Work productivity must be at an all-time high, right? As technology automates some of the most repetitive and time-consuming manual tasks, one might suppose employees are feeling less frantic. After all, these advances are intended to make things easier by removing obstacles that prevent professionals from working at the top of their skill sets.
The trouble is that technological improvements haven’t necessarily reduced workloads. In fact, many employees now find themselves responsible for a workload that used to be divided between multiple team members.
That can be disastrous for work/life balance because it means early mornings and late nights spent trying to catch up. The good news is that you can meet work productivity expectations without giving up time with loved ones.
Practical Work Productivity Techniques
Keeping up with work productivity expectations requires planning, along with enthusiasm for adopting new techniques and creating better habits to increase efficiency and effectiveness. IQ and EQ used to be all the rage, but TQ (Technology Quotient) is now more important than ever. Here are best practices for improving work productivity so you can regain your work/life balance.
Make Space for Concentration
No professional wants to be inaccessible or unresponsive but responding to every call, email, and instant message promptly takes a toll on productivity. You can’t focus on your top priorities if you are handling frequent interruptions for “quick” questions. This drives many workers to do project work that requires concentration outside of business hours.
Instead, create space on your calendar for tasks that require focus, and guard that time as you would any other appointment or meeting. If you are using a team collaboration platform such as Microsoft Teams or Slack, make sure to mark yourself “away”.
Adopt New Technology
When you are scrambling to keep up with overdue tasks, it’s easy to leave the research and training that comes with adopting new technology for later. However, saving time by skipping training and avoiding new apps can cost you from a work productivity perspective in the weeks and months to come.
Setting time aside to learn new systems and improved software features allows you to benefit from those features. More importantly, you won’t try to get a crash course when there is a sudden need to know.
These are three productivity apps that busy professionals say they can’t live without:
- Google Docs – Stop sending work back and forth through email. It destroys productivity because only one person can work on the document at a time, or you risk mixing up versions of the piece. Google Docs simplifies collaboration by allowing everyone to access the same information in real-time. There are features to ensure version control, and there are tools for editing, commenting and highlighting changes.
- Hive – This integrated web, desktop and mobile app platform takes the pain out of collaborating on complex projects. Use the to-do lists, scheduling tools and real-time communication feature to keep everything–and everyone–organized.
- Todoist – Forget the scraps of paper, calendar pop-ups, and post-it notes. Todoist is the app that brings To-Do Lists into the 21st century. Group tasks together by project and assign tasks to others from a single platform.
Reconsider Your Standards
In an ideal world, every task you complete would meet your very highest quality standards. Unfortunately, that sort of perfectionism simply isn’t practical in today’s busy workplaces. Take a careful look at your to-do list and prioritize the items that are must-wins. Devote your time to getting those done right and accept good enough on the rest.
Put High-Value Projects First
Researchers have determined that 20 percent of work activities create 80 percent of overall value to the business. The trouble is that most professionals spend at least 80 percent of their time on low-value items. Go after your top 20 percent first, and then sort out whether and when to complete low-value tasks. As mentioned, if you choose to complete these items, remember that perfection is the enemy of completion.
Let It Go
Finally, re-evaluate workflow to determine whether there are too many hands touching the same items. For example, does completing a basic task require multiple approvals? If so, what drives that workflow design? In many cases, it comes down to feeling the need to oversee others’ work, judgment, and decisions.
If you have the right people in the right positions, this shouldn’t be necessary. Look for areas where redundant steps can be eliminated by empowering others and giving them back autonomy wherever possible. Just be sure to set clear expectations and provide proper training to make this move a success.
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A Note for Leaders
Members of leadership, including managers and human resources professionals, have an outsized influence on work productivity because they support employee engagement. In study after study, research shows that an engaged workforce is more productive, experiences less turnover, and enjoys overall better health and wellness than their disengaged peers.
As a result, companies that have developed a culture of engagement see better bottom-line results. The most effective method of creating wide-scale work productivity improvements is to focus on factors that drive employee engagement company-wide.
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