It’s the Little Things (That Are Wasting Your Time) : Under30CEO It’s the Little Things (That Are Wasting Your Time) : Under30CEO
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It’s the Little Things (That Are Wasting Your Time)

| June 24, 2013 | 2 Comments

Wasting TimeEveryone wants to work at a job they love, but sometimes even a job that looks perfect on paper fails to meet our expectations or make us happy. Employees become frustrated and unproductive when things like office politics, stress, or bad communication get in the way. Even what sounds like the best job in the world can become an uninspiring dead end if you can’t get your job done.

Take my brother, Christopher, who volunteered at a clinic for people without health insurance. Christopher loves medicine and loves helping people, so this seemed perfect for him. But every time he worked with a patient, he got sidetracked by a nurse to fix a computer problem, print something, or complete a mundane task. These little distractions prevented him from being able to effectively do his job, which made him miserable.

One of the easiest ways to make your employees more productive and satisfied is by helping them streamline their days at work. Eliminating distractions that negatively affect productivity and office morale can go a long way toward making your employees happier and more effective.

Company Issues Lead to Inefficient Workers

There are some big things that get in the way of smooth company operations, like politics and communication. While they’re hard to solve, the little things are easier to get a handle on and control.

Politics: Office politics don’t always harm work ethic in the office; sometimes, they can motivate employees to work harder and push the business forward. At other times, politics in the workplace (who’s being promoted, who isn’t, and why) can stifle employees’ desire to do better. If the office veteran will automatically receive a pay raise despite the fact that you’ve done better work, what motivates you to excel in your position?

Communication: Poor communication between staff members and leaders can ruin otherwise good office morale. If company goals and values are unclear, then employees won’t know the purpose of their work. When lines of communication aren’t free and open, employees might feel hesitant to ask questions, which is essential to a business’s ability to evolve and grow. A lack of communication makes for a broken, confused office — something you never want your business to experience.

Disorganization: If your company lacks organization, it will see similar setbacks. Developing an internal system to manage tasks and workflow, schedule meetings, and prioritize short- and long-term goals can help everyone work more productively because it eliminates guesswork. Employees don’t have to wonder which tasks to complete or what they need to do, which makes work time more efficient for leaders, too.

Break Things Down

To improve organization, think about what you’re trying to accomplish and break it down in small, repeatable tasks. When I worked for a nonprofit, one of the main parts of my job was organizing phone banks to call our supporters. I had to choose which supporters to call, write a script, print out the lists of names and numbers, and organize the materials. After the calls, the information had to be entered back into our database — a tedious organizational task in itself.

I broke down each step and delegated certain tasks to people who weren’t comfortable making calls, and then I let those who wished to make calls do so. This way, each employee felt more productive and valued for his contribution.

Despite getting the calling process down to a science, I realized it was still an out-of-date and inefficient system. Dialing numbers by hand, printing call lists, and entering data made the process long and time-consuming. I ended up leaving the nonprofit to build Impact Dialing, a software system to help nonprofits make calls more efficiently.

Productivity Wasters Are Lurking Everywhere

The common tasks that are eating away at productivity are everywhere, but they do vary by industry.

Programmers are often interrupted on a regular basis by project managers, which is one surefire way to put a programmer off-track. Many firms have rules stating that project managers must have daily meetings with programmers before work is done. This ensures that programmers can stay focused for the rest of the day. This can also apply to any industry where employees work on projects and are often interrupted by those who oversee the projects.

Sales teams also handle tasks that can harm efficiency. Data collection to obtain leads is a large part of a sales team member’s job, and if that data is misplaced or confused, it derails the productivity of calls. If you’re working in sales, try collecting all of your information
about your leads at once, before calling, so you can stay on task while making calls.

To increase productivity, a company has to be able to distinguish between a task that needs to be fixed and a task that must be done in a specific and tedious way. While you can’t streamline everything, almost any mundane task can be improved in some way.

Breaking tasks down into discrete components is a good start to finding a solution to inefficient processes. Sometimes, if you can arrange it assembly line-style, work becomes instantly more efficient. In other instances, an entirely new method for completing a task or implementing a software system can solve the problem.

Streamlining everyday tasks, eliminating distractions, incorporating organization, and opening up the lines of communication are all steps a company can take to improve productivity in the office. A productive office is a successful office, and when a business succeeds, employees find more enjoyment in the work they do.

Michael Kaiser-Nyman is the founder and CEO of Impact Dialing, a service that helps people make phone calls more efficiently. He is also the founder and CEO of Epicodus, a four-month, 40 hour-per-week, in-person class on programming where you’ll learn everything you need to know in order to get a job as a web developer. Connect with him on Google+.

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