Advertising
Advertising

Actionable Productivity Tips to Streamline your Working Day and Lower Stress

Actionable Productivity Tips to Streamline your Working Day and Lower Stress

As someone who spends her days designing offices and organising office refits, I know what it’s like to feel like I’m losing control of my daily tasks. In an age where people in a range of industries are expected to manage multiple clients, crucial jobs and more menial tasks all at once, organisation is everything. This is especially true when you consider how much workplace stress has risen since the start of the recession.

While absence levels have fallen, 40% of employers recently reported an increase in stress around their workplace. This comes with its own set of problems, as employees go into work unwell and unproductive, and even at risk of serious heart problems.

While completely eliminating stress from your working day isn’t a luxury many people have, I’ve found there are plenty of ways you can streamline your day to day tasks to get yourself organised and start to lower your stress levels.

Delegation doesn’t equal laziness

I often find myself staring, horrified, at my intimidating to-do list. No matter how many tasks I manage to tick off others crop up to replace them almost immediately, meaning I’m constantly on the go and struggling to section off my time.

If this sounds familiar you may also have experienced the feeling that this is your work, so you alone should complete it and, if you’re as good at your job as you think, you shouldn’t be getting behind. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Even the best of us struggle to keep up with the fast paced world of modern work sometimes, so don’t be afraid to delegate certain tasks to others.

Advertising

Share the load with your team

If you’re a senior member of your team like me, I find that passing on simpler tasks to junior team members can eliminate a surprising amount of pressure. With me it’s Photoshop work, simple 2D plan work and product image searches, but niggling tasks in any industry are the ones that keep getting pushed aside until later, build up without you really noticing and then loom out of the gloom with a stressful vengeance, just when you think everything is done. Plus, I find they take the fun out of the working day, so saving the more complicated and creative tasks for yourself is an ideal way to inject more interest back into your work.

Share the load with freelancers

Now, I do understand that not everyone has the advantage of heading up or working as part of a team, but there are still ways you can delegate your menial tasks.

Upwork and Amazon Mechanical Turk are both great web platforms where you can submit jobs for their thousands of freelancers to complete on your behalf. These freelancers do obviously ask for payment, but the rates are wonderfully affordable and more than pay for themselves in the time they’ll free up in your busy schedule.

Lists are your best friend

If you work in a role where your tasks are constantly changing and adding up, keeping track of them is essential to organising your thoughts and not forgetting about certain jobs. I find the best way to do this is by making lists.

If, like me, you’re particularly forgetful, you’ll rely on to-do lists to keep track of your work and keep yourself focused throughout the day. You might also find that you’re losing your paper lists among the rest of the documents surrounding your workstation, which is why I thought I’d share my favourite little organisational app.

Advertising

Introducing Wunderlist

wunderlist

    Wunderlist is an online to-do list that is actually pretty ‘wunderful’. As well as simply entering your tasks, it gives you the opportunity to keep track of and organise your workload on a deeper level.

    You can set due dates on your tasks and set reminders to go off when you’re approaching a deadline, drag and drop tasks into order of urgency, add sub-notes within tasks, share your to-do lists with other team members or work mates, and even delegate tasks to them. There’s even a Wunderlist app for mobile and tablet so you can add tasks to your lists during meetings on the fly. Brilliant if you struggle to store action points in your mind!

    One of my favourite ways to organise my Wunderlist tasks is in lists created for each specific client or project. This way I don’t have to deal with the confusion of one long task list, or the intimidation that can stem from having a large number of differing tasks grouped together.

    Advertising

    Manage your emails, don’t let them manage you

    omnifocus

      The first thing I do when I get into work is switch on my computer and check my emails. The bad news is that rather than having a few to reply to and a couple to action into Wunderlist tasks, I’m often faced with an amount in double figures all clamouring to be dealt with “ASAP!”

      While you might log into your emails meaning to simply check them before getting on with the bulk of your work, the reality is that emails can sap a lot of time if not managed correctly. However, whether you’re dealing with just a couple of demanding clients or a large number of clients all at once, there are things you can do to regain control of your inbox.

      Flag things that can wait

      Don’t feel obliged to act on every single email right away. Unless something is super urgent, I always flag emails that can be properly read or dealt with later on. I use this technique with important emails rather than urgent ones, because there is a distinction between ‘important’ and ‘urgent’. Identify what kind of issues and requests classify as urgent within your company and you’ll already have some of the formula in place to better manage your emails.

      Organise your mail with folders

      It isn’t just the sheer volume of emails that can eat into your working day, but the variety of places they come from. From your various clients and colleagues to additional email accounts you’re managing in the same client, they can all get lost among new correspondence from another before you know it.

      Advertising

      Rather than trying to remember when you received each one and becoming increasingly more stressed when you can’t find it, create different folders to keep track of emails relating to everything from different clients to different tasks and projects – whatever takes priority in your industry.

      Become one of those people you can ‘never get hold of’

      I’m going to get a little controversial here and recommend that you process your emails in 20 – 40 minute bursts around 2 – 3 times per day, and keep your email client closed the rest of the time. I mean closed too, not just minimised.

      I spent the first week of trialling this in a state of panic, especially since I have a client who does the same thing and, as a result, is murder to try and reach! That said though, it’s now a regular part of my working day and I find that it gives me so much more freedom. Having your emails completely out of the picture for a while can be a huge weight off the mind, and gives you the freedom to just get on with your tasks without that email tab lurking in the corner of your eye!

      With so much stress mugging up the modern workplace that not even the most inspirational looking office design can fix, employees need to take their hindrances and intimidations into their own hands. It’s all about organisation and forward planning, and I hope that after working these processes into your working day you’ll start to feel as streamlined and stress free as possible. I know I certainly have!

      Do you have any tips of your own to add to my list? Leave them below; I’d love to try them out!

      More by this author

      Actionable Productivity Tips to Streamline your Working Day and Lower Stress 4 Reasons Why your Home Office Furniture Should be Tailored to your Space single purpose home office 10 Quick Fixes for Creating Space in a Cluttered Home Office

      Trending in Productivity

      1 4 Effective Ways To Collaborate With Your Team 2 Why Your Habits Hinder You From Reaching Your Goals 3 We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why? 4 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away 5 How to Reprogram Your Brain Like a Computer And Hack Your Habits

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising
      Advertising

      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:

      Advertising

      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.

      Advertising

      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.

      Advertising

      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.

        Advertising

        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.

        More Productivity Tips

        Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

        Reference

        Read Next