Companies face problems when team productivity can’t reach a satisfying level without being strong-armed by a burning deadline.
By itself, productivity can be defined as the total of completed work divided by the amount of time needed to accomplish it. Technology has developed dramatically over the past twenty years. Access to emails, various search engines, and spreadsheets has boosted our productivity to the highest level.
Yet, according to the Harvard Business Review, productivity has grown only 1-2% per year with the help of high-tech tools in the last few years. The research results show that technology alone can’t make your team more productive and that the key to organizational success lies in a clearer understanding of what matters corporately. This means that team leaders and project managers must take on various approaches towards team productivity.
If this is you, then this article is exactly what you need. Here are 7 quick ways to keep your team productive:
#1 Divide tasks into subtasks
One great rule of thumb is to divide complex tasks into granular tasks. Giving your employees personal milestones is a great way to raise your company’s productivity. The reasoning behind milestones is similar to that of Navy Seals’ meals. Here is one nugget of insight from Andy Stumpf, a retired Navy Seals instructor:
“Hell Week […] starts Sunday in the evening and ends Friday in the afternoon, and you get about two hours of sleep on Wednesday. That’s it. It’s horrendous to go through. Almost all the attrition occurs from Sunday night until Tuesday morning. Beyond that, you’re probably going to make it through. The advice I was given was, “Don’t look at Hell Week as a five-day pipeline. Just make it to your next meal because they have to feed you every six hours”.
The idea is that if your project is daunting, don’t look at it as a massive mountain you have to summit. Instead, break it down into small achievable milestones. Also, make sure you’re using a project management tool for your tasks. From the various online platforms and project management tools, pilot and adopt one on a team level. Set the project milestones and give every person their assigned task.
#2 Implement the 4Ds Rule for team productivity
This tip can be useful for the team during their working day and team leaders when planning their employees’ work. To make the best of your time, apply a well-known productivity strategy in your working process, namely the 4Ds (variation of the Eisenhower Decision Matrix).
Do. There is a great two-minute rule by David Allen, which curbs procrastination. If a task takes less than two minutes, do it right on the spot. It is impressive how much you can manage to do in 120 seconds: call your colleague to arrange the meeting, write an email, find a needed file on your computer, etc. For such minutiae, it takes more time and effort to keep track of them than to carry them out. If the task requires more time, work on it for 30 minutes or until you are done with it.
Keep in mind that multitasking is the killer of our productivity.
Delete. Time management advisors recommend taking advantage of the Pareto Principle. It states that 80% of output comes from 20% of input, and only 20% of output derives from 80% of input. In this step, you may need to figure out if the activity will bring you desired results. If not, you can drop it from your to-do list.
Defer. If you are not completely sure if the task is worth your time or if you need to delete it, you can take your time and delay it until later. Write down the tasks you have delayed, but don’t forget to check this to-do list at the end of the day or week. Be careful with deferring tasks as it may lead to procrastination.
Delegate. Delegating for the first time may feel uncomfortable because of the uncertainty involving the final product compared to when you do the work by yourself. This is not a sign you need to keep away from delegating, be it assignment writing services, freelancers, collaborators, contractors, etc. In the long run, it will save you time. Plus, you will be able to focus on high-impact tasks.
#3 Make to-do lists as clear as possible
Resentment builds up when employees have to work on tasks that are out of their competence. Smooth workflow is crucial to make your employees work on tasks that correspond to their skills and knowledge. One great way of visualizing tasks is to use Gantt charts. Simply put, a Gantt chart is a visual representation of a project’s tasks over time. You can make the tasks more granular (as discussed before), set milestones and dependencies, and give clear instructions on the amount of work and time required for goal achievement.
What often blocks team productivity is when employees are unclear about task prioritization. If all tasks are considered equal, it may jeopardize the project in terms of time management. Use labels or ‘set priority’ function in your project management software. This way, your team will know the sequence of tasks they need to work on.
#4 Focus on one task at a time
Multitasking may seem very attractive as it lulls you into a false sense of productivity. It may look like you can fulfill several jobs simultaneously, but in reality, multitasking serves more as a hindrance than a helper.
As a manager, instill team productivity by focusing the whole team on high-impact tasks. The more (elaborate) things you are trying to complete at once, the more stressful you become. When you focus all your attention on a task separately (hence ‘monotasking’), it contributes to a better quality of your final projects.
Besides better focus, monotasking removes avoidable distractions from your workspace. This way, you won’t feel that overwhelmed as it removes the extra negative emotions associated with work once you have only one task in front of your eyes.
#5 Spend lunchtime out of the office
Leaving the office regularly is an awesome way to rest from work for about an hour every day. We rate the significance of changing the environment too low and often are not aware of all the positive effects of it. Getting your mind off work during the day can boost your creativity and improve your focus. Grab a work buddy. It doesn’t have to be about lunch. You can take a 15-minute walk for a breather.
#6 Spotlight productive employees
Workers enjoy getting recognition from their team leaders no matter what field they work in. Team leaders and managers can validate productive team members through “employee-of-the-month” awards to improve the productivity of the whole department. Make it a part of your work routine to check up on your workers and affirm productive team members. Give employees pleasant little surprises such as gift cards, coffee vouchers, or shorter work hours on Fridays to show appreciation.
#7 Get rid of unnecessary meetings
One of the simplest ways to improve efficiency is to eliminate unnecessary meetings. That does not mean that all meetings are useless. Meeting with a clear plan, stakeholders, and quality preparation can bring great outcomes in the long run. But if there is no structured agenda for the meeting, it can use up a lot of time and energy.
How do I know that the meeting is important? Before planning a meeting, ask yourself if the meeting is significant. We schedule meetings by default before considering other ways to disseminate the information to employees. For instance, if you need to inform your team about a new program update, consider sending them an email with all the updated information.
Making meetings more efficient
Sometimes meetings are an inevitable part of the working process. Still, there are some ways to ensure team productivity by making these meetings more fruitful, rewarding, and effective:
- Make the agenda public before a meeting starts. To raise the dynamic of a meeting, check that it has a clear goal. Create and give everyone an agenda so that everyone has a clear understanding of what is going on.
- Bring meeting rules to an agreement. If several people want to share their opinion, who will talk first? If it is a meeting via Zoom, can the cameras be off? It would be best if you made organizational queries and the rules clear before the meeting starts.
- Ask your team members to leave feedback. Collect reports from your employees regularly. Make sure that meetings give them some valuable information and help them at work. If your employees have some ideas on raising meeting effectiveness, give them a listen. If useful, follow their advice and make your company a more comfortable work environment.
Workplace productivity is one of the main predictors of company success. Team leaders and managers do their best at organizing and motivating the employees to work efficiently even when there is no pressing deadline for projects.
As it is hard to work on complex projects, divide them into small clear tasks. Next, improve efficiency by monotasking, deleting unimportant tasks, and delegating the job that other people can do for you. Showcase your best workers to motivate the team to be more productive, and encourage them to leave the office for a lunch break or breather to relax from work. Also, hold only important meetings by setting a clear meeting agenda.
All these steps can boost team productivity and make the employees more organized to reach new heights. If you are a team leader, a manager, or a worker, follow these tips for improved workflow!