The inescapable reality these days is that we live in a fast-paced world. Rapid globalization, the accessibility of data and the ease of connectivity even between far-flung countries have ensured that there is always something to do and something to accomplish at all hours of the day. That mentality of always accomplishing something is partly at the root of the obsession of many over the concept of productivity. Especially with the availability of tools by which to measure goal accomplishment and task completion, many companies are understandably preoccupied with ensuring that their respective organizations operate and generate top-tier productivity. This is why productivity hacks are must in every organization — to ensure that both the operational needs and work-life balance of the organization’s manpower are properly taken care of.
Check it out the five productivity hacks that are the key to making an efficient organization:
What productivity is not
Unfortunately, the fact is also lost on many that productivity is not as simple as it sounds. The kind of unhealthy fixation with productivity has led to what is called a “hustle culture” where productivity and accomplishment come at a steep cost — to the extent that lives are lost over it. The whole culture is toxic, and when you think about it, loses touch with the essence and the nuances of TRUE productivity — that people are the heart and soul of the organization, and that it takes a motivated and healthy workforce to help keep an organization relevant, original, creative, and successful. A study published in Occupational Medicine provide the science that backs that assertion up and reports that working longer hours are associated with poorer state of mental health and significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression symptoms. Furthermore, the data from the study shows that a lot of people with common mental health problems have difficulty at work. Another side-effect of the unhealth preoccupation with productivity is sleep disturbance, which is in turn associated with a substantial impairment in an individual’s quality of life. Compared to people who get enough sleep, people with persistent sleep disturbance are more likely to get into accidents, are absent at work much more often, see a decrease in job performance, and generally have a poorer quality of life and use health care service more.
At first glance, it seems like productivity is simply producing more — and the prevalence and popularity of hustle culture proves that. Many organizations particularly prey on young, passionate workers, selling the idea that “becoming passionate about what they do is they key to success”. While that may be true, the reality is different. It usually means long hours with little to no compensation for extra work, unreasonable deadlines and targets, and so on. At the onset, it does generate much more output, but again, taking a couple steps back and looking at the bigger picture reveals how short sighted it all is. Not only does it come at a high cost, but it is unsustainable in the long run and people simply get burned out — ideas dry out, “passion” loses its flame, and creativity takes a nose dive. Ultimately, many companies will find themselves at a loss for talented people to work for them because they’ve racked up an unpleasant reputation for overworking staff. Remember that there are ways to avoid work overload without compromising quality and productivity.
It’s important for organizations and brands to see the true essence and importance of productivity and productivity hacks, and not go blindly at it the way hustle culture seems to demand. Understanding what productivity is about is they key to making an efficient organization that runs smoothly, has good task control and is well-equipped to face challenges.
Why (true) productivity is and why productivity hacks are important
An article in the Harvard Business Review sums true productivity quite nicely: “Productivity is about doing more with the same.” The concept of productivity is tied tightly with the idea and the goal of efficiency. These two are different things, but in a successful organization, they are both present and play a major role in that organization’s growth and success.
One of the essences of true productivity is investing in people. According to Investopedia, a higher level of productivity effectively lets people to get what they want faster, or get more of what they want in the same amount of time. Furthermore, productivity also results in a boost in supply, which in turn keeps real prices lower and boosts real wages, while also enabling people to get out of poverty and allows them to do other things beyond merely surviving day-to-day. This in turn, is accomplished by providing staff with the key (and updated) skills they need to help increase productivity. This results in better performance and raises the value of these workers to the firm they work for. Productivity, in a macro perspective, is also tied to a country’s economic development and success — businesses will see more growth, better competitiveness, boosts in profitability and an expansion in market share; while workers will likely see better wages and benefits, better career prospects and employment opportunities; finally, governments will see improvement in economic performance and higher tax receipts. Case in point: Earlier this year, the Kansas City Fed cited low productivity as the reason behind lower wages, explaining that despite continued improvement in the labor market, real wage growth has low levels in recent years, which upon examination of the relationship between productivity growth and unemployment, shows that low productivity growth is largely to blame for the current low wage growth. The Kansas Fed added that an increase in productivity growth would result in a current low unemployment rate that would likely strengthen the positive relationship between productivity growth and wage growth.
Productivity hacks your organization can work on
That being said, increasing productivity and efficiency aren’t exactly rocket science. The challenge for many organizations is to adapt the correct mindset and the RIGHT productivity hacks that the whole entity can utilize and maximize, as well as look at things from a larger perspective instead of inordinately focusing on short-term benefits. Here are a few productivity hacks companies can do to boost productivity:
1. Breaks are important
It may sound counterintuitive, but breathers and breaks play an integral role in keeping productivity up. Studies show that prolonged periods of working on a particular task result in a loss in focus and concentration. In a nutshell, science has shown that the brain becomes “habituated” to the various stimuli associated with the task and gradually begins to consider them unimportant. What’s more, long periods of working exhausts the brain’s supply of oxygen and glucose, which power brain activity. The more this happens, the less attention the task gets and the more likely mistakes will be made.
Another study by the University of Illinois found that short breaks, much like power naps, recharge the brain and help it respond to important stimuli again. “We propose that deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused,” wrote University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras. He adds, “From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!” This means that mindsets that see breaks as unnecessary is not only unhealthy, but is also actually just poor time management.
2. Employ visual management
Oftentimes, people have a much better response to visual stimuli compared to other stimulus. This phenomenon is what visual management capitalizes on. A great example of this is the Kanban system. The concept itself was started by Japanese automotive company Toyota in the 1960’s. It’s part of the “just-in-time” philosophy, which means making “only what is needed, when it is needed, and in the amount needed.” The idea was borrowed from grocery stores (which speaks to the versatility of Kanban and how it can be utilized by every industry) which printed out product control cards that had all the pertinent information included on it. A Kanban can be as simple as a board with a To-Do, Doing, Done sections. But the key thing is that Kanban presents a simple way to organize tasks, manpower, work and workflow, making things much more efficient. Runrun.it actually has an effective version of the Kanban called the RR-Board.
3. Start with the big tasks
Have a major task that needs doing? Do that and finish that first. It’s called “eating the frog” and as unnerving as that might sound, it does make sense. Especially when we get inundated with the other tasks we have at work, from the mundane to the important, it’s easy to get sidetracked or worse, procrastinate from doing the biggest undertaking on our to-do list. It’s a matter of discipline, which when developed, can do wonders for every workplace and workflow. Consistent practice of this also means that major tasks (that likely have major implications as well) are finished earlier, this giving everyone more time to assess it and spot potential mistakes or missteps that a more rushed / crammed approach would have not allowed for.
4. Avoid multitasking
Among the productivity hacks, this might be one of the tougher ones to chew on: We aren’t really wired for multitasking. A study by the American Psychological Association indicates that “multitasking may actually be less efficient–especially for complicated or unfamiliar tasks — because it takes extra time to shift mental gears every time a person switches between the two tasks.” Further research studies have supported that claim, and basically state that the more efficient approach to work would be to go at it one task at a time. The brain is simply not made for switching from one mode to another — when it does, the transition is neither smooth or fast, especially when compared to a brain that sticks to one task and sees it through the end.
Moreover, a Psychology Today article showed that people who think they are the best at multitasking turned out to be the WORST at it. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that “[t]hose who rated themselves as chronic multitaskers made more mistakes, could remember fewer items, and took longer to complete a variety of focusing tasks analogous to multitasking than those self-rated as infrequent multitaskers.” Multitasking is overrated, and ultimately, unnecessary for true productivity hacks and efficiency.
5. Have the right productivity enhancement tools at your disposal
True productivity hacks and efficiency can be realized as long as the right mindset and the right tools are in place. Runrun.it’s pioneering technology is one great example of that. Take the Smart Time Tracking tool, for example. This tool gives users not only access to basic timekeeping tasks and tools, but informs them on how time is spent. Among other things, there will be data that indicates how much time a particular task needs before it can or will be completed or the average time it takes a particular team to complete a task or tasks assigned to them. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Another very useful tool, The Dashboard, gives access to even more troves of useful data. All these datasets can be generated in real time, which makes things easier and more efficient. Managers, leaders, and decision-makers will find the information these tools provide as important keys to determining where and how workflow and productivity can be enhanced and improved. To see how Runrun.it’s business tools can improve your organization’s workflow, check out the free trial here.