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Why overtime isn't the answer to increasing productivity

Why overtime isn't the answer to increasing productivity Joe Staples

The workplace is changing. The way work gets done and work itself is changing. So how can you keep pace while balancing an increased workload with higher productivity expectations? The answer isn't necessarily working overtime, yet we found in Workfront's 2016-17 State of Work Report that 59 percent of U.S. employees are working more than 40 hours per week. This overtime often leads to a staggering number of mentally exhausted, unproductive and stressed out team members who are running on coffee fumes.

Here are three resource management strategies to implement now to mitigate the threat of overtime, burnout, and lost productivity.

Receive all requests in one place

The key to high levels of productivity often lies in a great organizational system. With requests flying at you from different directions through various channels, your organizational hierarchy can quickly erode. Rather than focusing on executing the task, you're left spending time deciphering what exactly the rogue post-it note left on your monitor means. In fact, 32 percent of those surveyed for the State of Enterprise Work Report cited a lack of standardized processes get in the way of their work.

To help ensure you are managing the work instead of the work managing you, create a central location and process to receive all work requests. If you currently have nothing in place, start with an alias email account (like [email protected]). This can help you test the single portal waters without making a huge investment upfront. From there, you can start considering more robust options like a ticket system (used by many IT teams), or a full-featured work management solution. No matter what stage you are at, there is a step you can take today to streamline your processes and increase productivity levels.

Connect tasks to goals

Across the board, we see a prevalence of non-goal related tasks in today's workplace. It may seem counterintuitive at times to pause and consider how an assigned task actually ties into a larger goal. However, taking that time will ultimately help you avoid major time sucks on your day. For each task -- especially those thrown at you last minute with a high sense of urgency -- take a moment to ask yourself, "How does this support our overall business goals." If you can't answer the question, then you likely do not need to be spending your precious productivity hours devoting resources (both of time and money) to it.

Marketing guru Chris Brogan notes in a blog post, "We work a lot. We work more than ever before. We're logging many more hours, processing mountains more email and other communications. We're just doing lots and lots more than ever before. But we're less happy, less certain that we're accomplishing our goals, and less sure of what we need. What you're doing today impacts what you'll accomplish this week. Bucket up all the todays into a month, and then stack twelve of these up, and what you did today reflects on your full year."

Keeping an intense focus on the larger goals means you will inevitably have to say no to tasks. Get comfortable and confident using the word "no." When you use it effectively, it will only help drive more success for you, and your business, overall. Remember, there is nothing productive about taking on work that is a waste of your time and money. An added benefit to managing your work inside a single work management software application is you can retrospectively look back and see what work your team has done and what percentage of that work maps to the defined corporate strategic goals -- which is useful information when it comes time to request more headcount.

Establish "no-interruption time"

We also found in the State of Enterprise Work Report that, more than anything, 25 percent of office workers say more interrupted blocks of time would boost their productivity. This isn't a ground-breaking concept; however, with constant pings from email and instant messaging applications and open office concepts, it can be increasingly difficult to avoid distractions and block out heads-down time. Get comfortable with setting boundaries and letting coworkers know if now is not the best time to chat because you're right in the middle of a project. You can also start to incorporate a bit of agile methodology with timeboxing. This project management technique sets a fixed time (or time box) to focus on a planned activity or task. Start by incorporating a couple of 25-minute time boxes throughout your week where you can work uninterrupted on a project. You can even let your team know you'll be using this uninterrupted time by adding it to your calendar.

Increased productivity is the holy grail of today's workforce. Implementing these tips not only in your own schedule, but also with your team will help you take an important step in maximizing your valuable time -- and maybe even leave you with some free hours in your week for other items you are passionate about.

As Chief Marketing Officer for Workfront (formerly AtTask), Joe leads a best-in-class marketing organization focused on building the Workfront brand and driving awareness, thought-leadership, and demand generation. ...

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