Culture, Trends & Stories

Team Productivity During COVID: An Introspective Look at Workflows, Focus & Wellbeing

Productivity isn't about becoming a machine, but about managing your energy and attention, effectively. In this article, we hope to shift the paradigm of what it means to "manage your time". We also hope to outline the importance of providing tools for your team to recharge so they have the capacity to tackle whatever comes their way.

March 11, 2021
Written by
Natali Andersen

Why managing your energy and attention is more productive than time management

With more companies turning to remote working arrangements for their teams, your work and home environments can seemingly merge into one, muddling boundaries.

It is therefore more important than ever to make sure your team is in good mental-shape, and have access to the tools they need to recharge their batteries, ensuring that they have the capacity to tackle whatever work and life challenges come their way.

In today's article, we taking a deep-dive into the workflows, focus and wellbeing of your employees, to shift the paradigm of what it means to "manage your time", and identify what your team struggles with the most when working on projects.

The Productivity Myth

There's often a misconception around how productivity should be measured. The common practice is to look at productivity levels calculated by the output or revenue your business can generate within the shortest amount of time.

But since the shift to a more knowledge-based economy, time is no longer the metric we should focus on, but rather, the energy and attention it takes to deliver high quality and impactful work. As Chris Bailey nicely summarises it in his book The Productivity Project, taking the time to evaluate where you are spending your efforts is:

"The difference between having no time or energy left at the end of the day and having a ton of time and energy left over to invest however you want" — The Productivity Project, Chris Bailey

Is your team experiencing any of the following?

Man working on his laptop

You can begin to evaluate the current energy state of your team by asking if they've experienced any of the following:

  1. Has your brain seemed more foggy and unclear lately?
  2. Are you feeling reactive to tasks rather than proactive, where you're multi-taking/task-switching all day?
  3. Do you feel like you're running on autopilot rather than working deliberately?
  4. Do you often stays late at the office, working overtime, but still feel overwhelmed?

If your team resonated with any of the above, it might be a sign to dig a little deeper into how your employees are managing their energy and attention, which might be the reason to why they're feeling overwhelmed.

How your team can become more productive, today.

Woman leading workshop with her team

Going forward, here are the 5 action items you can start implementing in your team today to boost productivity levels but also maintain wellbeing.

1. Evaluate your work responsibilities.

Complete an audit of everything you're responsible for at work, this includes all projects and tasks. After laying out all your responsibilities, ask yourself: If you could just do one item on that list that will bring the most results, what would it be?

We often forget to evaluate how impactful our day-to-day tasks are, so it's important to check in frequently with what you're spending your time on at work.

“90 percent of the value that you contribute to your company is contained in [just] three tasks.” — Brian Tracy, Eat That Frog”

2. Stick to just 3 tasks a day.

It is so common to overdo it with your to-do list. Do you find yourself having, on average, 10-15 items on your lists each day? That's probably a good time to re-evaluate how realistic you are with what you can complete in a day.

When writing your to do list, stick to just setting 3 items that will move the needle the most on the projects you're working on. Then, when you're in-between tasks, constantly re-align yourself by asking these 3 questions:

  1. What task did I focus on?
  2. How well did I focus while working on the task?
  3. How easily was I distracted during the work?

Checking in with yourself throughout the day helps to starve off time-wasters and attention-suckers, keeping your energy-levels and attention dedicated to the goals you've set.

3. Figure out if you are suffering from 'planning fallacy’

In his book, The Productivity Project, Chris talks about the concept of "the Planning Fallacy". "The Planning Fallacy" is our tendency to hugely under estimate how much time it actually takes to complete a task.

He also highlights the phenomenon that we tend to delegate more tasks to our future selves, since we optimistically believe that our future selves are more likely to complete the task we are procrastinating on right now.

“It’s so easy to commit your future self to things your current self wouldn’t want to do, the more you see yourself like a stranger, the more likely you are to give your future self the same workload that you would give a stranger, and the more likely you are to put things off to tomorrow—for your future self to do"

However, as Chris reminds us:

"When you put something off or waste time, you’re almost always being unfair to your future self”

4. Workout your "focus muscle" and say bye-bye to multitasking.

Having uninterrupted sessions of deep-work is arguable one of the most valuable things to safe-guard to sky-rocket your productivity. However, it is getting easier to get distracted, whether that's with notifications on our computer, phones, or by having multiple meetings throughout the day.

Your attention-span works like a muscle, the more you train it, the stronger it will get, and the easier it will be to stay focused for a longer period of time.

“Task-switching / multitasking makes you less productive because it makes you more prone to errors, adds stress to your work, takes longer because it costs you time and attention to switch between tasks, and even affects your memory” — Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project

Essentially, the more you task-switch, the more you are conditioning your mind to get distracted, gradually weakening your focus-muscles.

5. Take frequent breaks, but real breaks, not technology breaks.

When you think you're taking a break by scrolling through Instagram for 5 minutes, or by replying to messages on WhatsApp — think again. By going on technology during your work breaks, you're keeping your brain stimulated, and depriving it the rest it need to re-charge so you can better tackle your next work item.

Every hour, you should break for at least 15 minutes, and that means WITHOUT SCREENS. If you're skeptical, at least give it a try and see how you feel. You'll most likely feel a lot more clear-minded.

Conclusion

Productivity isn't about becoming a machine, but about managing your energy and attention, effectively. In this article, we hope to shift the paradigm of what it means to "manage your time". We also hope to outline the importance of providing tools for your team to recharge so they have the capacity to tackle whatever comes their way.

Remember that:

"Productivity isn’t about doing more things—it’s about doing the right things".  — Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project