Take a moment and think about how you would define workplace productivity. What does your day have to look like in order for you to consider it productive?
Chances are that your definition contains one or more of these words and phrases: ‘amount of work’, ‘number of hours spent working’, ‘completed tasks’, or something similar. This is where the problem begins. We tend to define productivity quantitatively - in terms of the number of tasks we’ve managed to finish or the amount of time we’ve spent successfully resisting the temptation to open our Instagram. Then we try to ‘improve’ our productivity by blocking the distracting websites or creating a to-do list that we have to complete each day.
But that’s not the point at all.
In fact, thinking about productivity this way negatively impacts our job satisfaction, long-term professional development and work-life balance. What happens is that we get way too preoccupied with ‘finishing’ our tasks that we start favoring completeness over meaningfulness. We would rather reply to those insignificant emails that not even their senders care too much about than tackle that huge text we need to write, building we need to design, feature we have to code, or whatever it is that actually makes a difference to the company or client you work for (or to yourself, for that matter). We can simply tick the email thing off our to-do list faster.
The problem is that at the end of the day, we always feel like we fell short of what we were supposed to accomplish because there’s always more work to do and that huge task we need to work on isn’t completed. We’re tired and overworked and we have nothing to show for it.
Some have termed this concept productivity shame. Employees experience it more and more often, especially now that you’re available and online all the time. Employers have this bias too - they often believe that employee productivity can be measured only by the quantity of their output. It seems like it’s a never-ending cycle, but in fact it’s just a matter of perspective. And in this text, we’ll see how you can adjust yours so that you know how to recognize when you’ve done enough and regain some of that confidence in the quality of your performance.
Are Your Expectations Too High?
The most common problem from which productivity shame arises is unrealistic expectations. We’re really bad at estimating how much time we can spend working. We think it’s probably about six or seven hours every day, but that’s hardly ever the case in reality. This realization is why employee productivity tracker is such a popular tool these days. It makes it easier to see where your time goes and how much of it you can expect to dedicate to work.
So, if you take a look at your employee productivity tracker data and analyze it, you’ll see the real situation in terms of the number of hours you can spend working. It’s probably closer to two hours than it is to seven. This might be surprising, but we do tend to ignore the little distractions that we succumb to ever so often.
Once you see where your time goes during the day, you’ll have more realistic expectations about what you can manage to do. So, instead of giving yourself a six-hour workload that you’re not going to manage to finish, assign yourself a more manageable amount and you’ll have a greater sense of accomplishment. And don’t forget to constantly use employee productivity tracker to re-evaluate your performance on a regular basis.
Quantity vs Quality
As we’ve mentioned before, understanding that it’s not about how much work you do or even how long you spend working but about how much quality, innovation and meaningfulness you put in is one of the most fundamental things about productivity that you need to internalize.
Once you break the habit of looking at how many items you’ve crossed off your list, and start focusing on tasks that matter, even if they take a couple of days or weeks to complete, you won’t be disappointed by how ‘little’ you’ve done each day and start feeling satisfied by how much you’ve contributed to the big picture. So, it’s all about the priorities and you need to set yours in order to figure out what constitutes ‘enough’.
Strategies That Work
There are certain strategies that can help you maintain this kind of workflow, namely OKR and timeboxing. These aren’t new strategies, but they’ve recently become especially popular because huge influential corporations swear by them.
In short, OKR (objectives and key results) revolves around setting big ambitious goals and smaller tasks that can help you achieve those goals and then working towards them. These objectives aren’t supposed to be easy or even completely possible but the point is to have something to work towards and if you accomplish more that 60-70% of the goal, you can consider it a success. Similarly, timeboxing includes dividing your time into segments, assigning tasks to those timeboxes and then doing that task for just that long, even if you don’t manage to finish it.
The point of both these strategies and the reason why they’re considered healthy and reasonable ways to improve productivity is that you don’t need to complete your tasks. This reduces the amount of pressure we face and the emphasis that we tend to place on completion in favor of maintaining steady and meaningful progress. Plus, they work really well with employee productivity tracker which you can use to keep track of time.
Allow Yourself to Disconnect
Finally, in order to rid yourself of the feeling that you’re never doing enough, you need to learn how to disconnect from work when you finish with it for the day. You’re required to work for 8 hours, so unless there’s something that absolutely can’t wait, detach yourself from your work when this period is over. Leave your laptop in the office, put your work phone on silent mode, turn off your employee productivity tracker, and go home.
This will reinforce the idea that you’ve done everything you’re supposed to do for the day. It’ll also give you back some of the work-life balance that we tend to lose when we make ourselves available in the evenings and weekends.
Now more than ever, there’s a pressure on employees to do more work in less time because they finally have all the digital tools that make it easier to perform many tasks but also to stay connected even after work. However, ticking things off your to-do list just for the sake of having a sense of quantitative accomplishment can make you lose sight of the tasks and projects that are actually important. Hopefully, this article has helped you re-prioritize your workload and have more productive days - but in the right way.