Increasing workplace productivity is always a hot topic of conversation. From the invention of the assembly line during the Industrial Revolution to using email instead of snail mail, we are constantly looking for ways to improve processes and get more work done faster. While not everyone is ready to take the plunge into extreme company-wide changes, there are smaller changes leaders can make to help themselves and their teams have more productive work days.
Start on the Right Foot
We’ve all experienced a situation where a miscommunication led to errors in our work or in our team’s work. According to research by Fierce Conversations and Quantum Workplace released in 2017, over 80% of participating employees admitted to miscommunications in their workplace. With an open, trusting culture, integrating a quick daily check-in with your team can help minimize miscommunications and confusion and stay on-track.
Try scheduling a 15-minute morning huddle every morning to set the team’s priorities for the day, identify potential “fires,” and identify potential barriers that could prevent them from achieving their daily goals. This can also help your team understand each other’s capacity (or lack thereof) for additional work each day, reducing frustration and increasing the opportunity for teamwork.
Stop Leaning on Meetings
Have you ever looked at your work calendar and realized that your entire day was wall-to-wall meetings? Few people, if any, are excited about such a sight. If we spend all our time in meetings, it leaves very little time to actually complete the to-dos from them. This can lead to late nights and reduced productivity, which doesn’t help anyone.
While some things, like annual strategic planning or quarterly budget reviews, clearly require scheduled meeting times, constant meetings are usually a waste of everyone’s time. Here are a few things you can do to streamline your use of meetings:
- Eliminate unnecessary recurring meetings. They’re easy to set-and-forget on your calendar, but if you continually reach the end and wonder, “What was the point of that meeting?” maybe it’s time to consider eliminating it from your calendar.
- Shorten your meeting times. Don’t stretch a meeting out to an hour if it really only deserves half an hour. Think of how much your team could tackle with an extra 30 minutes outside a meeting! Also, don’t be afraid to end a meeting early if you’ve already reached your goal.
- Reduce your guestlist. When you want to keep everyone in-the-loop, it’s tempting to invite team members to every meeting so there’s no need to recount it to them later. But oftentimes, a 15-minute download meeting with relevant team members is a better use of everyone’s time than having them sit in on the whole hour-long meeting.
Time Block Your Work
Some people like to-do lists. Others panic in the face of everything they need to get done. For both these types of people, time blocking can be incredibly helpful for actually visualizing the work they need to complete each day. Instead of reactively completing work as it comes to you, specifically setting aside time to complete a batch of tasks can help you and your teams stay focused and become more productive. When used correctly, it can add the focus from having a deadline without all the pressure, increasing productivity.
Here’s a great introduction to time blocking if you’re unfamiliar with the concept, and if you have 7 minutes, this video provides 4 excellent tips for how to ease into it:
Be Intentional With Email
On the topic of time blocking, add a chunk of time to your calendar to check your email! For those with flooding inboxes at all hours of the day (or night), the constant pinging of email notifications is often overwhelming. While research shows turning notifications off entirely is beneficial (reducing stress and increasing concentration), that isn’t feasible for most people. But you may want to consider turning off your email notifications.
It all goes back to reactivity stunting productivity: constant email pings interrupt your workflow, and if you’re constantly distracted from your task, it will take longer to complete. Additionally, consider scheduling your email responses to send at the end of the work day. It’ll reduce the chance you’ll need to respond to another email in the same thread before tomorrow.
Prioritize Time Off Work
Whether your company offers paid or unpaid time off, genuinely treat it as time off work. It may seem daunting at first, but letting your team members fully recharge while they’re away from work is one of the best ways to prevent burnout and support a healthy work-life balance.
Outside of your team, prioritize it for yourself too. Don’t check emails while taking your staycation, and let your team handle problems themselves. Not only does it give you the break you truly need, but it also helps to teach your team independence that’ll make it easier for everyone the next time you’re away from work.
Lasting Changes Start Small
Changing the way we work or do work with others is often a daunting task, but even a small step in the right direction is forward progress. Choose one action from the list above to start implementing into your day-to-day life. Take it one step at a time, and before you know it you and your team may be surprised at the impact a single change can have on your workflows.