Productivity Demystified: Here’s What Experts Say About Increasing Productivity Today
Any project manager will tell you that handling multiple tasks and activities simultaneously is no walk in the park. The constant need to manage workload, scope, and deal with arising complications while juggling the expectations of various stakeholders is difficult enough on its own. When combined with the need of guiding the rest of your team toward stellar performance, things become even more tricky.
Trying to remain productive despite the insurmountable pressure over you can quickly become daunting. And you’re not alone in facing this dilemma.
Especially in the post-pandemic world. The rise of hybrid work cultures and the increased reliance on remote teams have redefined the meanings of work-life balance and productivity.
We reached out to successful individuals who can help you better understand the secrets of productivity in the face of today’s challenges and new working environments. By implementing the best advice which fits your current needs, you can drastically increase productivity and improve your approach to remote work.
Search for the definition of productivity. You’ll find a vague and technical description that might be very different from the picture you have in your mind. That’s expected. Productivity is defined differently by everyone and each version is correct.
What makes it unique is the fact that it transcends the official definition from something broad to specific in a heartbeat. However, you’ll find that all versions talk about one thing: delivering value!
Melissa Boggs of Melissa Boggs Speaking & Consulting and host of the Wild Hearts at Work podcast agrees. She states that “productivity is the delivery of value to customers. Full stop. It is not hours worked, emails written, or boxes checked in a to-do list. It is outcomes, not simply output.”
Think about it, we couldn’t put it in a better way. Results are what matter in the end. You could be clearing your to-do list every day or fulfilling any other parameter you’ve set. But it will all turn out to be a fruitless exercise in the absence of concrete results.
An important thing to note here is that focusing on productivity doesn’t mean that you won’t be spending time on things like communicating and documenting. In the grand scheme of things, they might seem like hurdles, but you need them to ensure that you and your team make the right decisions.
What you need is to find the right balance and decide when to focus on the actual work and when to go around reporting and communicating. “Productivity is focusing on the right things at the right time. It means saying no to things that don’t move the needle or bring actual results and saying yes to other things” according to Carsten Pleiser, founder and CEO of Design Buffs.
Productivity in the post-pandemic world: How to ensure productivity in hybrid or remote settings?
The past two years have completely changed what productivity means for everyone. If you never worked in a remote setting, it’s highly likely that you had a hard time getting used to the new normal.
Work from home setups blurred the boundaries between what’s personal and professional. Resultingly, many teams saw their overall productivity plummeting because of issues like too much oversight from management, demotivation due to isolation, and a lack of downtime.
People spent too much time on their desks in front of the screen and still saw little progress. That’s even more demotivating and can lead to further problems.
Many experts believe that leveraging technology in the right manner and keeping things simple are some of the best ways to remain productive in these times.
Despite not being there, you have more opportunities to micromanage your team members because of so many different tools out there. Role calling online or asking members to always share their screens, and many other measures will backfire, and affect the value you deliver.
Devin Schumacher, founder of marketing agency SERP has been dealing with remote teams for many years. He believes in eliminating micromanagement from the equation, and that hits the bullseye. He believes that unnecessary oversight does more harm than good. “No employee wants their bosses checking on them constantly.”
Continuing further, he states that “micromanaging your employees hurts team morale and further compromises productivity. The better approach is to use productivity trackers or something similar.” By leveraging technology rightly, you can handle a lot of issues often associated with remote teams.
Sometimes, the answer lies in simplicity
On the subject of technology, there is an important thing you need to remember. You might get attracted to a lot of solutions that sound excellent for your team’s productivity. However, remember that it's important to remain simple. Adding new tools and solutions to the mix can further complicate things. 69% of workers waste more than an hour switching between different apps, and that number can increase even more in a remote setting.
Alex Kus, CMO at Buddy, believes in simplifying the technological landscape and taking away the “technological middle man” from the mix. That doesn’t mean that you don’t use any online tool or solution. Instead, you adopt a focused approach to minimize distractions.
Alex testifies that this approach works. “Simplifying the tools landscape so we lose as little time as possible going between email, Slack, etc. has been a big help in keeping things productive and on track over the last few years.”
CEO of Airfocus Malte Scholz believes in using different tools but recognizes that it takes time to find something that is a good fit. “Technology can be really helpful. Some apps remind you to take a break and organize your time better. However, it’s necessary to experiment a bit before finalizing one.”
There is no doubt that productivity has always been and will always be a top priority of anyone who values their time. Yes, the past couple of years have changed the way to go about it, but it all comes down to getting things done effectively and efficiently while dealing with all the expected and unexpected distractions or hurdles you may encounter.
Productivity techniques: Some tried and tested ways to enhance your results
Being productive or increasing productivity isn’t as simple as making up your mind and willing it to happen. You must put in the work methodologically to truly become as efficient as you need and want. Integrating small but effective productivity techniques in your daily routine can be an excellent way to start.
Small approaches like Eat the Frog or the Ivy Lee Method, or anything else, can make a huge difference in both your overall outlook to work and your performance. This is especially true for remote environments where there are more opportunities to get distracted or sidetracked.
When it comes to productivity techniques or methods, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The right approach depends on your temperament, thinking, and type of work. Some people can see great strides in their productivity by simply turning off their phones, while some find it better when they regularly take breaks for a quick walk, a smoke, or a simple cup of coffee.
With so many ways to target your productivity, you might wonder where to start. Experts recommend starting small but staying consistent with whatever way you select.
In most cases, focusing on small habitual changes can have a great impact on your productivity. Some of the steps you can take to get started are:
1. Work in short and focused bursts
For some people, working continuously is something they abhor. This is especially the case for creative thinkers who need continuous breaks to keep their ideas flowing. That’s why they rely on techniques like the Pomodoro technique to keep their edge.
Take the founder of Chanty, Dmytro Okunyev, as an example. He believes in taking a break at regular intervals after focused bursts of work.
“A great hack for work-from-home productivity is engaging in several hours of highly focused and intense periods of work where your brain is utilized to the greatest extent, with small breaks for fresh air, food, water, and exercise in between.”
This is an excellent way to keep yourself focused on small tasks. Incrementally, you will complete a lot of things by the end of day. Many other experts like McKenna Sweazey, Malte Scholz of Airfocus, and Melissa Bogs also recommend the Pomodoro technique or something similar. McKenna states: “At home, I use the Pomodoro technique, breaking my workday into 25-minute blocks separated by five-minute breaks. I have to create deadlines and structure because otherwise...”
However, there is no guarantee that this approach, or any other, for that matter, will work. Many people find practices like the Pomodoro technique counterproductive and think of them as distractions. What if there is something complicated requiring your focus for an extended time? Training yourself for short bursts of work won’t work in such a case.
2. Reserve your time for different tasks
Does staying productive means juggling a lot at once? Your job doesn’t require you to do one thing, and one thing only. However, most workdays are divided in such a way that you’d probably be doing one kind of task for a long time. Think of any project you recently had. Did you think about low-priority items until you were done?
Simply getting your head down and focusing on the task at hand might work for some people. However, most people tend to lost interest after some time and that might negatively impact their productivity. Instead, it's better to mix things up between high-intensity and low-intensity tasks. You continue working while getting the much-needed change of pace.
Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo wears a lot of hats and believes that the time blocking technique helps her stay on top. “One particular productivity technique I recommend is time blocking. It’s a productivity approach that divides your daily schedule into pre-determined time blocks, such as 10 minutes for email, 60 minutes for document production and 20 minutes for scoping a new project.”
3. Focus on the most important things first
The Ivy Lee method, Eisenhower Matrix, Eat the Frog, and countless other techniques emphasize getting the most important things sorted early on. It all makes sense as well.
You are at your best at the start of the day as both your motivation and energy are at their highest. Wasting that precious time on unimportant things means that you are not utilizing your potential to its fullest.
Planning and organizing your workload in the order of their importance is one of the best ways for you to move forward. Dmytro of Chanty recommends this for everyone.
“One great productivity technique that I recommend is investing some time in planning and organizing your workload. You might be exhausted after a long day of work, but taking an extra 10/15 minutes to plan and organize your tasks, projects, and deadlines for the upcoming day can definitely help boost your productivity.”
Spending only a few minutes to ensure that the next day remains productive doesn’t sound like a bad trade at all.
4. Work in iterations
This advice may not work for all because some tasks may not provide you a chance to iteratively improve things. However, iterating can be an excellent way to enhance your productivity where applicable. This is especially true if you are a perfectionist.
Sometimes, people spend so much time perfecting one aspect of their tasks, that they fail to see the bigger picture and face problems down the line.
Micheal Alexis, the CEO of TeamBuilding has the perfect solution for this. Plus, he has a cool name for the process as well. “One of my go-to productivity techniques is to make it exist, then make it better. Basically, I think we can get into long and unproductive pauses in the pursuit of perfection.”
5. Always maintain a work-life balance
Finally, you must know when to take a break if you want to remain productive in the long run. Maintaining a proper work-life balance allows you to focus on other things that are perhaps more important. You remain motivated to perform at your best and look at existing problems with a fresh perspective every day.
Almost all experts in the field believe that maintaining the right work-life balance is essential for success. Martin Luenendonk of FounderJar believes that taking breaks at the right time is the best way to prevent burnout. “Maintain a work-life balance since you will be more productive at work and less likely to become burned out if you do so.”
Doing so is quite easy. Focus on yourself and make sure you are well-rested. Block some time daily for a hobby and for your family. Also actively try not to think about work during your downtime. Many people waste their breaks by constantly thinking about problems at work. Avoid that!
Maximize your productivity with a top-of-the-shelf tool
Being successful and highly productive isn’t an unachievable, distant dream. With the right tools at your disposal, you and your team can easily maximize productivity even if working remotely. Kissflow Digital Workplace is a complete package to get your team up and running in any environment.
Whether you are with a co-located team or a virtual one, Kissflow Digital Workplace has all you need to remain productive. It doesn’t get better than that. Click here to get started and begin taking your productivity to the next level.