Project Management Professional (PMP)® Articles - Where Productivity Goes to Die: Seven major Productivity Problems to Avoid

Where Productivity Goes to Die: Seven major Productivity Problems to Avoid

"I just don't feel productive." How many times have you uttered these words? How many times have you thought about a variation of this phrase? If you are a working professional, the chances are high that this is a common thought.

We have all been there. Endless meetings, unforeseen projects, last-minute edits, an unexpected staff departure, or regular office distractions can derail our quest for ultimate productivity.

While you cannot predict the future, or avoid every potential productivity problem, there are some common issues you can prevent. So, if you need to repair your productivity in 2020, here are some everyday situations to watch out for and ways to prevent them.

The Endless Email Check

Did you know you will spend 28 percent of your week checking emails? I bet you also didn't realize that it will take you almost 25 minutes to refocus after a distraction (namely an email notification). Email is a blessing and a curse for business professionals. You can quickly send over a message to a colleague. However, what happens when everyone has the same idea and decides to do the same to you?

It likely isn't going to go over well. No matter how focused you are, you are going to feel as if you have to check that notification. This reason is why we suggest scheduling your email check-ins. Don't let your productivity die in your inbox. Turn off notifications, and strategically plan your email check-ins throughout the day.

The Meeting Dilemma

Meetings are an excellent way to ensure that everyone is on the same page. However, what happens when the higher-ups get a little meeting-crazy? According to respondents to a study by Atlassian, half of those involved felt meetings were "time wasted." Here are some ways you can prevent meetings from becoming a productivity killer:

  • Ensure that everyone in the meeting needs to be there.
  • Let those who have urgent deadlines follow-up with someone later.
  • Record the meeting (with everyone's permission), so those who missed it can get caught up to speed.
  • Send a meeting agenda ahead of time.
  • Ensure that everyone involved knows if they need to bring information to update everyone on progress.
  • Set a strict time limit.
  • Keep the discussion on the current topic, and direct those who have comments pertaining to other issues to meet with you offline.

The key to ensuring that meetings do not become a productivity problem is to organize the session and ensure that the right people are involved.

A Failure to Keep Everyone Updated

You may be tired of hearing about the benefits of technology, especially when it comes to the workplace. Nevertheless, you need project management and task delegation programs for your team. A report found that 77 percent of high-performing teams use project management software. It allows you and your team to be more agile during the project planning phase, and to adequately understand all the moving parts. It ultimately also enables you to see who is doing what, how far along they are, and to track task dependencies.

As capable and intelligent as the human species is, we are not machines. There is no way we can keep up with everything that is going on around us when it's crunch time on a project. This reason is why we could use a little help on that front with task delegation and project management software. Not only are you making life much easier for yourself, but you will also improve upon your project budget as well as the completion time.

Not Planning for Scheduling Hiccups

The flu doesn't care if you have a project due next week. Also, that doctor's appointment just seemed as if it crept up out of nowhere. One thing that you and your team members have to realize is that you all have lives and events outside of work. Many of us "know" this, but we do not show it in how we plan our work projects. It is unrealistic to schedule a project without adding in some additional time for potential problems.

Your IT manager may have to call out sick, or a blackout may knock your systems off your network for a day. These hiccups will cause your team to have to work harder and longer, which makes mistakes more likely. Be sure to add in time for things to happen. The last thing you want is to have to pull a week of all-nighters and increase the risk of plummeting employee morale and errors.

Having a Revolving Door

Are your employees satisfied? If so, excellent! If not, that is okay. You can turn the ship around. When they are satisfied they will be more likely to be engaged, which will lead to them being productive. If they are all three of these things, they are less likely to walk out of the door. Your job as a leader and employer is to ensure your turnover numbers are low, and that your workers want to work for you.

Yes, people leave jobs every day, but it becomes a massive problem if this becomes the norm. High turnover can negatively impact productivity. Here are some ways to prevent this from becoming an issue:

  • Have an exceptional onboarding process: Many employees decide to leave a company within six months. The onboarding process has a lot to do with this. So, ensure that your onboarding process adequately acclimates them to the company, answers any pressing questions they have, and gets them hitting the ground running.
  • Make training a regular part of the job – Professionals want to level-up. A study revealed that 70 percent of respondents said job training and development influenced their decision to stay at a job. As a result, be sure you have a way for employees to tell you what they want to learn, and a way to facilitate it.
  • Ensure that feedback is a priority – Employees want to know how they are performing. In fact, 68 percent of employees who receive regular feedback report feeling more fulfilled in their jobs. So, make a practice of ensuring all managers are offering regular feedback that helps your employees not only succeed but also become more engaged.

There are a variety of ways you can decrease turnover, but these are a few to get you started to prevent one of the most significant threats to productivity.

Avoid Burnout

Nothing tanks productivity faster than burnout. When your employees are burned out, they are no longer in a state to be engaged, much less productive. This reason is why you should always make sure your employees have a manageable workload. While it may be cost-effective to have one professional doing the job of two people, it is going to backfire in the long-run. There is an eventual threat of diminishing returns. Here are a few ways to combat burnout:

  • Survey employees – Ask them how they are feeling about their work, and if they think they have enough time to get their tasks done.
  • Ensure the right department is handling the right tasks – It is okay to allow employees to shadow other departments, or even help out with a few projects to further their knowledge. However, no one should be permanently taking on tasks that are not in their lane without a formal discussion and a look at how it will alter their schedule. So, always do checks to make sure the right department—and employee— is handling the right asks.
  • Allow work flexibility – Will it benefit your employees to allow them to have a flexible start time? Can your team be more productive if they are allowed to work from home once or twice a week? See if you can add in some work flexibility to prevent feelings of fatigue or constant burnout.

Your goal here is to listen to your employees and see where you can lighten their load. The less burned out they are, the better they can handle their daily work tasks.

Failing to Recognize Your Employees

If you do something nice for someone, a thank you from the person you helped drives home the feeling that you did something good. In your workplace, you are indeed paying your employees to be there which is acknowledgement of their work. However, showing that you appreciate their dedication and hard work can inspire them to achieve even more for you.

A "thank you" note, gift card, or a simple showing of verbal gratitude makes your employees feel as if their work matters. Their daily commute, early arrival times, and the handling of workplace obstacles finally feel as if it has been noticed.

Showing employees that you care about what they bring to the table can motivate them to do more. So, don't forget to say thank you once in a while.

Productivity Killers Don't Have to Be a Part of Your Workplace

You can improve productivity and avoid these common productivity dangers. Again, as with anything, forethought, and planning matter. Take some time to look through each of the productivity dangers mentioned here and see how your company can address them.

This task will ensure you have a plan to deal with them even if they have not yet shown to be a problem. Ultimately, productivity is about the individual, and these steps above help you to focus on empowering your employees to be productive and ensure that their satisfaction and productivity both increase.


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