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8 Deadly Traps that Cause Our Failures to Accomplish Everyday Work

8 Deadly Traps that Cause Our Failures to Accomplish Everyday Work

Failing to accomplish work is a huge problem in the workplace today, just ask any project manager. The incomplete work often has consequences piling one task on top of another until what was once achievable now feels either impossible or difficult to do. To avoid this problem one must make a schedule and diligently complete what you have to do, before what you want to do. Here are some suggestions for those who want to get rid of the habit of procrastinating, and be productive. Setting priorities can be effective way to avoid procrastination. Here are 8 deadly traps that keep us from being productive.

1. Unclear Expectations

Creating clear expectations is the foundation of being successful. We have all heard of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time Bound). As you define, communicate and carry out the clear expectations you will want to add one practice that will distinguish you from the rest. Include the three elements of quantity, quality, and pace. Rather than saying, “finish the work as soon as possible” say, “finish these “x” items, as measured or approved by “y”, at a pace of “z” elements each hour/day/week” This approach coupled with SMART goals sets up you and your organization for success. Let’s face it, we feel a bit lazy at one time or another, it is part of whom we are as humans. This lazy characteristic can show up either when we want to get something trivial, or when we want something important done. Don’t let the lazy characteristic take control in the expectation phase of the activity, this will surely come back to bite you later!

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2. Failing to Schedule

Make yourself two lists, first of what to do and second of what not to do. This is the first step in planning and doing. This helps to get your priorities straight as well as to get the tasks done on time. Making a schedule also constantly reminds you of all the things you need to do and lists them for you to finish one-by-one. This approach lets you see the tasks in perspective and it even makes what you might have thought was hard to do seem trivial at times. This method works especially well if you get the harder tasks completed first, quickly cross them off your schedule after finishing them and continue to complete the easier tasks with some relaxation.

3. Allowing Distractions

This involves first identifying what is keeping you from doing your job productively and what it is that is making you slip into feeling lazy. Is it the television? Your phone? Your video games? Or perhaps even your comfy couch which is making the idea of slouching on it more tempting than getting your job done? Identify what is distracting you and give it a break. Perhaps even stay faraway from it. Accountability is important. If you can’t trust yourself to get it done, find someone to hold you accountable.

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4. Delayed Starts

Getting started is usually the hardest part. Sometimes the work is not hard, it is just thinking about it that makes it seem that way. Start with a few easy tasks, you will be surprised at where your laziness went by the time you get to the harder ones. This is because once you decide to get started, the decision is over and it goes only forward from there. To increase productivity, starting with identifying where and what to start is a must.

5. Not Prioritizing

Effective planning is the best way to avoid failing to complete your work. You must prepare a list of “to do” items when you are assigned a job. We have to complete the everyday tasks to avoid the pressure of completing the requirements at the end of the project or work. We must start by creating longer-term plans, say for the month, then for the week and finally for each day. This practice will keep our focus on the bigger picture and we will know that we are accomplishing something bigger than 30 days of individual tasks. You must know the value of your job. Your goal should always to be on time or before, make sure you have been sensible about your goals. Ensure that you plan to your capacity with the resources your have access to (time, money, people, knowledge, etc.). You must know the amount of work you can do each day. Most of us overcommit and under deliver, if you can master overcoming the 8 deadly traps in this article you will reverse this trend. As mentioned before, accountability is an important principle to demonstrate what you can do.

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6. Procrastinating

Procrastination is the natural assassin of success. Keep the consequences of failing to get your work done in mind when you start the task or project, not as you approach the deadline. Maintaining this mind-set, and the image of success, is a good combination to fuel your motivation. The main reason we procrastinate is that we are swimming in a sea of distractions. With access to the world using a computer keystroke or a swipe of a phone screen we can be instantaneously transported into almost any alternative world, and expect that this trend will continue to add to our distractions.

7. Missing Deadlines

The first thing to recognize is that almost all deadlines are arbitrary. This does not me you can ignore deadlines but it does mean you can question them. However, the questioning needs to happen at the beginning of the project or activity, not as the deadline approaches, this just makes you look incompetent. Failing to complete our work often ties to the practice of delaying the most important tasks and performing the least important ones. This practice can cause serious problems for your success and for the organization. Each time we delay the projects of our internal or external clients, we provide another sliver of doubt in their mind for the next project. Getting clients and building trust takes a long time to develop but can be lost in just a moment. Delivering just a bit faster than needed or faster than your competition, is what will distinguish you and continue the contribution to trust building. Plan for delays, don’t react to them, this contingency planning is critical. Our human desires push us to postpone activities which do not entertain us, once again this is where accountability distinguishes the poor from the great performers. Fight the urge and stay accountable.

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8. Overlooking Effectiveness

You must be effective in addition to being efficient. Efficiency is all about faster, better, and cheaper. Effectiveness is all about putting the right plans in place so your don’t have to force yourself to work faster, better and cheaper. We can always put in extra-long hours, but it comes at a cost somewhere to you, your family or to your organization, Time is a finite commodity, the longer hours you are working, are hours in which you are not doing something else. Make sure the trade-offs you are making are conscious ones and not because of your ineffectiveness. Procrastinators always try to postpone their work as they think they have enough time on their calendar. This avoidance behavior places your potential success at risk. We all have to work smarter and not harder Effectiveness is the key to smarter work. Planning up-front allows us a more reasonable pace when we are in the throes of doing the work.

So when you start your day tomorrow, do everything you can to avoid the 8 deadly traps that will cause you to fail in completing your everyday work. Your organization will thank you for the accountability and for your work accomplishments.

Featured photo credit: Penguins/ Marc Lombardi via marclombardi.zenfolio.com

More by this author

Dr. Kevin Gazzara

Senior partner at Magna Leadership Solutions

The 10 Leadership Lessons We Can all Learn from Giraffes The 6 Best Practices to Kill Employee Motivation and Engagement 7 Critical Statements Every Manager Should Avoid To Be More Respectable 12 Ways to Identify a High-Maintenance Employee 8 Deadly Traps that Cause Our Failures to Accomplish Everyday Work

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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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