Making the most of your time, and the time of your team, is one of the most important contributions you can make as a leader. Your ability to accomplish your goals and retain your best talent relies on how deliberately you take on improving productivity. After all, research suggests that for most employees, the most enjoyable and rewarding part of work is when they’re able to get things done.
Without adding hours to the day, you’ll need to find a way to help your team accomplish more, with less friction. To get started, try adding a few of these research-backed tips to your routine over the next few weeks.
Taking on tasks makes us feel accomplished and essential, but we’re all guilty of taking on too much from time to time. Hoarding work and refusing to delegate is a double-edged sword: it implies a lack of trust in your teammates to handle the work, and it leaves you feeling overburdened and burned out. As your organization grows, delegation only becomes more important as tasks get more complicated, and roles and responsibilities become less defined.
How to Get Started: Map out tasks currently on your to-do list, and identify who has the skills to take them on. Clearly identify your expectations for the results and set deadlines, and if the task is complex, schedule a check-in before the due date to ensure you’re both on the right track.
Plan Work in 90-minute Sprints
Interval training isn’t just for the gym. Science suggests that our brains are wired to take on work in 90-minute chunks, ideally broken up by 10 to 20 minute breaks. If you’re like the vast majority of people who take no breaks during the work day, you might actually be reducing your ability to be creative, and exposing yourself to more stress than if you gave yourself a moment to recharge between tasks.
How to get started: Give the 90-minute work interval a shot by using a morning to test the process. Pick a task and set a stopwatch at 9:00 am for 90 minutes. When your time is up at 10:30, get up and take a walk around your office or grab a coffee for 15 minutes to give your brain a moment to recharge between intervals. This can be especially useful when tackling a big problem or getting around to finishing that project with a looming deadline.
Put Data to Work
Most highly-skilled people spend up to one day each week just looking for the right people or resources they need to get their work done. To solve this problem, organizations often try to maintain separate systems built to house everything from contact information in internal directories, to previous experience in an HRIS, to reporting structures in (gasp!) PowerPoint org charts. Access to the information that could help your team get more work done is typically hard to access, incomplete, out of date, or missing entirely. Unlocking people data will ultimately help your organization empower employees to do better, more fulfilling work, while helping your team solve problems faster.
How to get started: For enterprise organizations, productivity and people data are inextricably linked. Structural clients use their existing people data to bolster project teams, communicate with the right internal audiences, and transform the way they collaborate. For a more indepth look at using your people data to power growth, check out our earlier article on using Structural to improve team productivity.
Chat platforms promised to make organizations less siloed, with instant access to anyone, instantly, any time. Unfortunately, while we were once working within a silo and dealing with an overwhelming email inbox, we’re now left to self-manage which channels are most important and are stuck keeping track of many different channels across a constant stream of communication. The silo might be gone, but in its place is an additional layer of chaos.
How to get started: This is an easy one: check chats between deep work intervals, and use a do not disturb message when you’re heads-down in a project. Leave channels or chats that you find you’re merely browsing, or aren’t contributing to your goals.
Get a Change of Scenery
It’s time someone said it: the traditional office is dead. RIP 9-5 workplace with endless cubicles and private offices. According to Gallup, 43 percent of U.S. employees work remotely in some capacity, and of those people, one in three spends more than 80 percent of their time working remotely. This is a 7 percent increase from just four years ago. Remote work has an added bonus for productivity: employees who work remotely 60 to 80 percent of the time are more likely to make more progress in their workday than their colleagues in the office.
How to get started: You don’t need a fully-loaded home office to work remotely. Coffee shops, libraries, and co-working spaces provide desk-bound workers plenty of options to break out of the routine and get a new perspective on existing projects. Coordinate remote days with your team to ensure you’re not missing scheduled collaborative time.
Eliminate Unnecessary Meetings
Whether you’re a team of 50 or 5,000, meeting overload is a recurring problem for highly skilled teams, where collaboration is key to success. Meeting drag is even worse for executives, who spend up to 23 hours per week in meetings (a more than 100% increase from the 1960s). No matter our role, meetings eat away at our days, leaving us with less time to do the deep work that ultimately moves the needle.
How to get started: Researches at HBR suggest surveying your team, anonymously if preferred, to learn what’s helpful (and what’s not) when it comes to meetings. “You’ll learn how much resentment is bubbling under the surface and how much work isn’t getting done during the day,” write Leslie A. Perlow, Constance Noonan Hadley and Eunice Eun. Share the results of your meeting survey with your team, and use the findings to set new expectations based on the pain points you uncover.
Communicate with the Right Audience
While we put a lot of effort into personalizing communication for our customers, we usually phone it in when it comes to internal messages. From one-size-fits-all company updates, to desperate emails for help sent into the void, we’re falling short when it comes to getting the right message to the right people, all to the detriment of our teams. This is an especially painful problem for enterprise organizations, where poor communication to and between employees costs an average of more than $62 million per company, per year.
How to get started: Steal a page from your marketing team’s playbook and start thinking about your internal brand image. How well can employees articulate your mission and vision? How often are teams getting recognition from colleagues and leadership? How are you highlighting internal wins, customer stories, and company news? Last but not least, consider how easy (or difficult) it is to find this information regardless of location or device.
What could your team produce with more time to focus, create, and execute their most important tasks? Learn how Structural clients are getting more done with the enterprise productivity platform, built for modern teams.