Super Busy with Low Productivity?

Do you catch yourself saying, “I’m so busy,” or “I’m slammed but can never get caught up,” when someone asks how things are going?
If so, you’re not alone. The goal is to turn the word “busy,” which can be an empty word, into “productive.” When you take a step back to look, really look, at your current work habits, it’s almost a given that you will learn when you are just busy, but not productive, and busy with actual accomplishments.
Many things can, without us realizing it, disrupt our production.
Everyone has a different approach to their workday, but you’ll find that many distractions we experience are common.
Identify Where You Spend Your Time
You can’t fix what you can’t see. This exercise may slow you down temporarily, but it is crucial to help you determine where you can trim time by doing things differently.
You can use an app or your computer, but if you step back and look at it the “old fashioned” way, keeping a pad of paper where you:
  • List a task
  • Note the “start time,”
  • Work to complete that task
  • Record the “stop” time
You can also note distractions that caused you to stop during that task, which will tremendously help your evaluation.
Distractions can be:
  • Checking email
  • Incoming phone call
  • Co-worker engaging in conversation

Do this exercise over a day or even a week. We suggest tracking the entire week, as you will have a broader range of task types to evaluate.

What to Look for in Your Evaluation
Were they unavoidable (i.e., your supervisor or co-worker had a question), or could they have been tackled once you finished that task? For instance, emails and phone calls are a huge distraction.
If you can choose to check emails and phone messages at specific times during the day, it’s incredible how much time you can gain.
Turning off your notifications is a big help as you won’t be distracted by the continuous “beeps” reminding you what you think you’re missing.
Do you, like many, have higher energy levels at different times of the day? Some may be raring to go in the morning, while others have bursts of energy in the afternoon.
If so, tap into that. Look at your task list, note the projects requiring more focus, and tackle those tasks when you are most energetic.
Multitasking is Overrated
Multitasking effectively is only possible if you’re doing something like stirring the spaghetti sauce and talking on the phone, which only requires minimal bandwidth. Many think they multitask but jump from one task to another, which is rarely good. Concentrating as you should is impossible and can lead to frustration because no one task is ever fully complete. And if it is, it’s a given that the level of quality is not there as it needs more focus.

Tackling one task at a time is much more fulfilling as you can check off the list and feel good about the outcome.

Take Charge of Your Task List
There are some things you can control and some things you can’t. If you can set up your own work day, even better, your work week, these are opportunities to be more prepared.
Note: If your supervisor sets the schedule, consider talking to them and asking if they are open to adjusting the timing of the tasks. Based on some of the strategic points discussed in this blog, they will often receive the same outcome but at different times during the day.
  • Organize your work week in advance. List the duties you must accomplish daily and check off each task as you finish it.
  • When planning for the week, place the more pressing tasks at the beginning of the week and when you know, you are the most energetic. This way, you tackle the most critical and challenging tasks early in the week.
  • Getting up early is an excellent strategy to get a head start. Having that extra time to prepare for the day, or if the morning is your “energy time,” you can get a jump start on a task that requires more brainpower.
Take a Break Already
Don’t be that diehard who refuses to leave their desk. It doesn’t do anyone any good and can be detrimental.
Without giving your brain a break to recharge, you will discover your get “brain fog,” and focusing is difficult.
After you check off a completed task, use that time for a quick walk around the office, AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER, to recharge.
For jobs requiring more time, break it up so that you refresh between crucial steps in that task.

Taking a step back to evaluate your work habits will make you more productive, not just busy, and the satisfaction you’ll feel is fantastic.

You can tackle anything, as long as you…
Work Smarter. Not Harder.

Take Charge of Employee Retention

Did the previous year leave you wondering why there was employee turnover in your business? Were you blindsided when you lost a critical team member to another organization? In your eyes, you thought everything was going smoothly.
While we cannot always control how a person thinks and feels, there are steps we can take to engage employees before they have one foot out the door. You may already participate actively to include some of the following engagement opportunities in your day-to-day, but if you still need to implement some best practices, now is the time to consider taking these steps to make them a part of your company.

Transparency Leads to Better Communication

Do you have a vision for your company?

Do you have a vision for your company? Do your employees understand what that is? When you openly share your plan, you can help motivate your employees by answering any questions and talking to them about how their role fits into that bigger picture. When they know what they do directly impacts the company, it will give them a sense of ownership, and their morale and productivity will increase.

When sharing your company vision, remember you’ve had an opportunity to digest the information. Be as straightforward as possible and allow your team, without repercussion, to ask questions so that they clearly understand. It will benefit the success of the company long term.

Keep Up the Good Work

Say It Like You Mean It

Many employees will tell you that it’s only sometimes about the money when they look to be recognized. Appreciation comes in many forms, and one of the most significant rewards an employee can receive is a pat on the back with words that back it up by saying something like “Great work on the Bender project. You were instrumental in helping us reach our goal.” And if a team was involved, and all did well, mention their names – out loud, which will encourage teamwork.

When you neglect to take those extra steps, which aren’t complicated, you risk losing a high-performing employee whose morale you can improve with your encouraging words.

And, say it like you mean it – otherwise, they’ll recognize that it’s not real, which can be detrimental.

Consider small gifts (rewards) that accompany verbal praise. There is no reason to break the bank, but there are fun options that motivate employees. Check out this article about “Money Isn’t the Only Motivator for Employees.”

Do this ALL YEAR LONG, not just during bonus time.

Break a Project Up Into Bite-Size Chunks

Check Off MIlestones to Reach the Goal

Like in many companies, some undertakings are more significant and may stretch over an extended period. For those projects, consider breaking them up into smaller milestones. It’s still the same assignment, but when employees feel like they’ve successfully reached a milestone, they will feel a sense of accomplishment.

This strategy gives you, the leader, an opportunity to provide them with kudos before they move forward to reach other milestones.

Tummy Rumbles

Grab a Snack if Distracted

Like in many companies, some undertakings are more significant and may stretch over an extended period. For those projects, consider breaking them up into smaller milestones. It’s still the same assignment, but when employees feel like they’ve successfully reached a milestone, they will feel a sense of accomplishment.

This strategy gives you, the leader, an opportunity to provide them with kudos before they move forward to reach other milestones.

It will be reflected in their work when people get hungry and don’t have that time to recharge at lunch. Even if they’re taking their lunch, it’s easy to get “hangry” later in the day. Show you care by keeping some simple healthy snacks to keep them going throughout the day. Of course, if snacktimes become the priority, you must address it so it stays under control as work still does need to be the focus.

Take that Break Time and Vacation Leave

Allow Time to Rejuvenate

Ensure regular breaks are a given. We’re all human, and taking those moments to rejuvenate quickly makes all the difference.

Encourage people to step away from their desks for an actual work pause.

Make it easy for someone to take vacation time. Your employees should be able to take a real vacation, where work stops for them. And for time-sensitive projects, do your best to ensure they don’t have a stack of stress to tackle when they return to their desk.

This is also true for sick time. We all have those heroes in the office who will come in no matter what, but that’s not good for anyone. Enforce your policy that when you’re sick, stay home. Otherwise, you risk that employee getting worse or spreading it through the office.

Following some of the above advice will show your employees that you care about their well-being and are excited to have them on your team.