Instant Productivity: Break Your Routines

Instant Productivity: Break Your RoutinesHow productive is your team, really? You may think you’re moving along just fine, until you encounter another team whose productivity just leaves yours in the dust. Even if you’re genuinely doing fine, there are simple practices that can increase your productivity from the moment you implement them.



Opting Offline

Some jobs require constant Internet access, whether for answering customer chat and email questions or conducting research. However, many don’t; and if you’re like most people, you probably spend a little time daily checking personal email and social media. Even if you don’t, some of your teammates do. Since 10 wasted minutes a day add up to over 43 hours a year, imagine how many workweeks your team’s losing to the lure of the Internet annually. Moreover, I suspect 10 minutes is a conservative estimate for most workers. So during times of looming deadlines and high workload, opt out of online play teamwide. If you’re the manager, make the decision unilaterally. Also uninstall FreeCell and other built-in games from your work computer, so you won’t be tempted to play them.


Routines are amazingly useful, because they let you do things automatically while you think about work or handle other tasks. You can also “routinize” smaller blocks of time, using short-term habits. For example, you might split a particular hour into more digestible chunks by spending a little time processing email, then working at one of your tougher tasks for half an hour, followed by a less difficult task such as clearing off your desk. I have a routine for processing my email inbox down to zero (using the “Move to Tasks” function), reprioritizing (dragging emails up and down in the to-do list) and then working, in a kind of rhythm.

Mindless Breaks 

As an old saying goes, “a change is a good as a rest.” After pushing hard to complete a tough task, take a mental break by doing something easy: watering plants, filing, using the restroom, getting a snack, or backing up files. You still get something done, but it doesn’t strain or challenge you. Then you can get back to higher priority tasks.

Get Busy 

If your team stalls out, one way to boost productivity is just to do something—anything. Get together and start planning. This often triggers the Hawthorne Effect, where the very act of trying to do something causes everyone to try harder. Eventually, you’ll get back into the groove. Measuring performance also motivates a team, especially if it’s in competition with itself or another team to improve their output.

All these methods can boost your team productivity immediately, or nearly so. Start small if necessary. Take it slow. Since the effect is cumulative, you may end up pushing your team productivity higher than you thought possible. All it takes is a willingness for you and your teammates to work together to knock the ball out of the productivity park.

© 2015 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, a.k.a. The Productivity Pro®, helps professionals achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time®. For nearly 25 years, her keynote speeches and workshops have helped professionals and leaders boost personal and team productivity, increase results, and save time at work. Laura is the author of seven books by large publishers. Her newest book, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time, hits bookstores in January. Widely regarded as one of the leading experts in the field of performance and workplace issues, Laura has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and USA Today. Connect via her website, Facebook, or Twitter.