The Productivity Problem: Working Smarter or Working Harder?
Productivity has become a hot topic in today’s ultra-connected world. The expectation is that we are never more than one touchscreen swipe away from any task at hand. While we may have unlimited resources when it comes to what is needed to work “smart,” now more than ever, we find the need to create order despite the chaos. Countless apps, notifications, and calendar invitations have become the norm. Is our “always on” mentality serving or detracting from our productivity? Businesses can attest to chasing moving targets, evolving to-do lists, and competing priorities. How can a modern workplace stay ahead of the game? In other words, how can we master the art of being proactive, and not reactive?
• Accessibility Gone Wrong
Our relationship with e-mail has reached an addiction-like level. Many professionals feel obligated to check and/or respond to messages the instant they roll in. But, is that productivity? Arguably, the action provides a temporary sense of progress. While this practice may work for some, it is a pattern worth reconsidering. According to this piece from ForbesFone, the habit “has been linked to diminish memory function and reduced performance… it can even increase anxiety and tendency for depression.”
• No Rest for The Weary
What’s more is that we struggle with pacing ourselves. Workloads seldom have a predictable ebb and flow, as busy periods and fluctuating business needs often dictate otherwise. The pressure leads some to neglect taking breaks throughout the day. Think you’ll get more done if you skip lunch just one more time? You’re not alone. We are cautioned, however, as “those who work more than eight hours per day tend to have lower productivity and higher burnout rates.”
• The Devil Is In The Details
Most of us have heard of the 80/20 rule, “which dictates that 20% of tasks will produce 80% of results.” We are mired in ‘simple’ responsibilities that, while essential, are not necessarily urgent. They zap us of time and squander our energy in stealth fashion. ‘This will only take a minute,’ we say to ourselves, and before we know it, half of our workday has sailed on by. If we focus more on the 20%, we can inch closer to smashing the 80% of our goals.
The Role of Leadership
Managers play a big part in staff efficiency. The most productive teams achieve synergy due to shared values and behaviors. Bosses can positively influence staff through leading by example, and strategically offering up their own preferred working methods. When employees follow suit, it can result in a healthier, more productive environment. Our law firm believes in a few key tactics that help keep us on track:
• “Eat the Frog”
There is usually one task (the “frog”) on our list that we actively avoid. Do you find yourself constantly pushing something off until ‘tomorrow’? Some things just aren’t enjoyable, or don’t play to our strengths. We sometimes fear the sheer amount of time a given task may take to complete. If we can acknowledge and accept this reality, it sets us up for greater success. Self-awareness and discipline will retrain your inner dialogue — getting something done can become a sort of game, rather than a painstaking, fruitless effort. If you knock out the hard stuff first, you give yourself a ‘win’ and gain momentum.
Want to really take control of your day? Try scheduling your tasks down to the hour or thirty-minute increments. Instead of just relying on a list that keeps on growing, use a calendar to mark off what specific times will be used to accomplish each item. According to a FastCompany article, time-blocking offers “psychological benefits,” such as the “Zeigarnik effect, which basically states that we remember what we haven’t done better than what we have done, and uncompleted tasks weigh on us.” That is to say, things we’ve completed leave our brains and make room for the things we still need to do once we’ve committed to starting them at a given time. Don’t forget to consider whether you’re an early bird or night owl! Knowing yourself is key to making time-blocks work for you.
• Transparency and Collaboration
Time-blocking won’t work without communication. Recently, our team wrote down and shared our chosen time-blocks with each other. Learning more about our personal work preferences has been helpful. While still a work-in-progress, respecting each other’s time in a positive and upfront manner has had a great impact on productivity.
Clear your desk! In the flurry of a workday, the process of getting and staying organized can seem insurmountable; but administrative ‘busywork’ can sometimes bring just the right amount of calm needed to weather the storm. The idea is that it offers “a feeling of accomplishment without the corresponding stress which comes along with more challenging tasks,” according to a Forbes Entrepreneurs piece. Overwhelmed and need to get back in the ‘zone’? The cure might just be sorting your pens by color or alphabetizing your filing cabinet!
When it comes to any job, everyone would agree that productivity is key. This concept cannot be more apt when working…www.forbesfone.com
A few years ago, my to-do list was an endless source of frustration. At the end of every day, it seemed like it had…www.fastcompany.com
We spend much of our lives at the office working diligently, slacking off, and talking about our weekend around the…www.forbes.com
About the Blog: Culture Counts is a blog devoted to the discussion of law firm culture and corporate core values. Frequent topics include positive work environment, conscious capitalism, entrepreneurial management, positive workplace culture, workplace productivity, and corporate core values.
About the Firm: Klemchuk LLP is an Intellectual Property (IP), Technology, Internet, and Business law firm located in Dallas, TX. The firm offers comprehensive legal services including litigation and enforcement of all forms of IP as well as registration and licensing of patents, trademarks, trade dress, and copyrights. The firm also provides a wide range of technology, Internet, e-commerce, and business services including business planning, formation, and financing, mergers and acquisitions, business litigation, data privacy, and domain name dispute resolution. Additional information about the IP law firm and its IP attorneys may be found at www.klemchuk.com.
Originally published at Culture Counts.