December 30, 2009

Just Because You’re Working Doesn’t Mean You’re Productive

BY John Paul Narowski IN Productivity 4 Comments

A large majority of working professionals adhere to the standard corporate nine-to-five schedule.  While some work more, less, or different hours to meet the unique requirements of their position chances are you’re expected to be at your desk for a set number of hours each day.  While this system provides stability for the business world, it does absolutely nothing for productivity.

If you have eight hours to fill with work you will find a way to stretch the work you have into those eight hours.  If someone put a gun to your head and said you needed to do a day’s worth of work in two hours you would find a way to get it done.  It’s all about motivation, and we’re conditioned to find ways to fill out the work day to make us and our superiors feel like we deserve our jobs.

This is why you’re constantly being dragged into meetings, one-on-ones, review sessions, conference calls, and so on.  If you took a look at your day I bet you that you would discover large amounts of time wasted on tasks that don’t contribute to your end goals.  Sadly, the appearance of work and being busy is more important in most work places than actual results.

Effective or Efficient? 

If your job is to sell widgets you could be very efficient at going through the phone book and calling every single listing in there and asking them if they want to buy one.  You could devise a great system for organizing your results, have wrap up meetings, make presentations, and so on.  You would be very busy but not very effective.

If you’re looking to justify your paycheck then this is a great system.  Unfortunately, too many workers and managers came up through the ranks of systems like this and think it’s the best way to run a business.  Instead of finding busy work to fill the hours why not find a way to cut out all of the noise and focus on what actually brings in results?

 Get to Effective in Five Steps

Not sure how to cut out all the extraneous work getting in the way of true productivity?  Follow these five simple steps, and you’ll be well on your way.

  1. Take a long deep look at your work day and honestly assess where you spend your time.  Are you letting busy work, meetings and other non-productive tasks take up time until the whistle blows at the end of the day?  If you think you can’t “see the forest from the trees” anymore ask someone you trust to help.
  2. Find the areas of your work life that are just there to make you appear busy, pass the time, or are keeping you from the most important activities.
  3. The 80/20 Principle states that in general 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.  Find the 20% of your activities that are creating 80% of your positive results and work to replicate those while phasing out the rest.
  4. Use productivity tools to automate and organize the busy work that used to take up large swaths of your time.  Technology can free you from having to deal with a lot of productivity robbing work.
  5. Help your coworkers to change too.  Don’t let other’s bad habits rob you of productivity.  If you’re forced into time robbing events do your best to make them as quick as possible.  Try to keep meetings short, focused, and flowing.

Start with these simple steps, and you’ll be able to clear out the clutter in your daily work habits and focus on the activities that bring in real results.

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

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