How To Increase Productivity at Work with Time Management & Organizational Skills

How To Increase Productivity at Work with Time Management & Organizational Skills
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

In a world continuously ridden with distractions and people with short attention spans, although in high demand, have rather become rare.

Productivity is referred to as the ratio between what is produced and what is needed to produce it (Frankel & Kendrick, 2014). To increase work productivity, one can either grow input with the same amount of input or decrease input and carry out the same amount of input.

Numerous attributes are affecting individual and, to a certain degree, organizational productivity. This article aims to offer solutions by giving insights on how to develop time management and organization skills, optimize workspaces, and hone a culture of productivity for individual and organizational success.

Increase Productivity at Work Table of Contents

  1. Invest in People with Grit
  2. Develop Your Time Management Skills
  3. Speed Up Your Work Processes
  4. Manage Your Workspaces: Mental, Physical, and Digital

Invest in People with Grit

One of the best ways to ensure productivity in your company is to invest in the right people. Research shows that employees of successful organizations have one thing in common: grit.

In 2013, Angela Duckworth delivered a TED Talk about grit which she defined as “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.” She argued that more than any other personal trait, grit stands out as a determinant for success.

Duckworth and Lee later extended the study of grit to organizations and found out that “Gritty teams collectively have the same traits that gritty individuals do: a desire to work hard, learn, and improve; resilience in the face of setbacks; and a strong sense of priorities and purpose” (2018, 110). While their study was limited to healthcare organizations, the authors posited that the same principles apply to other business sectors (103).

Recently, COVID-19 brought changes to many organizational structures and processes. A large percentage of employees in the new normal now observe work from home policies or blended work setups. Rebordão (2021) conducted a study to determine how grit correlates with remote work and well-being during the pandemic. The results show that grit is a statistically significant factor in increasing both work-life balance and productivity among employees.

Several other empirical studies demonstrate that grit has a positive impact on work efficiency (Lavy & Littman-Ovadia, 2016) and task performance (Chandrawaty & Widodo, 2020). Gritty employees are also less likely to experience burnout and be counterproductive at work (Ceschi et al., 2016).

If you are interested to know where you stand on the grit scale, take some time to answer Duckworth’s questionnaires. If you are a business owner or an organizational leader and you want to increase productivity at work, this is ideal for implementation among your employees or even among applicants in your company.

Source: State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report

Develop Your Time Management Skills

Time is a commodity. None of us would willingly sell ourselves short. One way we can put value on the table is to accomplish more tasks in less time. Increase productivity in the workplace by improving your time management skills. Listed below are some ways to do so.

Pomodoro Technique

This time management concept was introduced by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It proposes the following six simple steps:

  1. Pick a task.
  2. Set your timer to 25 minutes.
  3. Work on the task.
  4. When the timer rings, put the task on hold.
  5. Give yourself a five-minute break.
  6. After four cycles of steps 1-5, have a 30-minute break.

Remember that you can modify the steps above to better suit your personal productivity needs.

Pareto’s 80/20 Rule

Vilfredo Pareto, an economist, was the proponent of the 80/20 rule which states that 80% of the output comes from 20% of the input in any given scenario. This entails that companies must identify which 20% is the most crucial in their list of to-dos and focus on that.

The Eisenhower Matrix

This method was designed to help individuals categorize tasks based on urgency and importance. It allows its users to determine which tasks they need to focus on immediately and which tasks they can put on the backburner. The matrix is consist of the following quadrants:

  • Quadrant 1: Important and Urgent
  • Quadrant 2: Important and Not Urgent
  • Quadrant 3: Not Important and Urgent
  • Quadrant 4: Not Important and Not Urgent

Kanban System

Kanban is a Japanese word that translates to ‘visual board.’ A Kanban board typically consists of three columns (i.e. To Do, Doing, and Done), each having cards that contain the tasks. This type of time management will work best for visual learners and for project managers who want more visibility on the workflow process.

Time Blocking Method

The concept behind this one is to set aside a block of time for one specific task. Ideally, you could come up with a schedule of your day divided into blocks of time, each block focused on a different task and/or activity. Some of the world’s richest people, such as Bill Gates and Elon Musk, are known to use this method.

Speed Up Your Work Processes

Below are some work productivity tips to help you accomplish more things in less time.

  1. Streamline processes. This is one of the best ways to inculcate the value of productivity and efficiency in your company. Create a culture that does away with the unnecessary, automates repetitive tasks, and implements simple, effective, and standardized processes that produce high-quality results. Realize the power of knowing what not to do.
  2. Communicate effectively. Prevent do-overs. Ensure employee engagement across your organization by giving clear instructions and making goals explicit and known to everyone involved. Further, beware of the pitfalls of corporate-speak, also termed ‘garbage language.’ In other words, be brief and speak like a human being.
  3. Learn speed reading. In the age of information, this skill is an asset and one that you can use in your everyday hustle. Train your brain to absorb more data.
  4. Improve your typing speed. In the 70s and 80s, a trained typist can type 60-90 words per minute (wpm). Nowadays, an average person can type only about 52 wpm (University of Cambridge, 2018). Most white-collar jobs require and set a minimum standard for this skill. Certainly, you need to be more than average to succeed in jobs like transcription and data entry. It takes practice, and thankfully there are many websites and apps that you can use to develop this skill.
  5. Embrace digitization. Equip employees with project and database management tools that will help them work faster and collaborate with ease.
  6. Know your work style. As with other things, what may work for other people may not work for you. Assess your own levels of productivity, observe which time you are most productive, and be aware of the triggers of counterproductive work behaviors and avoid them. There are tons of articles out there that will give you tips, but only you can sort and set what would really work for yourself.

us labor productivity 1q 2021

Manage Your Workspaces: Mental, Physical, and Digital

To increase productivity at work, you have to focus your attention on the things you have control over.

Protect your mental space

In this time of crisis, more and more companies are paying attention to their employee’s mental health, and rightly so. Your mental wellbeing directly affects your work performance. Here are some things you can do to stay psychologically healthy:

Meditate. According to an article published in the International Journal of Management, conscious and continuous practice of meditation results in higher levels of efficiency and more effective time and emotion management (Krishanamacharyulu et al., 2021). It also has a significant positive impact on an individual’s capacity to learn, handle work pressure, and communicate and coordinate with colleagues. Further, the study posits that it only takes 30 minutes every morning and 30 minutes every night to harness the results for yourself. Apps like Urban Yogi, Waking Up, and Dare is useful, especially for beginners.

Get enough sleep. Gibson and Shrader’s study in 2018 revealed that not only does sleep improve productivity, it also increases earnings: “A 1-hour increase in location-average weekly sleep increases earnings by 1.1% in the short run and 5% in the long run.” This means that if you are struggling to sleep, or are losing sleep because of work, neither is benefiting you nor your company.

Exercise. A study published in the International Journal of Social Science and Economic Research showcases the importance of the physical activity to mental and physical wellbeing, productivity, and economic wellness. The authors emphasized that this is especially true and important for developing countries. Similarly, a study conducted in Denmark shows that physical activity among employees reduces absences and increases work performance (Sjøgaard et al., 2016).

Daily Negative Emotions, Among Employees Globally in 2020

Percentage of employees who answered "Yes" to the question "Did you experience the following feelings during a lot of the day yesterday?"

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Source: State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report

Designed by

Declutter your physical work environment

Use the 5S quality tool. This methodology will help you optimize your physical environment for work.

  1. Seiri: Sort necessary from unnecessary and eliminate the latter.
  2. Seiton: Set your things in proper order.
  3. Seiso: Shine or clean your work area.
  4. Seiketsu: Standardize the cleaning and maintenance processes by incorporating seiri, seiton, and seiso in everyday life.
  5. Shitsuke: Sustain the habit of implementing the 5S.

Ensure your physical comfort. Comfortable workspaces have been found to increase productivity by 14% (Syper-Jędrzejak, 2020). If you are working from home, even just a quality chair can do wonders for you.

Get rid of distractions. Identify things in your work area that sets you thinking about things other than what really matters at the moment (i.e. your work task). Distractions may come in physical form or noise. In the case of the latter, opt to take control and use headphones if it helps.

Organize your digital space

Use the abundance of free software to your advantage. Here are some of the best tools out there that you may want to incorporate into your daily grind.

  • Trello is great for project management, organization, and collaboration. You can choose among several power-ups or software extensions that can help you implement your task better (e.g. Google Drive, Calendar, Slack).
  • Timecap is very useful for developing habits and sustaining employee motivation. You can categorize activities based on your preferred tracking mode: (1) time-tracking, (2) checking, (3) counting. Say you want to dedicate one hour every day to meditation, you can use the first option. If you are trying to develop a habit but do not necessarily want to track how many minutes you allotted for it (e.g. gratitude exercise), you can do that too. Lastly, if you are trying to focus on the output above anything else, you can set a goal (e.g. 50 pushups) and track how many you have done so far.
  • Forest may be a solution for people struggling to stay focused. This is designed like the Pomodoro, but instead of a timer just ringing, you see that a tree has grown after completion of the time you set. You can either populate your forest with trees or let the land be barren with this app.
  • Ike is a to-do list app developed for the implementation of the Eisenhower matrix. It gives you the option to create several lists of tasks that you then have to put into one of the quadrants listed in the above section. It comes very handily when you are working on a lot of projects and need to accomplish several tasks in each.
  • Cold Turkey is one of the best apps for blocking distractions. It allows you to block the apps and websites that you know are a waste of time but are tempted to use or browse anyway. It gives you the power to take control of what you will take in your mind space and how you will use your energy.

Reclaim Your Time

There are several ways for improving individual and organizational productivity. Developing grit and time management skills, learning to work faster, and managing our workspaces are some of the ways to do that.

If it is within our capacity to increase productivity at work, there is no reason for us to not at least try. If we can work smarter, then we can dedicate the time we saved to do things that really matter for us as individuals: our friends, our family, our causes. Again, time is a commodity, and at times we have to be reminded that, in the words of Annie Dillard, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

 

References:

  1. Ceschi, A., Sartori, R., Dickert, S., & Costantini, A. (2016). Grit or Honesty-Humility? New Insights into the Moderating Role of Personality between the Health Impairment Process and Counterproductive Work Behavior. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01799
  2. Chandrawaty, C. & Widodo, W. (2020) An Empirical Effect of Grit on Task Performance: Mediating by Transformational Leadership and Job Involvement. Journal of Xi’an University of Architecture & Technology, 12(4), 2461-2470. ISSN No: 1006-7930. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/An-Empirical-Effect-of-Grit-on-Task-Performance%3A-Chandrawaty-Widodo/b5d161ae63e2e9793c7b38acc33977b935b9f8b5
  3. Duckworth, A. L. (2013, May 9). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. TED Talks. https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance?
  4. Duckworth, A. & Lee T. Organizational Grit. (2020). HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Organizational Resilience, pp. 102-122. Harvard Business School Corporation. https://store.hbr.org/product/hbr-s-10-must-reads-on-organizational-resilience-with-bonus-article-organizational-grit-by-thomas-h-lee-and-angela-l-duckworth/10462
  5. Frankel, M. & Kendrick, J.W. (2014, August 25). Productivity. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/productivity
  6. Gibson, M., & Shrader, J. (2018). Time Use and Labor Productivity: The Returns to Sleep. The Review of Economics and Statistics. 100(5): 783–798. https://doi.org/10.1162/rest_a_00746
  7. Krishanamacharyulu et al. (2021) Study on Effect of Meditation on Individual’s Performance at Workplace. International Journey of Management, 12(1), 379-389. http://paper.researchbib.com/view/paper/275939
  8. Lavy, S., & Littman-Ovadia, H. (2016). My Better Self: Using Strengths at Work and Work Productivity, Organizational Citizenship Behavior, and Satisfaction. Journal of Career Development, 44(2), 95-109. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894845316634056
  9. Rebordão, A. B. N. (2021). Remote work and wellbeing: the role of grit during Covid19 outbreak (Doctoral dissertation). https://repositorio.ucp.pt/handle/10400.14/33416
  10. Sjøgaard, G. et al. (2016) Exercise is more than medicine: The working age population’s well-being and productivity. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 5(2): 159-165. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2016.04.004
  11. Syper-Jędrzejak, M. (2020). Material Work Environment and Work Comfort in the Opinions of University Employees. Marketing of Scientific and Research Organizations, 35(1), 93-108. https://doi.org/10.2478/minib-2020-0011
  12. What makes a faster typist? (2018, April 5). University of Cambridge. https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/what-makes-a-faster-typist

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