Productivity Management: The Ultimate Guide for Managing Yourself and Others

by | October 23, 2020


A lot of our productivity challenges come from tasks and assignments that we have to do — not because we want to, but because there will be serious repercussions if we don’t. 

This leads to lackluster performance on those tasks since we are in a hurry to get them out of the way. A few tips and tricks can help drastically boost performance levels and make the workspace a friendlier place.

But First… Why Do People Struggle with Productivity Management?

Many managers are usually at a loss when it comes to defining their employees’ job responsibilities and finding ways to boost employee engagement. In fact, research at Gallup shows that approximately only 50% of employees fully understand what their seniors expect of them.

This, coupled with the fact that those managers don’t have a solid definition of productivity, leads to a slow decline in the company’s overall productivity.

So, what is productivity?

A simple definition of productivity is the relationship between the outputs that a system generates and inputs needed to produce said outputs. Simply put: Productivity= Amount of Output/ Resources Output.

The struggle that comes with this formula is that instead of measuring productivity based on workers’ overall capabilities, managers tend to focus on the time or labor input.

Excessive emphasis on one quality or, in other words, single-factor productivity, pressures employees to work on completing more tasks faster with little regard to quality.

This even applies to daily life, where you find that instead of having one perfect accomplished project, you have 20 half-done projects that constantly give you headaches.

On a personal level, you should see productivity as a measure of how efficiently you can complete a certain task instead of thinking about completing more and more tasks each day.

Before you learn how to manage others in the workplace, you first have to know how to manage yourself. This goes for small tasks that you have at work to larger projects that require collaboration. 

Let’s delve into how you can consistently complete important tasks at a steady speed.

 How to Effectively Manage Your Productivity 

For the longest time, society has encouraged multitasking. This is fueled by the notion that being a busy body means that you’re doing better and being more productive with your time. 

Sorry to break society’s bubble, but having fewer priorities on your schedule makes for better and faster work completion.

Think of all the world-class athletes, artists, and academics. One common divisor among all those individuals is a commitment- sheer focus on achieving one goal in their respective fields. And it works. 

You cannot successfully complete a certain task if your attention is scattered. Luckily, two methods can help you focus.

1. The Ivy Lee Method

Time for a brief history recap. Ivy Lee was a renowned productivity consultant in the 1900s who once worked for Charles Schwab, the second-largest steel supplier back then.

Schwab consulted Ivy Lee on how he could boost his company’s productivity. Mr. Lee gave him, and all of his executives, five tips to achieve peak productivity. 

i. Before bed, jot down a maximum of six major things that need to be accomplished the following day

ii. Prioritize the six items according to how important they are

iii. On arrival to work the following day, focus only on the first task and complete it to your satisfaction before proceeding to the next

iv. Give the same approach to the rest of the items on the list. If there are any unfinished tasks, move them to the new list of six items for the next workday

v. Repeat that process every workday

2. The Eisenhower Box

Our 34th president, Dwight Eisenhower, was a man whose productivity methods have been studied by many experts, seeing as he was constantly productive for decades regardless of the huge projects he oversaw.

His method is an alternative that you could choose to follow. It requires that you divide your tasks into 4 categories:

  1. The important and urgent tasks (to be done immediately)
  2. The important, but less urgent tasks (to be scheduled for later)
  3. The urgent, but less important tasks (to be delegated to another person)
  4. The neither important nor urgent tasks (to be eliminated)

You might wonder why you should commit to such simple methods when you could take advantage of what technology has to offer. The beauty of these methods lies in their simplicity.

Because they’re so simple, it’s easier to get back on track when something like an emergency derails you. The methods also allow you to place constraints on yourself and limit distractions. 

While six was not a magic number in the case of Ivy Lee, it was his way of saying that it’s better to commit fully to a simple number of tasks. On the other hand, Eisenhower’s method could be used to plan for huge projects or small daily activities.

The basic line is that an individual who commits to nothing gets distracted by every little beep, buzz, or phone call.

Top ways to Help Employees and Teammates with Their Productivity

After figuring out how to boost your productivity, you could now move on to advising your employees. There are several adjustments you could make to help improve their work performance.

1. Provide Autonomy

Our human brains are hardwired with a fight or flight response to unpleasant and terrifying things. This kind of response often reduces productivity because it could cause rows and high employee turnovers. 

This is why it’s necessary to give your employees the chance to make their own choices. It could include simple things like allowing them to design their workspace and asking them when they prefer to get things done.

A question like, “Can you get this done by tomorrow morning?” will invoke a more positive response than, “I need this on my desk by 7 sharp.” 

This is because you will be subconsciously letting your employees know that they have some form of control and aren’t under a dictatorship. 

2. Identify the Root of All Problems

No one is 100% perfect when it comes to doing their job, and sometimes employees make slip-ups that affect their overall performance. 

While these errors should not be the topic of conversation for the rest of the quota, take some time to figure out what caused them. Approach the matter lightly by asking a question like, “Hey, did something go wrong with the report you did last week? I found a couple of errors.”

From there on, you can gauge whether the employee lacked the ability and tools to complete the report, or they were just unmotivated to write it. Then you can take appropriate action.

Getting to the bottom of such little things will help increase performance, according to the book “Crucial Accountability” by Al Switzler.

3. Set Realistic Expectations 

study at Harvard found that only 5% of employees fully understand their roles in the companies they work for, yet human beings thrive where there are solid systems and structures. These employees, therefore, have a hard time when it comes to completing assignments.

Work on giving them expectations and goals. Go a step further and explain to them what their role is and how they build the company. This means that it will be crystal clear who is in charge of what and when they should be done with the tasks assigned. 

It will also give employees a sense of purpose and belonging in that they’ll know exactly how their contribution will lead to the company’s growth.

Even after setting expectations, it’s paramount to follow up at certain intervals to see their progress. At that stage, you can even provide useful insight into what you feel needs a little tweaking so that the end product fits the bill. 

4. Ensure Your Team Has Strong Social Bonds

Gallup’s research reveals that employees who have at least one friend they can turn to at work are more likely to be active and engaged than those who close themselves off. 

In the presence of friends, work feels lighter and much more enjoyable. Employees who have friends will also feel more at ease when asking for help if they have encountered something challenging. 

To build these types of bonds among your employees, encourage them to take their meals at work together, or you could splurge and host events like company dinners. 

Any activities that will lead to them spending quality time together outside the workspace will help them feel less stressed as they do the work since they’ll view coworkers as familiar faces.

5. Urge Employees to Seek Inspiration and Insights from Outside the Company

In this day and age, it’s important to stay informed about all the emerging technologies in the industries we work in. Businesses that stay up-to-date are the ones that always stay ahead of the game since they can pinpoint areas that need improvement early on.

Also, encourage employees to look for inspiration in areas that are totally unrelated to your industry. Research has shown that people who pursue fields outside their own have a broader perspective and can come up with unique blends of ideas, unlike those who solely focus on their area of expertise.

Pitfalls to Avoid When Dealing with Employee Productivity Issues

Some managers may unknowingly take the wrong approach when trying to improve productivity in the workplace. Some things that you should avoid are:

  • Micromanaging

Hovering around employees as they go about their work only serves to make them more nervous. It creates an unforgiving and unproductive loop. Managers hover, employees become anxious and perform subpar. So managers continue to hover, and the employees keep sweating.

As you let your employees gain a feeling of control over their workspace, also trust them to work independently without constant supervision.

The Harvard Business Review urges that managers should coach employees as needed instead of trying to manage every single thing they do.

  • Using Money as the Sole Motivator

survey by Glassdoor showed that 4 out of every 5 employees prefer perks to pay raises. You don’t have to break the bank with extravagant gifts. Just think of the tiny things in your area that would make your employees excited.

This could range from a day off to enjoy life with their family, complimentary massages, or even a discount on movie tickets if they use the company card. 

Such tiny gestures will leave a larger emotional imprint than just surprising them with a pay raise, thus making them feel more at ease in their workspaces. 

  • Failure to Measure Productivity 

While the classic productivity formula can’t be said to work for all businesses, it doesn’t mean that work performance should go unchecked.

Using the right tools and equations, it’ll be a breeze to pinpoint what’s working for your company and what’s pulling it down.

This will allow you to make improvements in due time and eventually maximize the overall profits.

We have a complete guide on how to easily calculate productivity using the dozens of tools at your disposal. 

After implementing these tips and tricks in your daily life and your work life, you’ll be amazed at how life will seem to flow seamlessly. Your business will flourish because you and your employees will always be on the same page.

If you have any questions, feel free to schedule a virtual consultation with one of our trusted assistants any day!