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Tips for Boosting Productivity and Saving Time in the Workplace

Aug 30, 2021    
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Productivity has become such a buzzword in the digital age that often, we forget what the word really means. Productivity is a measure of effectiveness - the rate of output per unit of input. So, for example, employees input 8 hours of their time, five days a week. Or do they? Studies find that the average employee is only productive for two to 3 hours a day. That statistic might sound alarming, but it's not so surprising when you learn where that missing time goes.

In other words, being unproductive isn't typically a sign of laziness or incompetence; even the most industrious and skilled employees consistently struggle to reach optimal productivity levels. Instead, low productivity levels are usually a sign of a workplace that isn't implementing the tools and techniques needed to help employees thrive.

Time Management Tools

Several time management tools and techniques are available on the market, but they all aim to achieve the same goal - increasing focus. For example, the Pomodoro technique has become a popular way of managing time in the workplace. This technique involves setting a timer for 25 minutes, then having a 5-minute break, and repeating. For every 25 minutes of focused work you complete, you mark it on a piece of paper. After you reach 3 or 4 cycles, you start extending breaks to 15 minutes. The idea here is that the longer you focus, the more your attention span starts to tire, so the more time you need to recover.

The key benefit of time-based tools is that they vastly cut down on distractions. For example, people are much less likely to check an email right now if they know they're having a break soon.

It's also a great idea to combine these tools with other distraction-busting software. For example, muting notifications from email or IM or blocking access to apps you don't need. If checking your phone is a habit that gets in the way of productivity, you can also download apps like Forest. Forest allows you to grow a virtual tree in a virtual glade, but your tree dies if you leave the app to do anything else.

Prioritization Hacks

Prioritizing work tasks is paramount, and lucky, prioritization is now a well-understood science. Here are some things you can do to maximize task prioritization:

  • Create to-do lists - It's a good idea to have several well-crafted to-do lists. For example, you might have one for the month or the week, but you should also create one each day. Some to-do list apps make this a lot easier by allowing you to assign tasks from your other list's to a specific day, and then that task will appear when that comes along. It's essential to only use to-do lists for tasks and not goals (tasks should be measurable and timely).
  • Use Eisenhower's urgent/important principle - Important activities count towards achieving a goal (for example, completing a necessary step in a project). Urgent actions need immediate attention and are often associated with helping other people's goals, but not always. The principle states that there are four ways of categorizing your tasks:
    • Urgent and important - Impending deadlines, equipment failures, client complaints.
    • Important but not urgent - Work that directly impacts your goals (working towards deadlines), creating budgets, team building, planning, training.
    • Urgent but not important - Typical emails, ineffective tasks, requests from others that don't help towards your goal, phone calls.
    • Not urgent and not important - Procrastinating, social media, excessive emails, unproductive meetings.
  • Block out time in your calendar.
  • Start with a challenging task - Sometimes, we put off demanding tasks for fear we won't be able to do them, but it's better to tackle a challenging task when your energy levels are highest.

Setting Realistic Goals

The key to setting realistic goals is communication. Managers should ask employees what timeline is realistic rather than creating an arbitrary one. Employees would think carefully about how long each step in the process will take before answering.

Final Thoughts

Boosting productivity is primarily about developing effective habits and being consistent. If you want to be a productive employee or have productive employees working for you, you can't leave anything to chance. Utilizing the right tools and techniques is how you produce more while saving time.

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