In the final part of this series on productivity, I’m looking at the impact of people and the environment on your productivity. I touched on this in the first part of the series in January. If you missed it, just go here to catch up.
Whilst discussing personality and its impact on how productive we are, I touched on the issue of noise and silence as well as busy versus quiet environments. If you are naturally more comfortable or creative in one environment than in the other then you will be more productive.
For some people, of course, you may find that for creative tasks you need a busy environment and for routine tasks a quiet location is best. Or vice versa. This is one reason why it can be helpful for employers to provide collaboration areas as well as quiet areas where space allows since this can give employees a choice and thus increase productivity both across the team and individually.
Together or alone?
Problem-solving can also be affected by the environment with some people more likely to come up with innovative solutions within a brainstorming situation whilst for other a bit of silence works best, at least until you have some options to discuss. Similarly, for some people a meeting stimulates their thoughts and they go back to the desk re-energised and ready to work. For others, meetings can feel draining and pointless. Of course, this is also affected by the quality of the meeting.
Unfortunately, in many cases, meetings are run badly, the agenda is not adhered to and decisions aren’t made. At their worst, they become a stadium for the loudest to grandstand whilst those who are quieter feel they cannot contribute. If your meetings fall into the latter category, check out my blog on this subject for some tips on how to run a really effective meeting that will contribute to productivity rather than stifling it.
The Radio Debate
The amount of noise in the background can be a huge distraction or provide the necessary stimulation to increase your productivity. As mentioned earlier in the series, often this will be affected by your location on the Extraversion/Introversion scale of the MBTI with introverts tending toward a love of quiet and extroverts tending to be uncomfortable with silence.
You will be most productive in an environment in which you are comfortable and which you don’t find overly distracting. In many cases, a low background noise is easier to tune out than sudden, unexpected noises and for some people, the frequency of the noise makes a difference to productivity. The debate about radio on/radio off, as well as arguments over the channel it is tuned to, is an old argument and one that ends up being refereed by the HR department in any number of organisations across the world with depressing frequency.
How much space do you require? Even this makes a difference to productivity. Trying to work in a tiny space with everything squished up on a tiny desk when you naturally prefer a more spread out, spacious environment, can affect productivity. I do think everyone has a need to be able to find the stuff they need, when they need it, in order to be properly productive. That will look different in each case.
I’ve worked with someone who put every single thing away and worked on one thing at a time. Not a Post-It note out of place, just one pen, one piece of paper and an entirely clear desk. I’ve worked with someone whose office furniture, the floor of the office, corridor and kitchen area were all entirely obscured by towering piles of documents, from which, amazingly, he could always produce the exact thing required. More common is the slightly untidy desk upon which the phone is always in its place, the keyboard and screen are placed correctly and at the right height for comfort and health, and you can reach your coffee mug but aren’t in danger of knocking it over.
Something as simple as having a left-hand curve on your desk when you naturally work better on a right-hand curve can negatively affect productivity. You need to be able to move easily and have your reference documents on the side you are comfortable with. Having a desk too close to a wall so your chair can’t move easily backwards, or setting up in a room so small that you feel claustrophobic can also reduce your productivity.
Also, and this is another one that gets refereed by HR quite frequently; room temperature. Some people are sent off to sleep in a warm room. Others can’t work when it’s cold. Your productivity can certainly be affected by temperature and in a shared office, sometimes the only way around this is a bit of compromise and wearing layered clothing that can be adjusted to suit your particular needs.
This is a key one for productivity. We all prefer to do things we like don’t we? It’s so much easier to be productive when completing tasks we enjoy and are good at. You will be awesomely productive when doing tasks you love.
Also, it’s not that difficult to be productive when doing a task you like. Even if you aren’t that great at it yet, you’ll want to learn to do it more efficiently and eventually become proficient, and productive, in that area.
If you aren’t that good at the task AND you don’t like doing it, you will procrastinate, put the task off, and when you do get around to doing it, the task will feel as though it is taking forever to complete, you’ll grumble and moan to yourself, take lots of tea breaks and feel unproductive, bored and frustrated. Those tasks are the ones that you outsource as soon as you are able to afford to do so. Because for every task you really, really hate, there will be someone out there that cannot wait to get stuck into it.
Hopefully, this series has given you some ideas for areas where you can increase your productivity by making small changes. However, if you are still struggling with your workload or productivity, remember:
Doing what you are best at + Outsourcing tasks that don’t bring in money = Peak Productivity.
That’s the secret formula that allows my clients to sleep at night, spend time with family and earn more money. If you’d like some of that, give me a call.