Increasing productivity with the small things

This will hopefully become a series of posts.  I am currently doing some consulting work for several small businesses near my home and there seems to be an interest in office productivity.  Productivity is an accountant’s best friend.  We love to count and measure, and the result is usually a clearer pathway to increase productivity.

Increasing productivity is something that everyone should be focused on or at least aware of.  Generally we think of productivity in the manufacturing world as an hourly or direct labor statistic.  This is very important.  Every factory manager should know how much efficient work is being done and how much inefficient work is being done.  But have we ever turned the table and looked at our own work?

Office Productivity

You need to work efficiently in the office as well.  This is something that almost every new business seems to struggle with.  Actually new businesses and old business struggle with this.  I think everyone can go out and find some good training material on increasing productivity in the office so I will focus on some small things that I have seen recently.

  1. Stock office supplies – make sure to have enough supplies to keep yourself and your employees or co-workers satisfied.  Think of how much time you spend looking for a pen or highlighter.  This is absolutely not necessary.  They’re cheap so just keep a good stock.
  2. Name badges - You may not believe it but, name badges are very important for office productivity. The simple reason is partially productivity and partially mind set.  Think of it as dress code.  When you go to work you normally dress a certain way and when you come home to rest you dress a different way.  Wearing your name badge and seeing others with their name badges can trigger something in your mind that allows you to quickly focus on work.
  3. Take breaks – taking breaks may seem counterproductive but actually it helps.  Most of the time I see “hard working” employees plow through lunch and breaks to finish a project.  But I have seen more productivity come from the employees who take a break and think about the tasks they have completed as well as the tasks they will complete.  Then when they return from break they can complete the remaining tasks more efficiently.
  4. Periodic emails – If you have an alarm that rings every time you get an email, then turn it off.  I know we claim that multi-tasking is a qualitative characteristic but I have rarely seen anyone with that gift.  For most of us we need structure.  Check your email as a break from your other tasks.  I have found that once every 2 hours works.  But others I have seen effectively check their emails just once per day.  Come up with a schedule and stick to it. Don’t get distracted.
  5. Smart phones – just a quick addition with the smart phones.  Make sure that you turn them off during times of concentration.  Set up a time, like emails, to check your phone.
  6. Regular phone – this one is a bit trickier.  Depending on your job role you may need to answer the phone very frequently.  But if it’s not an emergency type situation try to funnel people to sending you an email.  I like to prioritize my communication to first phone call next private message and finally email.  So normally if I get a phone call it should be something very important.  If I realize that it is not something important I will explain that they need to send me an email and I will complete the request within 24 hours. (or a time frame you decide)  This sounds bit rude to some people but when they learn the system it is much more comfortable for both sites.

The basic concepts here are focus and systems.  If you can find the right things to help you focus then you will work efficiently.  If you set up a good system that is predictable, then others will help you increase your productivity.  Being productive can be very satisfying and stress reducing.