It turns out that our 40-hour week is not as productive as we think it is. A trial undertaken by the New Zealand firm Perpetual Guardian showed that when they switched to a four-day work week – in which people were paid for five – the productivity, happiness and work life balance of their workers improved.

The company found that the experiment raised employee engagement by a staggering 40 percent, but that it also ‘kicked off a conversation about productivity and had teams thinking consciously about what they were doing and how they were doing it’.

Now, you might not want to switch to a four-day week, but the question remains - how can the busy small business owner maximise the benefits of working less? Well, by ensuring they are realising the potential of productivity tools.

Productivity tools help automate those pesky routine (but necessary) tasks. They also enable collaboration and can reduce bottlenecks by allowing team members beyond the CEO to take on and check off tasks.

With so many tools now on the market, we’ve picked a few of our favourites we think cut out the noise and save you time.

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1.      Better communication

Emails have become a burden in many companies who are looking for simpler ways to communicate. Chat tools are an answer.

A tool like Slack allows you to create a channel for every conversation. Unlike email threads, channels can be left or joined as needed. Threads allow for side conversations, and direct messaging lets team members get at it with individual colleagues.

For the small business owner, chat tools are a game changer. No more cc’ing into emails. Instead, you get a transparent, real-time overview of efficient company communications.

2.      Effective collaboration

Most small business owners are juggling multiple projects and schedules. They need effective collaboration and individual accountability. Project management tools enable this. They ensure that, as a small business owner, you can manage the hierarchy and sequencing of tasks and check that your employees are getting the work done.

Basecamp is a project management tool that uses a combination of features to save you time. To-do lists, for example, allow you to assign projects and tasks and see them getting checked off. Schedules show everyone on a project what is coming up and message boards keep communications tidy.

3.      Reducing tedious paperwork

Drowning in absence request forms and expenses claims? Sorting HR records on your mind? You definitely want to consider a tool that will help you get employee details filed, and those routine tasks automated.

Turbine does just that. It makes it easy to record and approve expenses and also lets you create purchase orders on the go. With straightforward tracking and management of holidays, sick days and other time off, who knows, maybe a four-day working week for your company is right around the corner.

4.      Automating social media

Social media management software is a no-brainer for any small business. If you don’t want to make a full-time job of posting to each social network multiple times a day, you need a tool like Buffer.

Buffer enables you to craft posts for each channel in one place. With planning, automated publishing and analytics built in, you can tell your story and measure the performance of your content in no time.

Time is an underrated resource

Time is a precious resource in business. To make the most of the time you have, you need to begin outsourcing your daily chores to automated tools. That way you can focus on the only important thing: growing your business.

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