Leadership & Strategy | December 14, 2017

Ready, Set, WORK
Photo by Garrhet Sampson on Unsplash

Effective business owners and managers know that productivity can be improved constantly. Finding ways to increase productivity at work isn’t rocket science, but it requires paying attention to how time is managed and making changes that eliminate time drains. Because there are a limited number of hours in a day, making the most of your work time is critical. There are two ways to increase your team’s productivity at work: put in more work hours and work smarter. Working smarter is a combination of intelligent planning and focused efforts. This post will walk you through 9 simple but effective ways to increase productivity at work.

1. Weed Out Social Media Distractions

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media tools can be a major distraction. If team members are checking their smartphones every five minutes for emails or updates, it eats up time they could be producing. Consider implementing a policy that restricts such activities to breaks and lunch periods.

2. Track How Much Time Is Spent on Tasks

Most people are bad at gauging how much time they’re spending on specific tasks. In order to reduce the time spent per task, you have to know how much time it is taking. Set a timer or use an app to find out how long each task takes then work on ways to pare it down.

3. Seek Help and Delegate

It’s rare that one person can handle large tasks alone. A wise team leader knows when to ask for help. Break up larger projects into smaller chunks, set deadlines, and assign tasks to individuals or groups. Check in frequently to make sure that each member of the project is meeting deadlines.

4. Take Regular Breaks

When looking for ways to increase productivity at work, make a point to schedule frequent breaks. While it may sound counter-intuitive, research shows that taking scheduled breaks can help improve concentration. Taking short breaks during long tasks will help you and your team maintain a consistent level of performance. Working at a task non-stop leads to a steady decline in performance. Productivity isn’t measured by how many hours are spent in meetings or behind a desk, it’s measured by how much you get done without burning out.

5. Say No to Unnecessary Meetings

Meetings are one of the biggest time drains, yet many companies schedule them constantly. The average office worker wastes more than 31 hours each month in unproductive meetings. A Harris Poll survey for AtTask found that employees at large American companies spend only 45 percent of their working time on primary job duties. Most time-management specialists recommend limiting meetings as much as possible or scheduling “stand-up” meetings that encourage a timely conclusion. Next time you’re tempted to schedule a meeting, consider whether the same goal could be accomplished through phone, email, or a Web-based meeting.

6. Set Ambitious Goals with Firm Deadlines

According to research published in the Journal of Consumer Research, people who set high goals are more likely to reach those goals in a timely manner and be more satisfied than those who set lower expectations. One of the biggest reasons people fail at goals is that they don’t set a deadline. Be specific about your goals and set realistic deadlines.

7. Set Specific Times to Handle E-mail

If you spend more than an average of 2 hours a day responding to e-mails, you should reassess how you’re budgeting your time. Urgent information should be passed through phone calls instead of e-mails. Rather than stopping what you’re doing to reply to individual e-mails, set aside a specific time to respond to e-mails in batches. Put aside time at the start of the day, once in the middle of the day, and then before the workday is over to check e-mails. Clients, customers, and colleagues generally expect to receive a reply within 24 hours, but few need an immediate response.

8. Spruce Up Your Work Environment

Working in a drab workplace can be draining. Clutter has been shown to reduce productivity. Research shows that simply brightening an office with aesthetically pleasing elements such as plants, flowers, and pictures can boost workplace productivity by up to 15 percent.

9. Minimize Interruptions

When a colleague pops their head into your office for a chat, you rarely look at the clock. Yet, little interruptions like that eat up minutes. Even brief interruptions can disrupt work patterns and cause a corresponding drop in productivity. Minimize interruptions by keeping your door closed, setting office hours, or working on time-sensitive projects at home.

If you’re looking for ways to increase productivity at work, think about how to work smarter, not harder.

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