Workplace performance and productivity struggles?
Does it seem like no matter how hard you try, your work performance is still mediocre at best? How many times have you started your workday with such high hopes for stellar productivity, only to find that you’re stymied again and again by having to put out numerous “fires” that randomly and unexpectedly keep popping up?
Distractions at work can lead to increased feelings of frustration and tension that need to be addressed ASAP.
Everyone talks about workplace productivity and performance in an esoteric way. The fact is, chasing your tail at work without having a clear game plan for dealing with unwanted or unexpected scenarios is going to ensure one thing: a sense of underachieving.
If you’re not careful, burnout will rear its ugly head.
The perpetual cycle of dealing with things that don’t have a positive impact on your important goals (your “big rocks,” as Stephen Covey put it) can lead to burnout and create tension and anxiety that can feel darn near impossible to come back from. With that in mind, we’ve got some key strategies to help get you back on track and maximize your work performance and productivity.
10 strategies for improving workplace performance
1. Improve your time management
If you’re like most people who work a standard 40-hour workweek, your time is very valuable, so taking a few minutes at the start of each day or sitting down at the beginning of a big project to figure out how to allocate that time can save you hours of distraction down the line.
With so many people working from home these days, it’s even easier for derailments to happen on an hourly basis. Effective time management is key in terms of realizing what your most productive hours of the day are. Do you need to start work earlier? Do you have time for mental breaks? Can you shut off all notifications for emails, chats, text messages, and calls and only check them on at specific times instead of continuously throughout the day?
Set a timer that alerts you to planned breaks (ideally every 60-90 minutes), whether it’s just to stand up and stretch, go for a short walk, or to get a drink or a snack. Evaluate your tasks throughout the day. Are there ones that you can eliminate completely that are detracting from your most important goals and objectives? (Hint: many meetings are not worth the time spent for anyone) Do you have any tasks that you can delegate to someone else? These tasks should still be important, just not important tasks for YOU to do. Unimportant tasks should be eliminated. Take a second to answer this question. Are you being as effective with your time as you can be?
2. Stop multitasking
The days of having 20 different tabs open on your browser while double or triple-booking meetings because you are a part of ten different strategic initiatives at the same time should be eliminated. In fact, workplace performance, employee satisfaction, and productivity are all improved by settling in and focusing on a single objective until that goal is met, what we at One TEAM refer to as single-tasking. Some sources even go so far as to estimate that regular multitasking can lead to a 40 percent reduction in workplace productivity.
The concept of gauging your worth or importance as a leader by basing it on the number of hours worked or the number of different directions you’re pulled in is outdated. We know that workplace performance is greatly improved by focusing on one task at a time and seeing it through to completion, or at least a planned pausing point, before beginning another.
3. Clarify roles and responsibilities
The adage “many hands make light work” is certainly true when it comes to maximizing workplace performance and managing and meeting deadlines in a timely manner. However, many overlapping hands trying to do the same thing is maddening.
Sitting down at the beginning of any major initiative and outlining who will be responsible for what creates clarity and minimizes unnecessary overlapping of jobs that can easily be handled by one person. It also helps you to be able to delegate tasks that might be better completed by someone else, thus allowing you to focus on the activities that you’re best suited to work on.
4. Go to bed
One of the best things you can do to help improve your workplace performance is to get a good night’s sleep. Waking up refreshed and rested will help ensure you’re not walking around in a fog throughout the workday. Being able to actively focus and maintain mental clarity is key to performing at a top level.
Set a regular bedtime for yourself during the workweek. Leading up to that time, shut out things that keep you from relaxing. Put your phone down. Turn off the news. Try a guided meditation or read a book in order to give your brain time to start to unwind and quiet down so that when bedtime comes, you’re ready for sleep and aren’t still thinking about stresses at work.
5. Utilize feedback loops
In a prior post, we discussed the value and importance of implementing feedback loops in the workplace. Implementing effective feedback loops throughout the execution of a project helps prevent you from making the same mistakes over and over. They allow you to evaluate challenges early on before they become big problems. They can help you acknowledge and address weak spots so that you don’t see them continually cropping up in subsequent projects. Check out more on successful feedback loops here.
6. Set goals first, not objectives
What’s the difference, and why is one more important than the other? Goals tend to have a wider view or perspective than objectives. They encompass the big picture of an organization or a given strategy. They answer the question of “Why are we doing this?” and “What’s the desired outcome?” and put less pressure on team members to hit certain numbers just for the sake of hitting numbers. Setting goals also helps to take a more team approach since hitting a goal is a team accomplishment.
7. Show your work
Many workplace frustrations arise when an outcome or result does not match the expectation, and rework is necessary to “get it right.” How often will people be asked to do something (that often lacks clarity), smile and nod, go into a two-week black box, and emerge right before the deadline with a work product that does not meet the expectation? When this happens, there is a last-minute scramble, and everyone is left feeling less than satisfied. Sound familiar?
A way to avoid this is by both showing and encouraging others to show their work. It’s ok to invite people into your creative process and ask for feedback along the way. Doing this will encourage others to do the same and also give everyone a sense when things may be falling behind or when the outcome may not meet expectations and adjust early rather than late. Showing your work also helps hold you accountable and keeps you hyper-focused on the most important action steps.
8. Work with a fixed schedule
Block out your entire day in order to devote certain portions to certain tasks. Starting with the end of your day, when you want to finish or leave work, begin working backward from there. Include scheduled meetings, time to check email/messages, solo working time, and most importantly, breaks! Try to plan out every minute of the day by blocking time for specific focuses and imperative tasks. This allows you to see what’s most important and makes it less likely that you’ll get distracted by non-pressing items. The goal is not to unwaveringly stick to your schedule. The goal is to HAVE a schedule. If an emergency does come up, having blocks of time laid out also allows you to choose what you will give up in order to address any truly pressing issues (remember the prioritization matrix?) versus just dropping what you’re doing to put out that proverbial fire.
9. Minimize distractions
Distractions are one of the main workplace performance killers and is a close cousin to multitasking in terms of its impact on productivity. It has been especially acute with the surge in people who work remotely now. Having something that pulls your attention (especially when you are trying to single-task) creates inefficiency. We can only focus on one thing at a time so fielding unnecessary phone calls, chat messages, emails, questions from other teams or family members, and other distractions wastes not only minutes but hours of your day because of the effort it takes to refocus your attention.
Remember, if you work in 90-minute chunks, you can allow yourself time to check in after your focus time is over. Very few workplace emergencies (real or imagined) can’t wait at least 90 minutes, so mute unnecessary notifications from apps and sites that have nothing to do with work. If you do work remotely, try to set up a devoted workspace that allows you to focus (we realize some living situations don’t allow for this to be done). Having your desk in the living room or dining room probably isn’t the best for limiting distractions. If you do work in a corporate setting, set up a workspace that promotes calmness and clarity. Keep it organized and free from clutter. Another great way to minimize distractions is to work around them. If you’re an early bird, coming into the office or starting work before all the hustle and bustle gets going can be your most productive time of the day. Taking a few minutes to evaluate what are your own biggest distractions and how to avoid them will go a long way in improving your performance.
10. Focus on reducing your blind spots
Everyone has them, and there is no way to eliminate them all. The goal is to make them as small as possible, and this is done by asking for feedback consistently. Listen to the feedback you receive and thank the person who gave it to you. Don’t try to justify or defend yourself; simply accept it and evaluate it for what it is, an opportunity to improve. Having this type of learning orientation will go a long way in building trust with your team and even help you reduce the anxiety that comes with trying to be perfect.
Focus on your biggest performance roadblocks
We realize that it might be unrealistic to implement all of these action steps at once, so start by looking at what you would consider to be your biggest blocks to maximizing workplace performance and figure out how to eliminate those. So often, when we as leaders begin the task of a new project, we can get overwhelmed with all that needs to be done.
Keeping in mind the 6 P’s of planning, “Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance,” know that taking an hour or two to really look at your struggles or shortcomings when it comes to improving workplace performance can save you weeks, months, or even years of wasted time.
If you need help identifying which are the most important ways to improve your performance, we’re here for you. This month, we will be exploring time management strategies and how to stop multitasking more in-depth, so be sure you don’t miss it by subscribing to us. Also, check out some of our other blog posts on workplace productivity and project management, or feel free to reach out for a consultation. We want you to experience a rewarding and fulfilling environment that you and your team are passionate about.