When you think about it, man’s constant desire for better, faster, more has never seemed to die down or change. Back when we all lived in caves, we invented the wheel to go places, carry heavier loads, basically do things faster, better, and more. Today, the “wheels” may have changed, but we find ourselves yet again more than ever concerned with “more”. We want more work done for own various reasons. More money. More free time. More time to spend with the kids. More chances of moving up in the world. Okay. Now that we’ve established our motivation, how in the heck do we increase productivity (whether our own or colleagues’, or employees’)?
Truthfully, there are no hard and fast rules to do this, but the thing to remember is that productivity is very much tied to happiness. It’s been scientifically proven that happy workers are more productive ones. And as blogger Alex Kjerulf explains in his post here, once you start liking what you do and enjoying your work, your productivity will soar.
I’ll even let you in on a personal story. I started out as a marketing assistant at a bank. To say the least, it was painfully boring and mind-numbing, consisting mainly of making phone calls to clients, confirming they were depositing huge sums of money, in amounts I would never make in a lifetime if I stayed there. How do you think that impacted my productivity?
So maybe for the first lesson in productivity, it goes something like this:
Productivity = Happiness + Purpose
Any human being who disagrees with the “purpose” part is either Sisyphus or a hamster. So if your job right now feels like you’re running aimlessly in a hamster wheel, it’s time to seek better employment. But hey, if you’re happy with that sort of thing, that’s your thing. I personally would run amok with an AK-47 and take my colleagues hostage. But that’s just me. That’s why I left the job at the bank after a week.
In a nutshell, to increase your productivity, FIRST, choose the sort of work or place yourself in the sort of industry where you’re more likely to do the work you like. Sounds simple, but soaring numbers of unhappy workers say otherwise.
Pick the work you like, and try to make sure it won’t feel like there’s a solid brick wall ahead or above you. Do some research on the company, organization, and industry you want to work in; talk to people and Google the relevant topics on them.
Maybe that’s all more suited for long-term strategies in upping your productivity. So maybe a “nutshell” type list will help boost your productivity now.
Here are a few tips for increasing productivity on the job:
1. Create a work environment that suits you.
Start with a comfortable chair. But please, not a La-Z-boy. Recliners are for vegetating in front of the TV or sleeping, not working. If you can afford one of those fancy Aeron chairs, go for it. The key is to tailor-fit your workspace into a “mechanism” you like using. Remember, unless you’re as brilliant and aggressive as Richard Branson, you and your workspace will be together for quite some time.
Decor, lighting, and use of space are also important. Some people like a lot of light, some like it dark. Some use a lot of shelf space, others tuck things away. Some people like the whole Scandinavian minimalist thing, others like to be crowded with their books, magazines, CDs, pictures of soon-to-be girlfriends (that’s not me…) and heck, even toys. Use what works for you, just be sure to not encroach on anyone else’s space.
2. Make a list.
Yes, a list. You have one for groceries, you have one for the people you hated in high school and swear vengeance (again that’s just me), so why not one for your day-to-day tasks? Most people take it for granted, but successful people swear by it.
And really, there’s a feeling of satisfaction in ticking off a task you’ve completed by day’s end. Don’t rob yourself of that feeling. And why do you think PDAs come and go, but the good old filofax and note pad are still around? The tools change, but the practice doesn’t. Jot down that list now.
3. Put on a little music.
So long as you’re not operating heavy equipment, play your favorite tunes.
Studies on productivity have confirmed that workers who listen to the music they like increased their work output by at least 10%. No wonder Sony Walkmans have been selling like hotcakes, at least until the iPod came along.
You want more proof? I’m listening to Depeche Mode as I type this. Not exactly happy tunes to work by, but it keeps my motor running. Oh, and if you’re the only one who likes the music you’re listening to, get a great pair of earphones. Not everyone in Accounting might be able to balance the books while It’s No Good is blasting.
4. Take a break when you need it.
Breaks are okay, and the operative words being “when you need it”. To keep your own motor running, take a break away from the keyboard. Breathe. Take a short walk, have a smoke, talk to people, grab a small bite. Breaking the monotony (so long as you’re not in the middle of something) helps to keep your ball rolling.
5. Reward yourself a little, from time to time.
Remember what we said about happiness? It doesn’t have to be something big.
Give yourself a little pat on the back when you’ve finished something or feel you done good at work. Never discount the importance of little rewards, it will actually help you with a little “happiness boost” to tackle the next task. This can be anything from a small treat, new CD or article of clothing, desk toy or that vintage GI Joe figure with the kung-fu grip you always wanted as a kid.
6. Keep your eye on the ball.
Yes, ironically, to keep your ball rolling at work, keep your eye on whatever goal you’ve set for yourself, long-term or short-term. Oh, and make the goal more “life-related”, more personal. “Finishing tax reports before the end of the fiscal year” doesn’t sound nearly as exciting a goal as “finally learning to ski in the Pyrennes”. Literally have a picture or collage of what you’re aiming for right there as a desktop wallpaper or put it in a place where you can see it or easily bring it out and stare at it for a minute or two. This is visualization. (Get a copy of the book The Secret and you’ll see what I mean). It doesn’t matter if it’s a shiny new car, that vacation in the Maldives you’ve always wanted, the home you’ve always dreamed of buying, or even the celebrity you want to
abduct date. When it comes to goals, you don’t have to be 100% realistic. What’s important is you get yourself jazzed up about work, and the feeling of wanting to work harder, if not smarter, will follow.
Of course, these are just a few tips on short-term fixes for upping your own productivity, and maybe encouraging other people in your team to be more productive. Start with these tips and you may discover your own methods that will help put you on the path to heightened productivity, which (could) translate to success, peace of mind, and long-term happiness.
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