We’ve all heard the phrase “Time is Money.” Time wasted typically equates to lost opportunities and limitations for income earning, especially in service-based industries.
This has been a popular topic in the business space, whereby the correlation between a company’s effective time management (i.e. productivity) and its success, is glaringly clear. Therefore, the obviousness of these concepts can make it particularly frustrating when your team’s list of tasks only seem to grow larger without progress and you lose that ever-satisfying feeling of running a Biro pen across a particularly nagging task!
So how can you, as a manager or team lead, increase the productivity in your team? Below are some tips we have compiled based on our experience in a fast paced working environment and from supporting research.
Tip 1. Give specific directions and objectives.
Keep in mind that employees are not mind readers. To be able to manage expectations on both sides, make sure to discuss the details of each task carefully including the task objectives, timelines and measurements/deliverable. Be sure to give clear instructions and give your staff the opportunity to ask questions.
Tip 2. Encourage priority setting.
It is easy to get overwhelmed by the number of tasks at hand. According to the Pareto Principle, only 20% of what a person does in a day really matters and in fact, those 20% of tasks produce 80% of the results. Simply said, learning to prioritise tasks is key to accomplishing and producing quality work instead of getting caught up in less important tasks.
There are many useful tools that business owners, managers and members of the staff can use to aid in prioritisation. Two of our favourites are the Eisenhower box and the plain and simple To Do List. In using the Eisenhower box, tasks are organised using a decision matrix. The matrix is divided into four quadrants: urgent and important, important but not urgent, urgent but not important and neither urgent nor important. The objective is of course, to work on the ‘urgent and important’ tasks first.
On the other hand, the To Do List is probably the most basic way of prioritising tasks. This is done by simply listing tasks in order of importance with 1 being the most important. If your team prefers the paperless approach, tools such as Todoist are simple and effective.
Tip 3. Equip your team with the right tools.
Imagine attempting to cook when there are no pots and pans or trying to build a shed with no screws. Without the right tools and resources to carry out these tasks, accomplishing the work involved is difficult or near impossible. The same principle applies to any professional tasks. If not equipped with the right tools and knowledge, the productivity of your staff can suffer. Conversely, when equipped with appropriate support and the right tools, staff are able and well equipped to carry out their work more efficiently. Tools in this context may refer to having a computer with up-to-date programs, communication systems, collaboration tools and other applications relating to your industry. Support as a tool may be as simple as taking the time to run them through how you would do something or how you would like the task done and then being there to help them where appropriate if they’ve never attempted this task before.
Tip 4. Create an environment free of interference.
Help your team ‘get in the zone’ and avoid distraction by creating an atmosphere that is conducive to focus. This of course, needs to keep in mind the various differences in how your team may react to environmental factors, in order to achieve a happy medium. What one may think is a distraction, another may consider therapeutic. Given that this may be the case, train your staff to be mindful of their co-workers’ needs. An example of a small change to reduce distraction may surround ensuring staff put their mobile phones on silent so as not to disrupt the whole team each time a message or a call is received.
Tip 5. Motivate team members.
Happiness boosts productivity according to a study conducted by the University of Warwick in the UK. Employee happiness is achieved through motivation and inspiration. There are myriad ways of motivating your staff. Creating a comfortable working environment, praising your staff and offering feedback, giving small workplace benefits such as free donuts on a Friday to get through the final push to the weekend, are all little things that go a long way.
Tip 6. Manage time wisely.
This one is a given. There are only eight working hours in a day and oftentimes this is disproportionate to what needs to get done at work. Needless to say, these hours must be spent wisely. As they say “Time waits for no one.”
In managing time, there are two techniques that we recommend. These are the Pomodoro Technique and Time Blocking Method. The Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to break down work into intermissions, usually 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Taking frequent breaks supposedly improves alertness. On the other hand, Time Blocking is blocking periods of time for specific tasks as well as blocking off open-ended time periods for proactive tasks allowing the user to make modifications to his schedule depending on how his day unfolds.
Tip 7. Collaborate with each other.
Fostering a culture of collaboration among staff has many benefits. As another old saying goes (one more) “Two Heads are better than one.” This is especially true when it comes to innovation and problem solving. Furthermore, as different people have different skill sets, having mutual support allows the exchange and sharing of these skills to support the needs of other team members. This then fast tracks certain processes and ultimately improves the team’s efficiency. In addition to the skills that can be combined, collaboration in teams can aid in productivity as when a member of a team feels more accountable to others and their expectations of deadlines, this can provide the added incentive to not disappoint a colleague or be seen as a weak link.
The ultimate goal of any For-profit Business is to be successful and for this to show in their books. In getting to that point, the people behind the business and how they spend their time are critical to meeting that goal. However, some businesses reach that point faster than others. Following the suggestions above will get you and your staff on the path to working smarter not harder and improving the productivity within your team.