You Are 2 Steps Away From Being More Productive
Productivity often is touted as the Holy Grail of today’s workforce. Countless books and apps are packed to the brim with tips promising to make you more efficient, while today’s managers scour for — and promote — candidates with past episodes of grand productivity.
You would think that with such pushes, a steady increase in individual and workplace productivity would exist. You would be wrong.
The Myth of Productivity
In a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the productivity change between 2007 and 2016 in the nonfarm U.S. business sector increased 1.1 percent, an all-time low since the 1940s. Scholars give a myriad of reasons for this dip, ranging from a decrease in innovation to repercussions from the Great Recession; however, this stark stat likely makes even the most motivated worker feel defeated
But the thing about leaders is they have something others lack: foresight. Leaders see the bigger picture. They believe that their actions actually matter, and in fact, that those actions can inspire others.
You can’t control the changes that come with working in a knowledge economy, but you can control what you do each day. Below are two proactive ways to incite productivity in your daily life.
Think back to a time when you felt like you were crushing it.
Perhaps you were working on a report or managing a team, and you were completely engrossed in your task. Now think through your typical day: Likely, there are moments of productivity … and then you get a text or an email or a meeting request, perhaps all at the same time. Information is everywhere; it clouds our lives. A 2015 Deloitte study noted that in a single day, people exchange more than 100 billion emails, yet only one in seven of those emails could be qualified as extremely important.
Although technology has made space for innovation and ease, it also has been a metaphorical shock to the U.S. workforce’s system. Indeed, many experts who study time management have changed the ubiquitous phrase of “multitasking” to the more apt “rapid toggling” to communicate the futile effort of doing multiple things at once, even when technology promises we can.
Studies have shown that if you want to do deep work that puts you in a state of flow and ahead of your competitors, then you must prioritize uninterrupted, focused time. In fact, a recent article in Harvard Business Review outlined the importance of restorative silence for busy individuals: “Recent studies are showing that taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive to the complex environments in which so many of us now live, work and lead.”
You may ask (while frantically scanning your bursting inbox), “How do I do this?”
Start by identifying a time during your day when your presence isn’t really required. Perhaps you need to attend that recurring weekly meeting only every other week, or maybe you can send an employee in your stead. Assess your daily rituals — maybe that morning stroll around the office where you chat with everyone could happen later in the afternoon so your mornings are free from distraction. Is your office door always open? See what happens if you shut it for 30 minutes. Chances are no one will notice that time you’ve stolen away for yourself, and you’ll have space to focus on what really matters.
There is a reason that successful companies put such stock in their values and vision: Clarity makes space for progress. In 2015, General Electric executive took time to verbalize the company’s values, after feeling the business was becoming too complex. Known as “the GE Beliefs,” those values acted as a road map for them to plot out and execute their top priorities.
A Deloitte University Press article noted, “The GE Beliefs play a large role in leadership development and are also used to change how GE recruits, how it manages and leads and how its people are evaluated and developed.”
GE is just one example of many companies putting emphasis on clearly articulating core values in order to spur output. And if successful companies are doing so, why wouldn’t you?
According to Inc. 500 entrepreneur Kevin Daum, “Much like company core values, your personal core values are there to guide behavior and choice.”
How do you craft a list of personal values? Glance over your job description, reassess your passions and future goals, and then put pen to paper. The list of values doesn’t have to be long, but it must be clear. To spur ideas, look at examples from companies like Zappos and Facebook.
Once you have your values nailed down, certain tasks that have been consuming your time likely will lose their urgency. For example, if innovation is part of your purpose, but the last time you researched new advances in your field was six months ago, then it’s time to reassess either your values or how you’re spending your time.
Productivity can be tricky to quantify, but creating a conducive environment is a great place to start. Making crucial space and aligning your daily tasks to your vision are two steps in the right direction.
Now that you know how to increase your own productivity, be sure to check out our new article about how to define, measure and increase your employee’s productivity, “Employee Productivity: Here’s What Really Matters.”