Learning how to increase productivity in the workplace is a straightforward process. Even your top sellers, managers, and leaders can always find ways to improve their output.
Truly extraordinary work productivity, in fact, comes from a culture that empowers its workers to find their own style. Here are the steps that will help you generate the highest return on work productivity:
- Define a culture of productivity
- Strive for measurable successes
- Reform business practices, if necessary
- Employ self-motivation
- Get feedback from all stakeholders
1. Define a Culture of Productivity
Understanding how to increase productivity in the workplace begins with cultivating the best possible environment for it. That means setting yourself up for success starting in the morning and continuing until your work is done. Eliminate distractions and give yourself the gift of a balanced work/break cadence, such as the Pomodoro Method‘s 25- and 90-minute cycles.
To enable your most focused attention, set aside 30 minutes at the start of the week to review your calendar and make sure that your tasks are in line with the roles you see yourself fulfilling in the company. Then at the end of the day, take a few minutes to mark things off your list, move unfinished tasks to a new day, and schedule any new tasks or meetings—remember that the more specific you are about your tasks, and realistic about how long it will take to complete them, the closer you are to getting it all done.
You can take that end-of-day information and send it to your manager: The standard daily update email lists what you’ve done that day, what you plan to do tomorrow, and whatever blockers you’re experiencing or foresee in the future. This means never having to multitask, which is another quick path to burnout.
2. Strive for Measurable Successes
Work productivity can be expressed as the speed of crafting goals and achieving them. Both sides of this equation are necessary to ensure your work is top quality: First we create goals with an end result in mind, and then carry out steps to accomplish those goals. If we meet them, that is useful feedback. If we don’t, guess what—that’s useful feedback, too.
Try looking at your tasks in terms of today’s important roles: Who and what are you bringing to the company today? Articulate the outcomes and specific activities that will help you achieve those goals fully. Finding passion and purpose in today’s roles provides a framework, and the energy, to make higher-level decisions.
The other side of measurement, of course, is tracking. Strong leaders analyze how their teams are using their time and share key insights to improve the return on that time spent.
3. Reform Business Practices, If Necessary
When thinking about work productivity, it’s crucial to look at the top-level patterns as well. “This meeting could have been an email” is an oft-quoted phrase, usually employed jokingly, but there’s a truth behind it.
Most meetings can include non-stakeholders, afford mission creep, and other productivity siphons: Make sure that meetings are only as long, and as broad, as they need to be. Unnecessary demands on everyone’s time don’t just drag down individual productivity, they also create a larger buffer zone of useless time around the meeting, for preparation and wrap-up.
Another possible area to clean up: Technology. Be aware of your own behavior around email and texting, and make sure it’s in line with your stated company values. Remember that technology is simply a tool to increase productivity in the workplace, not an end in itself. Any technology that requires more time to learn, or use, than it saves is not technology you need.
Finally, re-commit to following up and planning around deadlines. Accountability is everything! It demonstrates your reliability and ability to stay focused, and a team with healthy boundaries around deadlines and deliverables is a team that never has to rush or crunch.
Part of heading a team is taking the final responsibility for meeting your goals on time—that means all deadlines are eventually your deadlines, as the boss. By supporting your staff in the days and tasks leading up to those deadlines you can ensure there is no distress or distraction at the finish line.
4. Employ Self-Motivation
Energy management is your personal key to unlock how to increase productivity in the workplace. Use food, rest, and breaks to fuel your output. Exercise, eating brain-healthy food, getting proper sleep, and maintaining your work-life balance and relationships are all central to keeping up personal energy levels. Motivation and focus are a lot easier to command when you’re in possession of all your strengths.
It’s essential to take breaks to replenish your energy and avoid fatigue. They can take many forms, from simple breathing exercises at your desk to longer, recreational activities that help with team building. Try working within a flow of 90-minute sessions followed by longer breaks. It’s possible, with a little feedback and analysis, to create the perfect working rhythm to unlock maximal efficiency and productivity.
5. Get Feedback from All Stakeholders
Of course, knowing how to increase productivity in the workplace really comes down to the conscious decisions of a manager and worker making choices together. We’re always going to be more productive in a position that has clear and achievable goals. With goals in place, employees can then follow an established system of performance analysis and take ownership of their productivity.
Finally, when you’ve worked toward (or through) a goal it helps to reiterate what you were trying to accomplish, as well as measuring how well you did. Everyone who touches a task or project should be asked for their input on this part of the process—telling the story of the project from their perspective and noting any room for improvement.
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