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Key techniques to overcome low workplace productivity

Ever feel like your team is always busy – yet keep missing deadlines? If so, your team aren’t alone.

We’re told that workplace technology makes life easier. Routine tasks should be handled at the push of a button – leaving you extra time for what matters: growing your business.

The reality is often very different. Endless email updates, 24/7 customer messaging, desktop alerts, real time reports – not to mention the draw of a social media update: truth is, the modern workplace is actually full of distractions. When combined with an ever-growing to-do list, we often feel we’re losing control of our workload, preventing the business from meeting its goals. 

Is your business in dire need of a productivity boost? Here are some strategies for positive change:

How to Improve Productivity: The Basics

Productivity relates to a person’s ability to complete tasks as efficiently and effectively as possible. As you think about the changes you require to improve productivity, it’s worth keeping in mind these three golden rules.

Make small changes, see what works

It may be tempting to completely overhaul your working habits overnight. However, it’s less disruptive – and easier to see what works – if you introduce changes bit by bit.

Plus, business as usual – especially for a start-up or small company – is rarely consistent. Work volumes fluctuate and job roles can change, too. When introducing new productivity techniques, the advice we often give is: there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

Encourage yourself and your employees to try A/B testing productivity techniques before deciding what works. For example, some prefer to answer emails first thing, while others prefer to tackle their inbox after completing their most ambitious task of the day.

Don’t forget to review your team’s working practices every three to six months to check what’s effective, what isn’t, and what further tweaks can be made.

Set goals before starting a task

For each business-related task, quickly answer these questions:

  • Is there a good business reason to complete this task?
  • Am I best to complete it – or should I delegate?
  • How much time should I devote to this?
  • Which tasks (if any) should I push back to complete this within its time frame?

Forgive yourself if you don’t tick off your ENTIRE to-do list for that day

Some days are always busier than others – so flexibility is key.

To help achieve that flexibility, create a system to prioritise your work tasks. Depending on your workload, this prioritisation system might include urgent tasks that must be completed the same day; tasks that need to be done over the next week, and those to complete at some point but aren’t especially urgent.

We find the fridge, freezer, cupboard method works best to manage these kinds of tasks. Your fridge tasks should be reserved for urgent items (along with pre-arranged appointments), your freezer aren’t as urgent but are still a priority. Then your cupboard items are tasks that will keep, but shouldn’t be forgotten.

This system should help you and your team cover a wide range of work – both urgent matters and less time sensitive (but nevertheless important) jobs.     

Time to stop micromanaging

There are plenty of experts on Forbes and LinkedIn who will tell you how wonderful it is to delegate. The idea is beautifully simple in practice: pass on specific activities to members of your team, thereby freeing up whole chunks of your time for more profitable use.

But especially if you have recently made the move from being a solopreneur to taking on staff, “letting go” of even the most routine tasks can be quite a psychological wrench. Are you forever popping your head around team members’ doors to check everything is on track? Do you insist on signing off even the most routine work completed by junior staff? These are all signs of micromanagement – the need to be in control of absolutely everything.

Task management-based productivity tools (e.g. Trello and Asana) can help you overcome this urge. One of their biggest benefits is being able to assign tasks and see at a glance how they are broadly progressing – without having to delve into the little details! 

Do more by multi-tasking less

Multi-tasking is the act of switching between several tasks at once. It might seem like you’re getting more done, but it’s the first cousin productivity’s other enemy: procrastination.

This is because our brains can’t handle completing several complex projects at once, and actually lowers our overall productivity by up to 40%.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list, we advise allocating the hours of your day to individual tasks.

Also, if you find yourself procrastinating over large tasks, make them less daunting by breaking them down into smaller, manageable steps then tackle them from there.

Still can’t get on top of your to-do list?

An increased volume of work is usually a good sign that your business is growing and thriving. That said, it’s often hard to delegate certain tasks, or to let go of the day-to-day minutiae. Outsourcing administrative tasks can often be your easiest option – it frees up your energies to focus on strategy and building your business.

This is where EMMA can help. Quite simply, we take the pressure off: doing the tasks you don’t have time to. From diary management to marketing and event support, unlock your productivity potential by speaking to EMMA today.