Everyone wants their team to be more productive and to avoid burning them out. Sadly, there's no silver bullet to make every team run hot and fast while avoiding a drop off at the end of the day. However, there are certain things you can do that will help you and your team be the best that they can be.
1. Big Tasks Get Priority
The rocks, pebbles, and sand analogy is just as true now as it's ever been. A teacher fills a jar with big rocks and asks the class if it's full. They say yes. She then pours little pebbles in, filling the cracks. Again, the class agrees that the jar is full. Then she pours in sand, which fills in all the remaining spaces. The class again agrees that the jar is full. The teacher is trying to show that a day is filled with big tasks as well as small ones. But if you spend all the time on the small tasks first, you won't have the time or energy (in this case "space") for the big stuff. The lesson here is, take on the big tasks first and save the small ones for later. This way you'll have a truly full "jar" and will have accomplished the most that you can in a given day.
2. Communicate Clearly and Strategically
People often say you should have a "no-email hour" at the start of the day to get settled into your routine. However, you may have received important messages overnight that you need to get to before you start the work day. So instead, learn to scan your inbox at regular intervals for important messages. If it isn't from a team member, your boss, or a client, then it can probably wait. If it is though, make sure you give it priority.
3. Motivate Your Team Specifically
Motivation is what helps keep people engaged and helps avoid burnout. But you need to find out what motivates your team specifically. General motivations (recognition, promotion, potential for a raise, etc.) aren't necessarily bad, but it's more helpful to find what your team responds to both individually and as a whole, in order to get the best results. Find a way to show your team the value of their work and how their efforts contribute to the company's larger goals.
4. Provide A Real Sense of Results
One of the biggest sources of burnout people talk about is not having a sense that what they're doing matters. They talk about how generations ago, a welder could point to a car and tell you exactly what part of the process he was responsible for. You need to provide that kind of cause-and-effect for your team in order for them to see how their work matters and what real contributions they're making to the business as a whole.
5. Finish One Thing Before Doing Something Else
If you have to switch gears mid-task it has a negative effect on your overall efforts. So whenever possible, keep your team's workload focused. Try to finish a given task or project before moving on to something else. It's much better to finish one large task in a day than to finish 20% of five different tasks.
No two teams are the same and all will respond differently to different motivations and productivity techniques. However, the tips we've outlined above are meant to be a general set of suggestions that you can try out with your team to see how they respond. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions on ways to motivate your team please share them with us!
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