Four ways to increase productivity

Ensuring productivity is among the core responsibilities project managers (PMs) are tasked with. Not only are PMs in charge of driving performance across the team, but they must also keep themselves on task. Yet productivity is not as simple as handing off instructions and checking in every so often, or going the opposite way and micromanaging reports. There are a number of variables that factor in, like motivation, resourcing and engagement.

Meeting deadlines, staying on budget and delivering high-quality results all depend on highly productive teams and PMs, but it takes experience and hands-on learning for PMs to truly learn how to inspire employees to achieve. And remember, PMs have to do this all while taking care of their own work and tackling any crises that pop up. Keeping an eye on all aspects of the project at once can wear on PMs and divert focus, so it’s important for leaders to have strategies that get the most out of the workforce.

Here are four tips PMs can use to increase productivity:

1. Make a daily checklist

There may be no simpler tip for ensuring productivity than creating a daily checklist. This tried-and-true method is helpful for nearly any profession, but particularly useful to project managers. When there are a dozen different project specifics to monitor and manage, it helps to collect them all in one place so that nothing can be overlooked. Yet, for all its usefulness, the daily checklist is often overlooked as a waste of time or something for personal rather than professional use.

However, the very act of creating the list sets a daily agenda and a plan of action, aspects critical to driving productivity. If PMs and employees have a defined structure to their day with specific tasks, it’s much easier to focus and produce results. It’s important to remember that checklists don’t always have to be jotted out on legal pads; PMs have access to software or apps that make the process easier to complete and share across teams.

2. Tackle disengagement with honest communication

An oft-cited statistic from Gallup is that only 13 percent of American workers are actively engaged in their job. Lack of motivation is a real danger in the workplace, and PMs need to actively seek it out and rectify the disengagement. However, not being engaged isn’t always a matter of being mentally checked out or lazy. PMs may have no idea if an employee is dealing with personal issues or is stressed by work. That’s why it’s important that PMs talk to employees whenever they notice the signs of disengagement, like being late on deadlines, diminishing quality or insubordination.

Scheduling one-on-ones (either biweekly or monthly) is a good way to have ongoing conversation and avenues of dialogue for employees to voice concerns. PMs can also use this time to ask honest questions and get to the heart of any issue they see affecting productivity. Disengagement may not be an easy subject to broach, but rooting it out is essential to driving productivity.

3. Use productivity apps and browser extensions

Technology is a boon to project managers when it comes to productivity. PMs can leverage software and apps (as well as personal smart devices) to automate workflows and facilitate easy collaboration. Some of the top-rated tools PMs can use include software like Wrike or Trello that help PMs construct boards or assign tasks. There are even solutions that suit particular methodologies a PM might prefer, like kanban software and other lean applications that team leaders can rely on to ensure workflows are organized and adhered to.

As much as technology can help, so too can it be a detriment. When the world wide web is at your fingertips, it can be very hard to keep on task. That’s why PMs should use browser extensions like StayFocused that block certain sites from being viewed during designated times; they should also encourage employees to make use of these extensions as well. Having a browser that locks down entertainment or sports sites eliminates the temptation to visit that site and interrupt productivity.

Team putting their hands in.

4. Make meetings extremely efficient

Despite their negative reputation, meetings are an inevitable and often necessary part of every working day. Knowing this, PMs need to make sure meetings are efficient, not too numerous and productive. There’s nothing worse than a general meeting being called with no agenda or notice. Employees often plan their work around meetings, so anything that draws them away can create serious bottlenecks, or even put employees under undue stress.

When calling a meeting, PMs need to have adequate communication beforehand about what topics will be covered, how long it’s expected to take and what employees need to do beforehand to prepare. This allows employees to plan out their days so that meetings don’t take a bite out of their productivity.

Consider Brandeis University for further skills building

Driving productivity is a tricky concept for PMs. It takes a lot of real-world experience and hands-on team management for project managers to successfully inspire teams to perform. Beyond that, it requires a nuanced understanding of the arts and science of project management. For those interested in getting more education to further round out their skills and knowledge bases, consider Brandeis University for a postgraduate degree earned from its online Master of Science in Project and Program Management.


Recommended reading:

Communication and Analytics: The Two Sides of Project Management

Tips for Building Strong Teams in the Workplace

Leadership and Decision Making

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