Many employees find their workdays not going as planned. They begin their day with a packed agenda, only to become easily distracted. Rather than focusing on important projects, they direct more of their attention to low-priority tasks. Time management becomes hard, and procrastination starts to seep in, leaving them completely overwhelmed.
Unfortunately, this is very common. Only 12% of employees contribute six to eight workday hours to actual work tasks. Additionally, only 53% of employees' time working is spent on priority tasks, while the rest is spent procrastinating on less essential duties.
There isn't one clear answer on how to improve employee productivity. However, employees can leverage multiple techniques to help them stay focused and complete priority tasks on time – without delay and stress.
In this blog, we lay out the five best productivity hacks.
People have a limited amount of cognitive bandwidth – meaning the amount of thoughts our minds can hold at any given time. But, as professionals, we often convince ourselves that our brains have more capacity than they do. While this sounds convenient, it's not palpable.
Juggling too many tasks – simultaneously – sets workers up to fail. When employees concentrate on more than one activity at a time, they tend to use most of their time transitioning between tasks. This can result in most tasks remaining incomplete. And the tasks that get done are more than likely completed at a lower quality.
Multitasking can also hinder creativity. Our best innovative thinking arises when we allow our brains the space and time to follow a path of related thoughts and ideas. When employees give their brains this ability, they can better participate in projects – with more originality and fewer errors.
Focusing on one task at a time increases workplace productivity because it allows workers to set a single objective rather than many. But ultimately, an employee's ability to get work done depends on how well they can focus on a single task at a time, whether that is for 15 minutes or two hours.
Distractions are all around us, from friendly co-workers, background noise, cell phones, and – dare we say – social media.
Now that social media is more incorporated into marketing models; it's harder to get away from. In a matter of minutes, workers go from using it for business purposes to scrolling mindlessly. The average employee spends 12% of their working hours using unproductive social media applications. Therefore, employees must implement steps to limit their social media use. Whether this is putting their cell phone on do not disturb, managing their social media screen time, or muting notifications – it's necessary.
That said, social media notifications aren't the only noise-related distraction. Background sounds are inevitable for all employees, whether in-office, hybrid, or remote. Noise-canceling headphones can help with blocking this out. They can also be a polite – but silent – way of letting co-workers or family members know it's time to focus. Employees must set boundaries with those around them that get too chatty.
Employees often avoid taking breaks and choose to power through their work. But in truth, a break is exactly what their brain and body need. Employee burnout is very prevalent today, especially in hybrid and remote workers. Small breaks prevent overall fatigue and, as a result, help increase employee productivity.
Staffers who take their lunch break rather than working through it give their mind time to rest – and refresh. Random walks throughout the day can also be very beneficial, enabling the brain to release endorphins and increase blood flow.
Many companies now encourage their employees to recharge between tasks. Specifically, some require workers to take timed 15-minute intervals between their main assignments.
Because research suggests that humans can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes before needing a pause. Timed breaks help revive employee engagement without allowing for too much distraction.
Part of workplace productivity is proper prioritization. Unfortunately, many professionals get so distracted by low-priority tasks that they procrastinate their more extensive projects. A great way to avoid this is to create a priority list.
First, employees should write down all their tasks – no matter how big, small, immediate, or long-term. Then, they must break this list into three sections – daily, weekly, and month-plus tasks.
Daily tasks should include day-to-day duties such as meetings, check-ins, and any regular communication correspondence. The weekly list should consist of action items related to deadlines, presentations, or project milestones. Lastly, month-plus tasks ought to focus on longer-term goals and assignments.
With these lists, employees can then organize tasks based on priority. Is the task – dependent on workload and deadline – of high, medium, or low importance?
Employees should assign tasks for each day of the current week and arrange them based on their given priority. As days progress, employees can start incorporating their long-term tasks into their work week schedules – spreading the more significant tasks out over time.
Breaking down tasks and projects is an excellent way for workers to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Building a schedule also anticipates potentially hectic weeks, so employees know when to get a head-start on specific assignments.
Accountability is another key to improved employee productivity. All employees should be responsible for their work performance. Professionals tend to prioritize tasks better when held accountable. It fosters greater employee commitment.
Project management software is prominent for accountability and reporting in the workplace. 77% of high-performing teams use project management software to help keep team members accountable and on track. These programs prompt clearer priorities without micromanaging.
Social platforms for business are another great way to communicate about work projects and responsibilities. For example, BeeKeeper helps boost employee engagement, resulting in more effective work and higher workplace productivity.
Overall accountability helps:
Employees making simple changes to their daily workflow will help improve their overall productivity. With this said, change doesn't happen overnight – just as Rome wasn't built in a day. Employees should be patient with themselves as they take the necessary steps. All workers and workdays look different.
There is no particular order for how employees should incorporate these productivity tips. Instead, they should leverage whichever practices work best for them, and take it one day at a time, then one week at a time, and so on. Soon they will notice their productivity and work ethic has improved drastically. Before they know it, they'll feel fulfilled rather than overwhelmed.
With fewer distractions and better time management, employees will end their workdays achieving what they originally planned.