How does your team measure productivity in terms of your collective output?
If you have a ready answer, please head straight to the comments and share your secrets. You’re among an elite class of leaders who have managed to crack the code.
For everyone else, the question of how to measure team productivity remains a constant obsession. And it’s not one that should be perpetually shoved under the rug to deal with later. After all, the more productive your team can be, the more you can accomplish together.
You might be tempted to think that the answer begins and ends with a focus on your own individual work style; pushing best practices on others. You may also think that increasing personal productivity is a matter of mastering inbox zero, turning off phone notifications, and meditating every morning. While these things can help you find your focus, but they’re not a complete process for success.
Here’s the thing:
No matter how productive you think you are, there are always improvements that could be made when it comes to managing your own time. But your time isn’t necessarily the problem in today’s workplace. Instead, you need to be concerned with the need for the collective time management of all the individuals working together in your team.
And here’s the kicker:
You can’t manage another person’s time.
You can provide deadlines. You can set expectations. You can bug the hell out of people about finishing a project. But you can’t physically control how they spend their time, how much time a project takes, or how efficiently someone else works.
As a leader, your hands are tied.
Instead, you must focus on leading more efficiently to increase the team’s productivity.
Here are 7 ways to do just that:
#1: Don’t Go into a Meeting without an Agenda (or a Time Limit)
The main reason most work meetings feel like a waste of time is because… they are.
Just as with anything else at work, without process, there is waste. Specifically with regards to meetings, this means a need to establish ground rules.
First and foremost, if there’s no agenda, there should be no meeting.
A simple list of items that need to be covered is enough to ensure that your meeting serves a legitimate purpose—and keeps attendees on task.
It’s also a matter of watching the clock so that a meeting doesn’t bleed into other important schedule items. Assign one meeting attendee to the role of timekeeper. The timekeeper’s role is to ensure that meetings start and stop on time, giving notice when time is almost up.
#2: Delegate a Set Amount of Tasks for the Team to Work On at One Time
Modern productivity experts accept that multitasking is a problem, not a solution, to your efficient use of time.
The reason multitasking ultimately wastes more time than it could ever save is because of how it constantly distracts you from each task you’re trying to accomplish, pulling you out of focus. Every time your focus changes, it takes time and energy to get in the right headspace to accomplish the main task you’re working on.
For this reason, team leaders must work to limit areas of focus for individual team members at any given time. Give ample time and space for them to accomplish specific projects and tasks before putting something else with a looming due date on their plates.
#3: Schedule Time Blocks with a Rule of No Interruptions
One of the hardest parts of working in a team environment (especially as a manager) is your responsibility to answer questions from employees who need your input in a timely manner.
It’s tempting to respond to notifications on team communication and collaboration tools immediately so that you can dismiss them and move on with your day. The problem with this approach? It’s distracting and takes your focus away from the task at hand (are you starting to notice a pattern?).
To take control, you need to think like a CEO: staying in control of your schedule and time. As a manager, you need to limit interruptions during your day. Of course, it’s not just your focus that needs to be reined in—you also have to worry about how individual team members keep their focus during the work day.
There are so many software tools on the market that masquerade as productivity tools, yet they’re somehow still the root of many workplace distractions. Yes, we’ll go ahead and address the elephant in the room: Slack. If you’re constantly keeping up with messages in real time, without a process, you’ll never get anything done—and you’ll start to resent the people sending them.
So how can you take back control of your day and lead by example for your team?
Take a page out of Boomerang’s book: their Inbox Pause button gives users permission to block off time for deep focus—and zero distractions. It works by “pausing” incoming email messages so that they don’t hit your inbox until you’re ready to deal with them.
But you don’t actually have to use a software tool to set intentions for distraction-free work time. It can be as simple as blocking time in your calendar with a label to the effect of “Do Not Disturb”.
To be effective, make sure that team members have access to your calendar and that they’re aware of your daily time blocks. Encourage them to block off disruption-free time of their own.
The key to leading by example in this situation is to make sure that you respect any reasonable time blocks. Don’t forget to extend this distraction-free time block to the tools you use if they offer this functionality.
#4: Empower Your Team to Take Ownership of Productivity
Although the goal is to support each other collectively, it’s important to also recognize the individual contributions of team members. It’s similarly important to involve individuals in team goal setting—not giving commands that you expect them to follow.
Individuals that feel ownership over the act of increasing team productivity are more tied to the end goal. After all, if they miss deadlines, they have only themselves to blame—they’re the ones who personally committed to a certain outcome.
A useful side effect of team goal setting is increased, more open communication. This also serves to address issues head-on, before they become a bigger problem. The better your team’s communications, the easier it is to work together and accomplish goals.
#5: Don’t Take a Rigid Approach to Time Management
When it comes to software development, there are a multitude of things that can get in the way of on-time delivery, despite the best intentions. Because of this, it’s important to treat time management with a flexible perspective—not as if it were something set in stone.
To adequately address this fact, you need to be flexible in the way you plan for different parts of a project to come together. Make sure to account for the unexpected. Get familiar with your new best friend, evidence-based scheduling. Evidence-based scheduling accounts for the possibility of multiple potential completion dates.
#6: Do Your Best Work in the Cloud
No, we’re not encouraging daydreaming (but go on ahead if you please). Instead, we’re talking about the cloud that most modern workers are familiar with—the one that makes it easy to access files anywhere and collaborate in real time.
Being able to auto-save your work means that a busted computer can’t keep you down when an important deadline is on the horizon. You can just jump on another device and pick up exactly where you left off—since changes can be seen and understood in real-time.
It costs a lot more time to re-do work stored in less-than-ideal conditions than it does to work with a solid foundation for document management.
#7: Conduct Productivity Audits to Find Additional Efficiencies
Change is the only constant in life (besides death and taxes, of course). In order to be continuously productive, you must constantly question your work processes—uncovering opportunities for potential improvement.
As in the rest of your work, it’s inefficient to focus on everything at once. Instead of “multitasking” productivity improvements, focus on just one thing at a time.
After you’ve had time to realize the impact of a new strategy on your team, reflect on it. It’s only after you’ve had the opportunity to reflect that you should consider trying something new to improve team productivity.
Self-reflection can and should be scheduled into your calendar: set a regular time for conducting productivity audits so that you don’t forget about this important opportunity for improvement.
You can’t manage another person’s time and it’s a waste to even try.
Instead, use these strategies to lead by example and empower your team to uncover efficiencies while parting ways with timesucks.