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4 Common Time Management Truths That Could Jeopardize Your Productivity

4 Common Time Management Truths That Could Jeopardize Your Productivity

Sometime ago I wrote about 5 common time management truths that could potentially lower your productivity levels if you misunderstood them.

The idea behind that post was to make people realize that sometimes it is good to question even the common productivity wisdom that is being taught over and over again. Rather than blindly believing in it, we should all use our own judgment to decide if the piece of advice is applicable to our life or not.

I came up with 4 additional (and very common) time management tips that you should also take a critical look at.

1. Proceed one step at a time

A very common piece of advice when reaching your goals is to proceed one step at a time.

The idea behind this advice is that this way you are not overwhelming yourself by trying to do too much at once. Also, you are less likely to kill your motivation when you proceed this way.

Although this is sound advice, I don’t always like this approach: sometimes it just takes too much time to reach your destination this way.

For example, when I turned myself from a late riser into an early riser, it didn’t take me weeks or months to make the change – I did it immediately.

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One day I just decided: “from tomorrow morning, I start waking up at 5 AM” and that’s what I did. The approach of gradually waking up earlier until I’d reach my goal was just too slow for me.

This happened in 2007 and I’m still an early riser, so a quick change is definitely possible.

2. Procrastination is all evil

There is so much written about procrastination and why it’s not for you. I mostly agree with this advice – but not always. Instead, you should use procrastination to your advantage.

For example, I admit that I tend to procrastinate mostly on low-value tasks that are not important to my goals in any way.

This way I have more time to focus on those important tasks instead. So if it means that I’m postponing the cleaning of my home for couple of days, I can live with that.

You could also channel your procrastination to some other activities, which in turn may help you gain momentum.

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    For example, you might have an important task that you are supposed to do. For some reason you don’t want to do it right away, so you tackle some of the smaller tasks off your list first.

    This way you keep the wheels rolling and you may be eager to start working on the more important tasks on your list later on.

    Finally, you could channel your procrastination to do something useful.

    Once again, if you don’t like working on your main task, you could pick up a book (business, personal development …) and start reading and learning.

    Even if you are not directly working on your main task, you learn new ways to improve the other parts of your life.

    Although I’m not advising anyone to procrastinate on purpose, I’m just saying that procrastination has its role in making us more productive!

    3. Don’t check email first thing in the morning

    I can’t remember how many times I have heard that you shouldn’t check your email first thing in the morning.

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    While this advice is useful, there is also an exception to this rule.

    Sometime ago I was on a vacation for two weeks and then I got back to work. I started working on some tasks – without checking my email first.

    Later, I opened my email client and I found a message from my project manager saying that I shouldn’t be working on those same tasks that I had just completed.

    I was a bit annoyed by this situation, but I could only blame myself. I didn’t check my email first thing in the morning when I came to work. Instead, I started working right away before catching up with the latest project status.

    In most of the cases, you shouldn’t check your e-mail first thing in the morning. However, in some other scenarios you have to do this in order to keep yourself up-to-date.

    4. Do not use willpower when forming new habits

    Very often people are advised that they shouldn’t use willpower when creating new habits. Instead, one should have inspiring and motivating goals that makes the willpower part needless.

    Unfortunately, you still need to use a bit of willpower when you form new habits.

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    Let’s take a person who is trying to quit eating sweets in order to lose weight. Even that person is inspired to take her life in a healthier direction; there are still times when her motivation is going to be tested.

    Maybe there is someone eating sweets next to this person or maybe something happens in her life which makes the person to look for relief (for e.g. eating chocolate).

    In those cases motivation, compelling goals, or pictures of six-pack abs on your refrigerator door are not enough. You need plain, raw willpower in order to say “no” to those temptations.

    This may sound hard, but you need to fight against your old habits — especially in the beginning of your change. After you start, things get smoother and you don’t find eating sweets that compelling anymore.

    Forming new habits and relying solely on willpower is not going to work. However, using your willpower in small doses has its place in the process.

    It’s important to think…and not take common lessons for granted

    Time management advice is valuable, but occasionally you have to take a critical look at how you are performing and rework your strategies until they suit your own needs.

    Photo credits: Red Clock and Old Clock and Hourglass via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    Timo Kiander

    Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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    Last Updated on January 6, 2021

    14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

    14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

    Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

    In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

    For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

    For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

    Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

    Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

    Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

    How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

    Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

    1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

    Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

    For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

    2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

    Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

    Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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    Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

    3. Create a System

    Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

    This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

    You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

    Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

    Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

    4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

    We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

    If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

    Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

    Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

    5. Use a Ratings Scale

    Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

    Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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    It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

    6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

    This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

    You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

    You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

    7. Offer Feedback Forms

    Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

    First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

    Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

    You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    8. Track Cost Effectiveness

    This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

    Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

    Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

    9. Use Self-Evaluations

    Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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    Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

    10. Monitor Time Management

    This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

    Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

      The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

      While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

      11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

      We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

      Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

      For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

      Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

      Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

      From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

      12. Utilize Peer Feedback

      This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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      Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

      Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

      It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

      13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

      When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

      Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

      Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

      14. Use an External Evaluator

      Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

      They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

      While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

      Final Thoughts

      These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

      The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

      The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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      Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

      Reference

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