has enabled us to take our small businesses global. We can reach new customers, no matter where in the world they are. It’s giving us valuable insights and exposing us to exciting new ideas, inspiration and opportunities.
But with all this reach comes an overextension risk. It’s all too easy to drown in the depths of digital; to spend the majority of our time collecting, protecting, organising and maintaining data.
This is the digital productivity gap. And unless we address the problem, more and more valuable productivity can end up lost to the never-ending stream of emails, meetings and data entry.
What exactly is the digital productivity gap?
It’s all too easy to believe that you’ve had a productive day if you’ve cleared your inbox or finally finished updating that database. But what has that productivity done to help you further your business growth? Unfortunately, the answer is likely ‘very little’.
You could better spend that time interacting with potential customers and generating leads. Or coming up with your next killer product, update, feature or service. It could have been put towards expanding your reach to an international or global audience.
Instead, it was eaten up by admin and emails.
The digital productivity gap, then, is a form of digital procrastination. It’s caused by prioritising routine tasks so much that higher quality work isn’t completed.
Why does the digital productivity gap exist?
The problem is, those emails need to be read, addressed and filed. That data needs to be protected and stored. Those meetings need to happen. In fact, completing these things can be integral to the productive, high-value work that we’re missing out on.
The pressure of a filling inbox, then, can be a real driver for this kind of digital procrastination. And you’re on an admin treadmill that gets faster and faster. The more your business grows, the more emails you’ll likely have to process. The more data you need to store and maintain. The more meetings you’ll need to have. As a result, the digital productivity gap gets wider.
Plus, you get tangible results from completing these tasks. You can see that your inbox is empty. You can marvel at the wealth of information in your database. You have something to show for your work, which gives the illusion of high productivity and performance. Rather than focusing on business objectives, these routine tasks become a digital distraction.
Closing the digital productivity gap
Closing the digital productivity gap is about minimising interruptions and distractions. And, when used correctly, technology can help. The right technology can transform how companies work and reclaim time to spend on creative processes.
For example, you could use business process automation software to automatically complete the repetitive processes creating your digital productivity gap.
Automation software can be set to read and file all incoming emails based on keywords. It can upload this information to your databases, and help you maintain CRM records. It can even provide you with alerts for emails with negative sentiment or containing key terms (i.e. ‘bill overdue’).
Organisation is another key way to close the digital productivity gap. Have a designated time to deal with the admin tasks you can’t automate and the emails that need human attention. Plan meetings that don’t disrupt the flow of the day — at the start or end of working hours to reduce distractions.
The idea is that by using these tools and tricks, you only need to spend time on the important stuff. And that’s the key — you should always be questioning the value of the tasks you complete.
Find the balance, close the gap
As your business grows, you’ll likely find yourself with more digital admin to complete. So much so, that there’s a risk of emails, data entry and meetings consuming the day, with no room to innovate, create and grow.
Closing the digital productivity gap means finding a way off this admin treadmill, and back onto the path to growing your business and meeting your career goals.
The SmallBizRising Blog is designed to be an educational content hub pulling information, best practices and practical advice for the small business owner and features topics including accounting, marketing, technology and more. Be sure to subscribe to stay up to date with new content as it is posted. The blog was created by The Neat Company and receives contributed content from a group of contributing companies that provide technology, services and solutions to small businesses.