By Michele Don Durbin, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Evernote
Productivity levels for the UK have been below average since the financial crash in 2008-09, in fact in 2016 a comparison of labour productivity across the G7 nations found that UK productivity was lower than that of Germany by 26.2%.
Although productivity dropped again in both the first and second quarters of last year amid stringent lockdown restrictions, it rebounded in Q3, rising by 5.6% between July and September. Working from home and the furlough scheme will have certainly had an impact on productivity.
But what can business leaders and managers do to fix the UK’s productivity problem and get more from their teams?
Here are some practical tips managers can follow and share with their teams to help them be more productive in 2021 and beyond.
Declutter digital spaces
Research shows that the average knowledge worker wastes around two and a half hours per day searching for information, because of data overload. If you have a messy computer desktop and an unorganised filling system, you’re likely to end up wasting time searching for lost documents and information. Decluttering will save time by helping you and your team members find what you need quickly, when you need it.
Firstly, you should organise your computer desktop. If your computer desktop is covered with documents and junk, it’s hard to find what you need, when you need it. Delete any documents you don’t want, file away items you want to keep, and create files for anything that doesn’t already have a home.
Next, go through your computers and tablets and delete any unneeded files, then empty the downloads folder on each device. This will clear space in your downloads folder, plus it should help your computer to run quicker by deleting bulky files (especially large files like videos and high-resolution images) that eat up your computer’s memory.
Avoid information overload
Do you ever get the feeling you and your team are constantly interrupted at work? Research shows that a knowledge worker gets interrupted or switches tasks every three to five minutes on average. This leads to an unhealthy brain overload and exhaustion.
Learning to protect your attention – and encouraging your team to do the same – is essential to become more productive. You and your team should think about which days and times you work best, with the most energy and concentration, and how you can protect this time.
Setting aside blocks of uninterrupted time in your calendar can help you be at your best when you must work on the tasks that are most mentally draining and need the most concentration.
Also, reduce or remove distractions during this time. Close down your email, put your phone on silent or do not disturb and definitely close down chat tools. This will help you get into the flow with minimal distractions.
Make meetings shorter
We now spend 80% of our time collaborating or replying to emails or messages or in meetings. This leaves little time for actual work.
So why not try to make your teams meetings a little bit shorter?
Just because your calendar may default to creating 30-minute or 60-minute meetings, they don’t necessarily need to always be that long. Try shrinking meetings and change your calendar settings to default to 25-minute or 50-minute meetings and add back hours of time in your week to work on your most important tasks.
And to ensure you still cover everything you need to make sure you and your team never enter a meeting without an agenda. Agendas should be sent around at least a day prior so the attendees can prepare.
Work in 45-minute blocks
It’s easy to be drawn into thinking that you and your team should be fully focused at work all of the time, but that’s simply impossible.
Research shows that the human mind can only intently focus for a limited amount of time before we get distracted.
So instead of aiming to work straight through long hours to finish projects or meet tight deadlines, try breaking the work into smaller chunks.
Ideally these chunks should be about around 45-50 minutes long as this helps you to maximize productivity whilst not burning yourself out by trying to push past your physiological limits.
Identify when you are most productive
Everyone has times of day when they are most and least productive, which are influenced by our circadian rhythms. For instance, most people reach peak productivity between 9:00 am and 11:00 am, dipping in focus around 2:30 pm.
Identifying when you and your team are most productive means you can schedule the most mentally challenging tasks for when you have maximum concentration and brain power.
If you have a very busy day at work and feel stressed about having to get it all done, think about doing the most difficult and mentally tiring tasks during your power hour(s).
Ultimately, by taking on these tips and changes you and your team will see a notable difference in your ability to complete tasks, feel less overwhelmed and more productive.