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How to Be More Productive with What You Already Have

See also: The Productivity Gap

Today’s office culture is filled with pressure to be more productive. Logic says that increased productivity equals increased revenue, and not just for the business, but personally as well.

However, we all recognize that there are limits to human productivity. We all have to eat, sleep, take breaks, etc. But in too many cases, we impose limits on our own productivity that don’t need to be there. We make excuses to put off important tasks.

Now, I’m not talking about procrastination per se, although that’s an important topic in its own right. Rather, we think that the next level isn’t even possible, so we don’t try. If only you had more support, better infrastructure, and newer tools, you could do better.

Instead of thinking about what you could do with newer strategies and tools, maybe you just need to rethink what is possible with what you currently have.


Technology

Traditional wisdom says that increased productivity is brought about with technology. Computers have become more advanced with time, able to complete in seconds what used to be impossible. However, that doesn’t mean that new technology should be embraced without a question.

Indeed, while some recent applications have resulted in increased productivity, that doesn’t mean that all new tech does. It’s tempting to always get the newest technology, thinking it will give you an edge, but the truth is that you’re probably all good right where you are. In fact, there’s evidence that shows that physical paper can increase memory retention and therefore productivity. They were onto something big during the 2nd century BC!

The big tech evolutions of our time have already been made: computers, messaging software, spreadsheets, the cloud, the Internet of Things… All of these can make your business more productive and profitable. If there is a sudden development, something that your industry just has to have, believe me, you’ll hear about it. More than likely, you’ll hear about smaller updates and tweaks to tools you already have. Instead of reinventing the wheel, look for new spreadsheet hacks, email techniques, and tricks relating to the software that you already have.


Education

Alright, so maybe your real obstacle to productivity is that you lack the necessary skill set to accomplish assigned tasks.

Of course, there is always further education and training, but that doesn’t really help you at this job or even at all. So, how can you develop your skill set?

First, access your industry and yourself.

  • Do you have a grace period to learn, or is that not an option?
  • Did you somehow squeak by even though you’re not qualified?
  • Or maybe your skill set is valuable, but just doesn’t match your current position?

These are all questions that will affect how you approach the problem.

If you’re still in a “grace period”, then don’t hesitate to reach out to a co-worker or manager. Even if you’re not in a grace period, leaning on a co-worker is not embarrassing. Contrary to popular opinion, this doesn’t make you look weak or incompetent. Rather, it shows that you recognize your own weaknesses and are prepared to work on them, which is a valuable asset in itself.

However, if you need a lot more help than the occasional thirty minute pow-wow or tutorial from a co-worker can provide, realize that you’ll never be truly productive until you learn the necessary skills. This might mean a lot of time outside of the office to fully develop the know-how. If you’re not willing to put this effort in, it might be time to think about alternative paths.

At the same time, don’t be too quick to put in your notice. Think about it: are you gravitating towards one aspect of the job at the cost of another? Is there a way that you could use your current skill set better within the company you’re at? If that’s the case, there’s no reason why you can’t be more productive in another position. Bring this up with your manager, delicately, and request whether or not there’s anything that you can do to transition over to a new role.

Co-workers

Urgh, you could be so much more productive if Drew from processing just did his job, right?

That very well might be true, but don’t use it as an excuse. Is there really nothing else that you can do? Maybe you can help him finish his task? “Well, I don’t have time to do that, I have another project to focus on,” you might say, but then you’re just proving that you’re not waiting on Drew after all.

Let’s assume you really can’t do anything else until Drew finishes his task. Well, that sounds like a problem with time management and that is a delicate situation that can only be handled by careful communication. Harvard Business Review recommends a series of direct, escalating steps to help fix the situation. Only go to high ups as a last resort.


Environment

Maybe your lack of productivity has more to do with the work culture than anything else.

Do you feel connected to your co-workers, or are you constantly walking on eggshells around your manager in a deadly silent office? While some might believe that friendly conversations, birthday celebrations, and lunch events are just distractions, the truth is that employee engagement is actually vital to productivity.

Think of it this way: if you walk into work every day only to count down the minutes, then you’ll start to dread every weekday morning. You won’t be happy where you are, and you won’t be motivated to do your best work. So instead of losing fifteen minutes of work to have a laugh with your co-worker, you’re losing out on hours of potential productivity by staring at the clock.

So, how do you feel engaged with your job? Well, see if there is any sort of committee that you can join. One, this will force you to have a vested interest in the company, whether that’s by setting up a picnic table or writing a monthly newsletter.  It will also increase your interactions with co-workers, which will lead to more beneficial office friendships.

No such committee? Propose one! Not only will that secure your place in the committee, but it’ll show your higher ups that you’re motivated and engaged.


Productivity is at the crux of every career. It’s important that you don’t acquiesce these factors around you.

You might be right, they could be killing your productivity, but you can do something about it. It’s not necessary to constantly update your technology, hire new employees constantly, ascribe to monotonous work culture, or spend thousands of dollars on a new degree.

You can work around these obstacles with the resources that you already have; you just might have to be creative about it.


About the Author


Dayton Uttinger writes for several online publications, putting her highly relevant college degree to use. She enjoys researching in the dark, writing at daybreak, and drinking copious amount of coffee to get her through the in between.

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