UK productivity figures consistently show that the UK is behind many other European countries in terms of productivity. As a UK knowledge worker (someone who can, within their job, decide what to do next), this might jar slightly. The problem is, of course, everyone else, right? We are all being really productive, right?
One of the problems I find with delegates on our time management training, is that the colleagues who most need this training, are often the ones who don’t attend. Or they want to feel less stressed at work and don’t realize that improving how they manage their attention could help. They certainly don’t think they need time management workshops because the problem is just there isn’t enough time! I have on several occasions had conversations that go something like this:
Delegate: “Thanks for the session, I really enjoyed it.”
Me: “Pleasure, pleased to hear that you found it useful.”
Delegate: “Um, yeah, I did. I didn’t think I would, my manager made me come.”
The conversation then often goes on and it becomes clear that the manager in question would have benefited as well.
So we all feel like we are working hard. Productivity stats might show that as an economy we aren’t, but it doesn’t apply to us as individuals. We are working hard, we are often working long hours and going the extra mile to support colleagues, to give clients a good experience or just working our butts off to show we can do it. Many of our working cultures tend to support this idea of ‘hard work’. This could be getting in early, staying late, or working through lunch, or all of those things. But that doesn’t make us more productive. In fact, the countries with the higher levels of productivity tend to be the countries with shorter working hours. Taking breaks, finishing on time and recharging help us to get more done. I am sure we all know decisions are less effective when we are tired and stressed. We make more mistakes when we aren’t at our best.
The challenge for knowledge workers everywhere, is to accept that there is more work to do than the time available. We’ve tried staying later, working evenings and weekends and yet there is still more work to do. Our decisions then, have to be about using techniques that help us decide what will make the most difference. What will have the biggest impact? Too often people have been taught to prioritize based on what is urgent, and what is important. Many of the clients I work with report that they feel most of their working day is spent in fire fighting mode. That’s because most often, people don’t do something until it becomes both urgent and important. Or perhaps they do the work for the client / colleague / boss that shouts the loudest. Either way, our decision making about what to do next could be better. If we think about 2 things, I really do think it could be the start of a new way of working for most knowledge workers:
- If I were to only get 1 thing done today, what would make the biggest contribution to the overall goal?
- What is my best time of day for concentrating, and how do I protect my concentration from everyone else in that time, allowing me to focus on the work identified in question 1?
If we can make those decisions, and act on them every day, I think knowledge workers everywhere will see an increase in their own personal productivity. Our productivity training helps show you how to do this.
Many of us work in a world that recognizes hard work as instant responses, long hours and lunch breaks replaced with working at your desk while eating a sandwich. If you’d like to think about a different way to work, that will help improve not just your productivity, but also help you feel better about the work that you do, I have 2 workshops coming up in May.
How to be Productive, Focused and Happy
I will be delivering our How to be a Productivity Ninja session as part of a joint event How to be Productive, Focused and Happy with Shine Offline. This will be packed with hints, tips and tricks that you can use to help you improve your productivity and wellbeing. Shine Offline are all about creating a better relationship with our mobile phones. So you’ll come away from our joint session with lots of actions about how you can improve your wellbeing and your productivity. It’s taking place in London on 10th May.
Stress Less, Achieve More
On 17th May we will be running our 1 day Stress Less Achieve More course. This course is for anyone who feels that they have too much to do and not enough time to do it. We will get you started during the course on putting things in place to move away from feeling ‘too busy’ and move towards playful productive momentum.