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Specific Ways To Be Productive In Different Months

Specific Ways To Be Productive In Different Months

Managing our productivity and energy effectively depends on the seasons. By looking at demands on our time from the perspective of the whole year, it will be much easier to manage our year. For purposes of this example, I have structured the months and seasons as they occur in the Northern Hemisphere. With a bit of imagination, you can apply these ideas elsewhere.

Winter (December, January, February)

Winter is a season full of special challenges. With the holidays of December and the cold weather, many people struggle to make progress. Make the most of this time by implementing the following principles:

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  • Review The Past Year’s Accomplishments. Completing an Annual Review in December is a practice that many of the most productive people in the world practice. This practice will help you capture insights on goals achieved and ideas to help you become more productive in the coming year.
  • Plan The Year. January are the perfect time of year to make plans and set goals for the year. Writing your goals down is an excellent technique to motivate yourself in January will keep you going even when the weather discourages you.
  • Prepare Taxes. Preparing for your tax return is hardly fun (unless you are excited about receiving a large refund!). By starting the preparation process in the winter, you will avoid the last minute panic that many people face. If you have good files from last year, you can use that as a starting point.
  • Read A Big Book: Reading is one of the most important habits we can practice to become more productive. By exposing yourself to good writing, your own writing and understanding of the world improves. In February 2015, I started reading Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow, a biography that is over 800 pages long. It is an outstanding book and perfect to read during the long, dark nights of winter.

Getting through the long dark months of the year requires some inspiration and fresh ideas. Use these resources to stay renew your motivation and increase your productivity.

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Spring (March, April, May)

Spring signals the return of nature after the dark and cold of winter. Spring is also a great opportunity to improve your productivity.

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  • Spring Break: In Canada, most schools have a 1-2 week March break vacation. Elsewhere, you may have Spring Break. Taking a short vacation as winter comes to a close is a great way to give yourself fresh ideas. If you have been struggling with a business problem, diving deep into some good business books over spring break may be the most productive decision you make all year.
  • Boost Productivity By Getting Outside. Our physical health and wellbeing is a major contributor to our productivity. When the spring season arrives, longer days mean you have the chance to get more sun light. Taking in a walk through a nearby park will help to reduce your stress levels and improve your mood.
  • Increase Your Productivity With Networking. In April and May, it is time to get outside and meet other people. Strong relationships – at home and professionally – do wonders to increase your productivity. You can use this season to attend local Meetup.com events related to your work – this is a great option for people interested in technology and marketing (interests that are well represented on Meetup.com).
  • Outer order contributes to inner calm. According to author Gretchen Rubin, the order of our homes and lives increases our sense of calm, a key contributor to productivity. Spring is the perfect time to get started on that long neglected spring cleaning project at home. At the office, you can also take this opportunity to dispose of obselete materials and archive old emails.

Summer (June, July, August)

For many people, the summer signals relaxation, leisure and fun. It’s a habit we developed as we went through school – the prospect of summer holidays was always exciting. In the working world, summer is a great time to get ahead. As more and more people go on vacation, you have the opportunity to get more done.

  • Get Ahead While Everyone Goes Into Vacation Mode. Many companies slow down in Juy and August as a large percentage of the workforce goes on vacation. This is the perfect time to create professional assets, resources that you can use over and over again at work. The slow months of the summer are also a perfect time to assess your performance: are you reaching your work goals? What can you change to do better?
  • Get Training To Improve Your Productivity. As the pace of work often slows in the summer, it is a perfect time to get training. You can take an online course, attend a conference, or start a self study program. If you are looking for a general program to improve your productivity and organization, I recommend reading Getting Things Done by David Allen.
  • Plan A Bucket List Experience. In my view, productivity means achieving your goals which can certainly go beyond career and business goals. The summer is a great time to work through your bucket list, especially if you like adventure sports.

Fall (September, October, November)

The closing months of the year bring new perspectives. Students return to their studies, charities launch donation campaigns and companies push to achieve their business goals.

  • Review Progress on Goals Set Earlier in The Year. If you have set goals earlier in the year (preferably using a proven system such as Michael Hyatt’s 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever!), the fall is a great time to review your progress. You may be pleasantly surprised with your progrress on some goals and disappointed in other cases. The fall is your opportunity to improve your productivity by getting focused on your goals.
  • Expand your network by attending events and reaching out. In the fall, many professional associations offer new programs and events. You can advance your career by actively participating in associations – attend seminars, ask questions and look for volunteer opportunities.
  • Choose one major activity to complete in the year. The final few months of the year are a great opportunity to get ahead. While everyone else is thinking about the fall holidays, this is your time to get ahead by doing the work others will not do. For the best results, choose a single goal or activity to complete in the remaining months of the year.

Featured photo credit: Autumn Leaves/jbom411 via pixabay.com

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Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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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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