Encourage Productivity - Not Busyness

“I’m just so busy.”

“It’s like my to-do list never ends!”

“I’ve been so busy doing this other project, I forgot to contact that client!”

How many times, as an executive, have you heard those words from someone on your team - or even yourself? While most of us fall into the trap of “being busy,” it can be disastrous for a leader and his or her team. If you’re so busy putting out fires, trying to wrap up projects, or responding to every email in your inbox, odds are your tasks are going to get pushed further and further back.

What happens then? Nothing gets done and your team is absolutely overwhelmed.

What can you do instead? Help your team get their most important work done, and create systems that help them do just that. Here are three things you can start this week to help your team get back on track:

1. Give employees and executives clear deliverables and deadline expectations

Consider your most recent conversation with someone on your team. Did you assign them a clear task, give them your basic requirements, and assign a clear deadline? Or was it generic and undefined?

If you’re worried that your team isn’t going to get something churned out by the deadline, be more clear in your direction and deadlines. On top of that, you have to make sure that your team member has accepted the task and taken next actions to move it forward.

This is where project management programs come in very handy. Whether you use a premade option like Asana or Trello, or you use your company’s software, you simply need a system that organizes:

  • Task
  • Team member assignment
  • Requirements / first steps
  • Deadline (possibly broken into different dates for smaller chunks)

Taking these very simple steps for any new assignments this week can help your employees organize their work and also emulate the system for previous tasks.

2. Build standards and processes in place to keep this momentum

With the help of your project management system, this part can be fairly painless. However, if your team is spread across different systems or if a lot of work cannot be tracked in those programs (especially out-of-network tasks), you need to create standard operating procedures.

For some executives, this could look like:

  • Creating spreadsheets or lists of work assigned and due
  • Building in a standard deadline for all tasks (any assignment is due 2 weeks after acceptance, etc.)
  • Delegating assignments to peers or team members who can then assign and track work on a smaller, more personal scale
  • Only accepting work in a specific format (email, via Dropbox, in Google Drive, etc.)

Once you’ve built up your process from the first task above, this step should flow easily. The key is trying to standardize the tools and timeline your company or group will need. It’s important to be flexible in creating these processes and to be open to trying new tools as they come available.

3. Schedule frequent group check-ins or pull reports

If you have an in-house team that makes a group meeting feasible, this is a great way to stay on top of most important tasks and to organize priorities. If your team goes unchecked for too long, the old “busy bee” mentality can take over. Frequently addressing priorities and each member’s progress will get them back on track and in the mindset of completing their assignments by their deadline.

One of the huge benefits to using properly-formatted project management software or apps is that you can pull reports to see how members of your group are doing. For example, if you have a sales team that is in charge of X amount of client closings a month, you can pull their leads, in progress, and closed deals from the software. If one member is not performing on par with your expectations, you can have a one-on-one discussion about the workload and what he or she needs from the team to get important work done.

Busyness Boiled Down

Busyness is not a sign that your team is being productive; it’s a sign that your team is inefficient. As an executive and as a leader, it’s your job to identify the bottleneck zones and to create solutions to alleviate them. While your team may be stressed out or unclear of their next actions, you can create the systems and standards that help them see clearly.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that busy is good. Being busy is not always bad, but being productive is better.