What Makes You More Productive At Work?

Written by David E. Elliott on January 29, 2019

When AssociationSuccess.org gathered feedback from the SURGE community about what organizational problem keeps them up at night, the most common challenge expressed was that people have more work to do than they have time. Many associations work in a context where financial and human resources are limited, or at least perceived to be so. Self-imposed to-do lists and requests from members seem never-ending. How can we function successfully with too much to do in too little time?

There’s a big difference between filling up your time and providing value, and to me that is the difference between quantity and quality. People can get lost by asking if their day or week is full, mistaking a busy calendar with productivity. I see two contrasting paradigms at play. Some managers and employees see a salary as a tool with which to purchase an employee’s time. This is understandable given hourly rates of pay. In contrast, I see a salary as compensation for adding value. Exploring how you and your workplace view salary can be your first step in exploring your relationship with productivity. Does your organization own your time or do you own the value that you bring to its table?

It requires continuous effort to have a better relationship with productivity, and if you ever get it figured out, you have to maintain it in a healthy way. I have tried various tactics to make my work time more intentional and productive. I used to leave work with a lot of information spinning around in my head. I started using a centering activity where, I would picture the elevator doors of my office closing, marking the end of the work day as I left the building. It helped to clear my mind and return the next day more refreshed and energized to produce. Small activities like this can make a difference.

In the past few years, we have seen some labour laws enforced in Europe to set boundaries around work time. To avoid employees becoming burnt out by working or being on-call 24 hours a day, legal steps have been taken to limit the times of day when emails can be sent.

I like the idea of not being interrupted outside of working hours. At the same time many ideas come to me at times I don’t expect, outside of traditional work hours. It feels good when work happens organically. We should give ourselves time in which ideas can percolate subconsciously. Things come to you more easily and creatively during these times than when you try to force your work into a structure.

Be proactive and take time to find out what helps you get more quality work done. Take control of the situation instead of letting the situation control you, and stay focused on adding value - rather than just being busy.

David spoke in the “Productivity - A State of Mind at Work” session during SURGE Optimism 2018, an interactive virtual conference hosted by AssociationSuccess.org on November 7th-9th. Click here to watch the sessions on demand.