There is a dramatic difference between being busy and being productive. To stay competitive, businesses must get more done in less time with fewer resources and with higher quality. When we are stretched thin as it is, how do we make improvements in workplace productivity without 60 hour workweeks? It requires that we get back to basics. What follows are some fundamental improvements we can implement ourselves and with our staff to create a more efficiently effective workplace.
STOP working. The first step in improving productivity is to step back, take a breath and asses your work. If we just start working each day without thinking about what we are doing or why we are doing it, we will spend time on unproductive or even counterproductive activities. At the beginning of each week and each day, plan your work. At the end of your week, check progress against the plan and prepare for the following week. Reactivity breeds ineffectiveness. Be intentional and deliberate.
Focus on results, not activities. The objective of our workday is not to be busy; it is to get the right things done. Determine what results you desire and convert these results into specific goals with exact deadlines. Then, align daily activities with these goals. Question all of your activities - eliminate those that don't contribute to the realization of your goals.
Fight workplace attention deficit disorder. Diversions and distractions are the arch enemy of efficiency. We all must work to stay on task. Of course there are legitimate problems which require our immediate attention. However, the vast majority of daily interruptions simply are not worth reacting to. Don't jump from one thing to another, leaving a wake of unfinished tasks behind you. Don't allow the "stop and chat" employee to seduce you. Don't check every email as it arrives. Finish what you start.
Delegate smart: Effective delegation requires communication and follow-up. Make sure the employee has all relevant information and a sufficient understanding of the objectives of the task. Encourage a dialogue rather than imposing an order - ensure the employee is prepared, has the needed authority and the ability to successfully complete the task. Last, evaluate and check up on the delegated task - make sure it got done correctly.
Procrastination elimination: There are those among us who subscribe to the "I work better under pressure" philosophy. This logic is full of holes. Although the adrenalin of a fast approaching deadline can spring even the least motivated individuals into action, it will increase mistakes, do-overs and workplace stress. Some cliches are true - doing it right takes a lot less time than doing it over.
These tips are fundamental to be sure. However, you would be surprised how we often discard the basics when we get busy. The greatest athletes are those who master the fundamentals. The same is true in business. Remember, when we are too busy to change how we work, this is exactly the time a change is needed.