How Can I Increase My Productivity?

Question:

How can I increase my productivity throughout the day? I always feel that I produce a lot less than others and feel that I do not get enough done in comparison to others. I sense that my manager is aware of this however he has not raised it in any reviews given. I try to be more careful in my work and think I look too much into detail. we were recently given training and asked to be more careful in the work.

Signed,

Slow But Careful


Answer:

Dear Slow But Careful:

The type of work you do will have a lot to do with how you can increase productivity. (For example, mechanical work, word processing and factory work would vary, as would other types.) However, there are some guidelines for productivity that can work for almost everyone and perhaps they will help you.

1. Know the standard or the average and where you are in relation to it. Many employees have no idea how much others are doing, so they think they are doing more or less than others, but they may be wrong. For one thing, a coworker may do more quantity but lower quality. Or, a coworker may have less complex or more complex work on a given day or throughout the work time.

If your coworkers do almost exactly the same type of work you do, you can more easily determine where your productivity is in relation to others. You can find that out by asking them in a non-competitive way, by looking at reports or records if that applies to your type of work or by asking your supervisor.

That leads into the second tip for increasing productivity.

2. Talk to your supervisor. Write or talk to your supervisor and say essentially what you wrote to us. He will probably be thrilled to think you care. Tell him you want to be as productive as possible while still paying attention to details. Ask him if he can tell you or at least make a judgment about whether you are in the top third, middle third or lower third of the group. Or, ask him if he can tell you if you need to improve your productivity in order to be considered a truly effective employee.

(Keep in mind that the two parts of work are Behavior and Performance, so just being more productive doesn’t make you an excellent employee, even though it’s obviously a need.)

If you want to and think it will help, ask him some pointed questions:

*What would you like me to keep exactly the same about my work? *What do you think I could do differently to improve it? One way to ask those questions is to say, “I’ve been wondering about two things that I think you could tell me. First, what do you think is the best part of my work so I should keep it the same? The second question is what do you think I could stop or start doing to improve my work? So, could you tell me those two things?” Many employees tell me that it often has started really great conversations with their bosses.

3. Manage your time. After you know for sure what your status is, and you have discovered that you do need to increase your productivity, spend a bit of time thinking about how you spend time at work.

Is there anything that takes away from the time available for you to do work and that you have control over? For example, you may not be able to control the amount of email you receive but you might be able to control the length of your responses or how much time you spend on non-work emails. You need to talk to coworkers, but you don’t need to spend half an hour, five or six times a day, chatting. If you do manual work, you want to do a good job, but obsessively polishing one area or redoing one thing just to make it a tiny bit neater, will use up too much time.(You may not do those things, those are just examples.)

There is nearly always what I call the Instead Factor when people don’t get their work done or don’t do the amount they are capable of doing. What are they doing instead? So, that is one way to consider your time. You should not feel that you must be obsessively working every second. But, most of your work day should be filled with moving work in and out of your area (or however you do your work.)

Another way to get more done is to hustle. I often write “Hustle” to people who I know are dallying on a project or other work. Many people have established a work habit that is slower than needed and reduces productivity tremendously over the course of a day or week.

I once watched an employee take almost ten minutes to make a few copies, because she was agonizingly slow. When she was told to speed up she was able to do it, she just always had stretched out the time in that way.

4. Know how your work should be done. It takes time to go over work repeatedly to catch or correct errors. You said you have been told to be more careful in your work. Consider asking the person who provided training to suggest ways to combine speed and accuracy.

One way to improve is to determine the most common causes of errors then focus on those rather than assuming every single aspect of the work has to be closely examined, costing you wasted time. (That will vary according to the type of work, of course. Some work has to have close inspection in every area.)

You may find it helpful to talk to other employees about how they do their work, to get tips and techniques that improve speed without sacrificing details and quality. Just be sure you’re learning from someone who is doing it right.

If you think you can do so or want to do so, consider asking your boss to recommend a coworker who might be able to give you suggestions.

5. Test yourself. Get a friend who is a coworker to do some similar work and see how much longer you take if you both work at a normal speed. Or, do something in your usual way, then do it while hustling and see what happens.

6. Keep track of your work progress. Sometimes just having a record can be an encouragement and a guide. See if you do more on some days than others or if you do more earlier in the shift than later. That may give you some ideas for how to maximize work.

7. Work on your own and as part of the team. Sometimes work requires the input of other people. Anything that gets in the way of effective communications can lower productivity. At the same time, too much communication can harm everyone involved in it. There are sometimes things about work that have an impact on work for everyone–location of supplies, temperature of the room, etc.

Look around and see if there is some aspect of work that you could help others improve while improving things for yourself as well. 8. Put the newness back in your work. Often, when there are concerns about work, the fun or joy of it or just the new energy about it, goes away. What did you like about the work at first? Find that again. Reach out to others who may be feeling unsure too. Think about the time when you felt you were at your best at work. What is different now? Can you get that back or reinforce it to keep it strong?

All of these eight thoughts may not work a miracle, but perhaps they can help you get started toward improvement or at least a better feeling about work.

Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe