A worker is only as good as his or her productivity. Without the ability to consistently produce quality work, a person's skillset is useless. To arrive at a perfect medium of low stress and good work, careful steps must be taken by both employee and management to create an environment that encourages productivity.
Ron Black spoke at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017 to try to mend this common workplace problem and give some insight into why productivity can feel so far away.
Don’t Work Harder
The most common reaction to a need in greater productivity is to simply increase workload. Common methods are both multi-tasking and excessive overtime, pushing workers beyond their standard 40-hour workweeks. Employers will quickly realize over-straining employees leads to a sharp down-tick in productivity, by nearly 60 percent. Overworking accomplishes much of the same, with 16 weeks of overtime landing employees at around 60 percent of their average productivity.
Strategic planning is one of the key tools in promoting productivity minus the backfiring of traditional methods. The first strategy can be simply to acknowledge that overtime and multi-tasking do not work, a process that can prove surprisingly difficult. In an environment where success is traditionally measured by working harder and faster, breaking the cycle of unproductive, unhealthy habits can be tough and often requires specific instructions and schedule adjustments.
Understanding exactly how to prioritize can give a big advantage in the workplace. Black gives a system for organizing deadlines by focusing on only the SNLT (Start No Later Than) dates. With the proper start date, additional time can be allocated at the end of a project for fixing problems or offsetting setbacks. But a late start cannot be made up and restricts future options, a crucial tool to possess.
Establish Measurable Goals
Organizing by goals can also be helpful, especially with massive, year-long projects (i.e. next year’s budget). By establishing daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly goals, a ladder is built, which leads to the year goal, by breaking the process down into more manageable, digestible pieces. Another organizational method of Black’s is to places all tasks on a grid, ranking them by their importance and urgency: tasks that are both important and urgent get done first, while unimportant and non-urgent tasks can be ignored completely.
While bad stress exists to hurt productivity, there’s something to be said for good stress. A small amount of worry can be created with a deadline, manifesting as healthy levels of focus, determination and drive. Stress is supposed motivate, not incapacitate. More to this effect, Forbes.com writes about a series of different practices to reduce destructive stress in the workplace, the first of which is delegation. Understanding when to pass off tasks that can eat up valuable time is the beginning to healthily balancing a schedule.
A Little Self-Care Goes a Long Way
Other items from Forbes include making sure to take frequent breaks, which can help to avoid eye strain and ward off weight gain triggered by inactivity. Exercise in general, in or out of the office, can go a long way in helping to fight stress. Perhaps to continue the reward cycle, small, self-given presents are also recommended after achieving important goals, such as going to bed earlier for more sleep or setting aside time to watch a favorite TV show.
Finally, Forbes asks that workers simply be honest with themselves. Asking the question, “Am I being productive?” can be all that it is needed to snap out of a daydreaming haze or get off Facebook. Being realistic can also help: accomplishing a month’s worth of work in a day maybe isn’t the best goal to set. Instead, aiming to do a small portion of each project before leaving could generate satisfaction without causing unneeded anxiety as the day winds down.
Many tools exist to battle anxiety and promote productivity, but the real measure comes from the employee. Without a drive to truly perform well and do a quality job, no amount of tips or tools will accomplish anything. There must first be a desire to improve, and the rest will follow.
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