Saying you want your team to work smarter and scrawling it on a napkin during lunch is one thing, suddenly changing your work ethic and applying a new strategy back in the office is another.
Everyone knows that the key to boosting a team’s productivity is a healthy blend of passionate leadership and effective time management. So why do so many managers still end up with teams that are overworked, overstressed, under-motivated and buried under endless day-to-day tasks that destroy their productivity?
If you want to work smarter and encourage the best from your team, start with yourself and increase your own productivity first.
Yes really, start by doing less. By taking on fewer things at once you become much more productive. Focus on the task in hand and enjoy the small wins on the path to completing much bigger tasks. Doing too much at once is a false economy, especially if your customers end up disliking the results of all your rushed work.
Discover the difference between the urgent and the important. Identify what drags your productivity down and be ruthless with it. Know what you personally need to achieve each day before you start and prioritise it with the right resources accordingly. If that daily client call isn’t really absolutely necessary, cancel it or turn it into a weekly call.
Take charge of your inbox or it will take charge of you and own your working day. Emails still kill the productivity of many unwary teams. Robin Bingeman of email archiving expert Cryoserver says: “There’s never any shortage of advice or helpful hints about managing your email, it’s the media equivalent of discussing the weather.” Too true! Seriously, forget inbox-zeroing and the plethora of apps out there that promise the world but actually deliver very little. Instead get an effective email management and archival strategy in place and forget about your email woes once and for all.
Set up productivity rituals for yourself to make sure you start your day right and get the best from yourself. Everything from getting the right amount of sleep that suits your personal needs, to skipping the morning cup of coffee that’s so black it could be mistaken for jet fuel. Instead wake up with a hot water and lemon or green tea. It can significantly improve well-being in the office and boost everything from creativity and concentration levels to fatigue levels and your immune system.
Be your own gatekeeper. Yes multitasking is a great skill but in practice juggling
too many things at once is a recipe for productivity disaster. At some point you need to stop the tap so you can focus on the work you have on and actually get it done. Be the gatekeeper for your team as well and protect them from too many distractions.
There has been a lot written about decluttering your desk to achieve a Zen-like state of office productivity. There’s also a lot to be said for cleaning up your online space. Digital distractions can come in all shapes and sizes from your bookmarks bar to the endless email sign-ups and calendar alerts that want to control your day.
Using the weekends to clear your email and work backlog is not being productive. It just means you are not utilising your working week effectively. It can be a bit of a badge of honour in some sectors but it just means you aren’t fresh for Monday, so everything takes a cumulative productivity hit.
Commit your time and resources to a task and give projects a pre-set timescale or shelf life and don’t let them overrun. Inspire your team and communicate the importance of the task in hand. You can then use your team’s focus to get it done before concerning yourself with other pressing tasks. Communication is key and lay out the exact importance of a task and motivate them as a unit, driving forwards together and collaborating to produce a better result.
Back-to-back meetings are like productivity black holes that suck in your day and destroy everything you had planned to actually get done that day. Try and put time limits on the length of the meetings and ensure they have clear agendas that are stuck to as much as possible.
Think like a cheetah: he doesn’t waste his energy chasing the wrong thing. Choose your targets for the day, focus your resources and know what you need to do to achieve your goal. Then don’t let anything distract you from it.
If you struggle with your productivity, then your team will too. Being a work martyr and trading sleep or home life for work may look good to the boss in the short term but there is no point if you are struggling to meet your deadlines and your team is failing in the long term. Working smarter, not harder is about enhancing the small things to make the bigger tasks easier.
Author: Sebastian Bos is a Senior Content Composer at digital marketing agency RocketMill. He takes a leading role in the social outreach for Cryoserver, a global expert in email archiving solutions.