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So, it’s 2021. Businesses strive to develop even more comfortable workspaces, psychologists write even more articles about motivation and goal achievement, and software companies release even more programs to automate everyday operations. It would seem that employees’ productivity should skyrocket under such conditions. But cold statistics show that improvement isn’t going that fast. How can we increase productivity at work?

In the US, one of the biggest economies in the world, worker productivity increased by 1.7% in 2019, which was the highest increase ratio in 9 (!) consecutive years, starting from 2010. Whether you like it or not, an ordinary person is productive for roughly 3 hours per day. So unless you can apply incentives from Dark Medieval (that we strongly hope will be a futile enterprise), you have to deal with that given productivity timeframe.

What Is Productivity?

Productivity is a metric showing some definite quantity of outcomes – per worker within an hour, day, week, or other timeframes. Tangible productivity is relatively easy to measure and manage, however, when it comes to intangible things, like services, a “man-hours” approach is poorly applicable.

Focus on what you’re doing.
Focus on what you’re doing.

Furthermore, productivity judgment becomes more and more unobvious – to both business owners and employees themselves. For example, in the UK, as few as 21% of working people believe they are effective within the whole day. Many employees now experience weak engagement with either the job or the company. Indeed, how one shall feel an impact if he or she is not quite sure about their own productivity?

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Although productivity may be determined by external factors, it largely depends on one’s approach to handling daily routines. We’ve assembled a few easy yet effective habits that will help you to get more things done in less time.

10 Tips For How To Be Productive At Work

Either business owners or wage-earners shall consider these 180 fruitful minutes per day as a quest – not an obstacle. Determine factors that harm productivity and reduce these to a minimum. To start with, avoid three villainous time-killers:

Administrative Chores

Operational routine is essential, but the more stakeholders are involved in decision-making or approval processes, the more time-consuming these ultimately result.

Wasteful Meetings

On average, purposeless or too-long team meetings or calls devour 10% of total working hours.

Communication Lags

Poor connection is a significant disruptive factor, especially for partly or fully remote teams. Thoroughly networking enterprises are 20-25% more productive, than their flabbily-connected peers.

Learn About The Agile Manifesto

To come up with maximum performance potential and not burn out at work, consider these 5 essential methods:

1. Focus Efforts

This point stands for reasonable agile and temperate multitasking. Julius Caesar’s “I do many things at a time” approach emerged in the early 2000s and was extensively misused by job seekers and employers. The hiring party looked for multitasking ninjas, while applicants, in turn, affirmed they could perform all at once with no sacrifices in quality.

Now, this “Jack of all trades” viewpoint is outdated. Stanford University’s research in 2009 has shown that people who switch between tasks are, in fact, less effective than ones who do one thing at a time. Continuous bothering and puzzling at work end up in scattered attention, headaches, anxiety, and stress, and cost roughly $500 billion in productivity losses.

To avoid exhaustion, plan your day and stick to a routine, and use weekly schedule templates. Compose to-do lists in the morning or the evening before. Plan time distribution – devote hours for specific tasks and try to meet these without coffee breaks or chatting. To switch between two consequent actions, prefer a small walk or minute gymnastics.

If you do feel scheduling attempts fail due to chronic ad-hoc tasks, maybe it’s time to discuss Kanban or Scrum implementation with teammates.

2. Ask For Feedback

Although wage work presumes market relations, material incentives are usually not enough to keep up a zeal. Regular check-ups between managers and subordinates work both ways: employees get an honest evaluation of their results and discover growth points, while managers can timely detect signs of burnout or issues they may have been unaware of.

Survey asking for feedback.
A survey asking for feedback.

If your organization doesn’t have predetermined frameworks for feedback, negotiate with your lead or peers about either written or verbal discussions – after every completed task or with a set frequency. Use human decency to build constructive communication:

  • Be polite.
  • Prepare open-ended specific questions.
  • Do not judge vis-a-vis opinion.
  • Take notes.
  • Don’t forget to thank people for their time.
  • And the most important – draw conclusions.

3. Decompose Goals

Planning the day is important, but planning the month and year is what’ll expand your productivity to the very next level. When scoping commitments, move from general to specific: from annual or quarterly goals to definite plans for a month or week. Practice SWOT for personal decision-making and AIDA – for subgoals’ framing.

4. Use Team Collaboration Tools

Being a team player may be difficult and even stressful. In fact, 46% of people say collaboration is tricky due to conflicting work styles. But today literally every big project requires you to communicate and do coordinated assignments with 7 to 10 co-workers at once. To increase joint productivity, a good idea is to use collaborative software, like Weje. This will synchronize efforts and save vast amounts of time on versions tracking and managing scattered information.

See How It Works:

  • Create an online whiteboard and share access rights with peers.
Creating An Online Whiteboard With Weje.
“Organize information within easily shareable whiteboard” – Image Source
  • Distribute individual tasks and agree on delivery deadlines.
  • Save and organize relevant data within a single Weje workspace – drag and drop information from the Web, upload documents and tables, and attach images.
  • Group scattered pieces into meaningful data cards.
  • Enhance process management with built-in tools: checklists, mind map maker, lists, and others.

You can work on text reports, prototypes, presentations, visuals, and storyboards. After the project is ready, download it or simply email a link to the manager or the client.

Collaboration tools are extremely helpful for teams, however, they enhance the productivity of individuals as well – either remote or in-house ones.

5. Schedule The Most Important Tasks In The Morning

The best way to manage tasks is to have a reasonable amount of these per 1 working day. Plan no more than three primary assignments, and prioritize according to urgency and global objectives. After you have arranged priority, intend the most important one for the morning, and complete the remaining two in the afternoon.

Say, your agenda for Friday is: to discuss future deal details with the client, check weekly performance reports, and – discuss the tasks pipeline for the next week with peers. In this case, it is better to start with the client meeting, as far as you can’t precisely predict how long it will take and what time your vis-a-vis will be available. Moreover, you can obtain some relevant information and timely adjust plans for the next week.

Then – conduct an in-house team meeting, so that participants can oversee future scope and adjust their plans, in turn. Finally, as the business day ends up, the phone doesn’t break from calls and the office is getting quieter – deepened into report analysis.

6. If It’s Possible To Delegate – Do It

The “Want something to be done well does it yourself” approach is what will inevitably lead to a nervous breakdown – sooner or later. Timely delegating not only relieves one’s schedule but allows completing tasks with no losses to quality. Whatever professional you are, it’s impossible to remember all the details. If the following philosophies tend to occur in your mind, it’s time to think about whether you know how to delegate:

  • “I’ll spend more time explaining than to do by my own”
  • “It’s inconvenient to ask colleagues to do this job”
  • “Thanks to doing everything on my own, I feel indispensable”
  • “I don’t believe that subordinates can deliver the task as well, as I can”.
Improve your delegation skills chart.
“7 steps to starting delegating”, source

Think of effective delegation as one of the most important characteristics of you as a manager. To determine the list of transferable responsibilities, answer questions:

  • What are my repetitive tasks?
  • What is my particular employee good at?
  • What is the precise outcome I need to obtain from the task?
  • Can I provide the employee with relevant resources – to perform the task?

If you have a positive answer on all 4, congratulations, you can boldly ask subordinates to perform a job for you.

7. Stop Procrastinating

Many have experienced this benumb feeling, with no doubts. Because you embark on insignificant tasks or just do nothing, you delay an important call or report copying. And we all know how it ends up – a few days or hours left till the deadline, you frantically try to catch up and promise yourself that you won’t allow such pressure the next time. However, things tend to repeat.

Here Is Some Advice On How To Deal With Procrastination:

  • Carefully review to-do lists; if there are tasks that migrate from one another continuously, think of what stops you from completing them and try to eliminate the reason.
  • Fill your day with high-priority or top-relevant tasks, and add low-priority ones by residual principle; if you do vice versa, procrastination will swamp you.
  • Weigh your inner readiness to make a particular decision; if you are not ready yet – do not waste time thinking about it.
  • Don’t switch immediately on tasks that other people ask you to do; ad-hoc or minor requests may take longer than you, or those who asked you, anticipated.

8. Set A Time To Check Your Inbox And Make Calls

Many think that communication may be done in parallel, but in fact, it can’t. Answering requests, clarifications, and inquiries – all this takes time for at least delving into previous correspondence and writing a meaningful message. Let alone when an external consultancy might be required. Mailing and work calls are the same part of your workday as other tasks – so schedule to do these. A few recommendations in the matter:

  • Once you’ve opened an email, don’t let it be unprocessed or to “further consideration”; this is a common exercise that, unfortunately, only leads to the unfinished tasks list increase, and all the same – to procrastination.
  • Turn off push notifications or ignore them.
  • Unless your responsibilities presume constant mailing, check your Inbox twice a day – in the morning and closer to the evening; if you’ll constantly reload the Inbox and instantly respond to it. absolutely all emails, you simply won’t have time for another job.

9. Optimize Repeatable Tasks

Person block delegating tasks and optimizing repeatable tasks helps increase productivity at work.
Optimizing repeatable tasks can help you save time.

There may be some repeatable tasks that you for whatever reason can’t delegate. For example, tasks that require access to confidential documents with limited access rights that your subordinates might not have. Instead of doing them from scratch every time, think of how to save time:

  • Develop and use pre-designed forms.
  • Use standard markup on worksheets.
  • Create presentations’ layouts.
  • Use APIs – to automatically export data.
  • If your work is related to data processing, consider automation tools.

10. Take Timely Breaks And Vacations

After several karoshi incidents among interns in Japan that were covered in the press around the world, work-life balance has come to the agenda with a vengeance. Balancing responsibilities and private life isn’t easy, despite the fact that leading companies, like Google, advocate for timely rest and implement onboard wellness, like full-time masseurs or retreat zones with simulators.

If Your Company Isn’t That Advanced Still, Take Care Of Yourself:

  • Cut down on lunch and spend some free time walking.
  • As much as you can, try to handle business during working hours, and don’t continue with tasks while at home.
  • Oddly enough, in order to remain productive, you need to take a good rest; find an interesting hobby, do sports and take care of sleep quality.

And the last thing – to be productive, try to do what makes you happy and brings pleasure. Remember, you can only succeed in what you genuinely like.

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About the Author

James McMinn

Senior Digital Strategist

James is a savvy digital marketing specialist with a Masters of Science in Internet Marketing. For the past fourteen years, he has been specializing in SEO, PPC & Marketing Strategy. He has a super sharp analytical mind and a finely tuned creative eye for marketing initiatives that optimize brands.

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