A New Year – A More Productive You?
A lot of people start off the new year with resolutions to become more fit, find a (new) partner, learn a new language, be more cultural, travel and see the world – in fact just pick a goal and get something done. Maybe it is motivated by the fact that they feel they are not accomplishing anything – or at least have not done so lately. Alternatively, maybe it is just the case that they feel they are stuck in a rut and need to experience something new. No matter what your reason for wanting to achieve something, actually doing it is going to take both commitment and increased productivity. For this reason we are launching a completely new series about productivity, whether in the workplace or in your personal life, which we hope you will find useful. You will even see that there is a strong link between employee productivity and absence whereby the more productive a workforce, the less likely they are to suffer from absence management issues to the same extent that a less productive workforce would.
In this first article about productivity, it is all about setting the scene and explaining the topics that we will be covering over the next 6 months or so. We really hope that you will help us make a great success out of it and therefore ask that you please share it with friends and colleagues if you find it useful – and take the time to send us your comments and feedback. This way you can also tell us if there are any specific issues you’d like us to cover and we’ll be covering this in our discussion group on LinkedIn where you’ll be able to get peer feedback and get some interesting discussions going.
There are many books out there trying to teach you that you don’t need to be productive; you don’t need goals in your life and that all of this just causes an immense load of stress. To borrow the immortal words of Top Gear’s James May: “Poppycock!” We strongly believe that if you don’t have goals and you don’t aspire to reach them you will end up a lot worse off and with huge risk to your health. Now, we are not advocating that you should be slaving away just for the sake of it, but that you, in both your personal and your professional life, need to have goals, which you strive towards. It is about having purpose and meaning in your life, and, applied correctly, modern thinking about productivity can help you achieve this as well as greater happiness, better health and a good work-life balance. Ambitious? Perhaps. But definitely not unattainable.
WHAT IS PRODUCTIVITY?
First off, we would like to touch on what productivity is. Ever since Frederick Taylor identified the economic need to assess productivity in the 1920s, businesses have been obsessed with it. Unfortunately, they haven’t always been very good at understanding the underlying factors which improve human productivity, and that is something which we aim to change with this series of articles.
A simple definition of productivity would be:
– Oxford Dictionary of English
In terms of the “input” the resources you have at your disposal are time, knowledge and money. If we look at those three in reverse order, we can say that:
Money can help you become more productive as you can hire more staff to get things done
Knowledge will help you accomplish something faster than somebody with less specific knowledge – this is what should help you “work smarter, not harder”
Time is what you will need to dedicate to accomplish a task and this is the one aspect where we are all equal, or as Claus Møller put it: “Time is the most democratic of all your resources. Everybody has the same available time at their disposal every day: 24 hours.”
Whereas somebody might have more knowledge or more money than you, they still only have the same amount of time at their disposal and therefore the most important factor in your productivity is how you spend that time. I.e. are you doing the right things with your time in order to accomplish your goals? This prioritisation is going to be one of the first – as well as one of the most important – lessons in this article series.
In addition to understanding what productivity is, you must also understand that productivity can take place at three different levels:
- Personal productivity
- Team productivity
- Organisational productivity
All of these ought to be self-explanatory, but it’s important to realise how great the interrelations between them are – and how they also have a knock on effect on both the quality of what is produced/delivered and the relations with other stakeholders. A couple of simple examples to explain this could be:
An employee in a nuts and bolts factory is sabotaging the components his co-workers have to assemble. This might be good for his personal productivity as he can assemble them faster than the other employees, but the overall team and company productivity will suffer as a result – not to mention the interpersonal relations of the team members and the quality of the products being produced.
The Arsenal football team of the 1990s and early 2000s was famous for not letting very many goals in (the productivity measure being to stop their opponents from scoring) as “One nil to the Arsenal” was heard all up and down the country. The only way the defense worked so well was that all of the players in the team, not just the defenders, had defensive duties and they worked together as a team, culminating in the famous 2003 – 2004 season where they did not lose a single match and the team became known as “The Invincibles”.
Now that we have set the scene it’s time to give a sneak peek at the topics, which we will be going in-depth with in this article series.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THIS ARTICLE SERIES
We are going to be looking at a wide range of topics, which will give you a deeper understanding of productivity and will teach you the skills to become more productive as an individual, and act as a contributor to more productive teams and organisations – whether in your personal or your work life.
In order to teach you these skills we will be introducing you to a series of articles, which deal with the following topics:
- Goal setting
- Time management & prioritisation:
- Measuring and improving performance
- The link between productivity, happiness and absence
- A series of article “Toolboxes” on:
- Planning your day, your week, your month, your year
- Effective meetings
- Effective project management
- Dealing with information overload
- Using Outlook to increase productivity