In today’s high-paced environment, the key to success can be summed up in three words: efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. There is no way to get employees to work at 100% efficiency (they are humans, not robots, after all), so it’s best not to aim for such lofty goals. But with a few simple steps, you can improve workflows and efficiency while ensuring everyone in your team remains happy and energetic.
In a world of limited resources (limited workforce, limited budgets, limited hours in the week), we have to decide which projects are most important and which can wait till later (or be eliminated altogether). Prioritizing is the first step to improving your workflows.
Our society glorifies multi-tasking, but the evidence shows that when we try to do too many things at once we fail to do any of it. Big projects consist of many phases, so break them down into individual tasks and try to get team members to focus on one thing at a time. Kanban boards and various other visualization tools can be really useful for letting people know what they should be working on now and what’s next.
If you want your team to achieve something, then you have to be specific about what it is you want them to achieve and when you need it finished. One popular strategy among managers is to set SMART goals. Here’s what it stands for:
If you’ve hired the right people, then your team should consist of people with a diverse range of skill sets. Before starting out on a big project, make sure every team member is doing something that plays to their strengths and interests. Time-tracking tools can be useful for seeing who’s doing well at the tasks assigned to them – and who has too much or too little time on their hands.
Many people think of accountability in negative terms, e.g., calling out people for watching YouTube all day or setting strict rules. But the truth is, accountability can be a positive for everyone. When someone is held accountable for their role, it helps breed a sense of responsibility. It also boosts efficiency, because each team member knows who is responsible for what task, and people don’t waste time trying to figure out the next link in the chain.
Meetings have developed a bad reputation in recent years, and with good reason – they destroy efficiency. People perform better when they are able to work free of distractions, and meetings are the ultimate distraction. If you must schedule meetings, then try to hold them at the beginning of the day or week, when team members have yet to enter the “zone.” Keep the rest of the day free for people to work on what you pay them to do.
If COVID-19 has taught us anything about the workplace, it’s that people perform best when they get to work on their own terms. For years, employers resisted allowing employees to work remotely or set their own hours. Then COVID happened, employers were forced to be flexible – and productivity won the day. Now that things are returning to normal, try to stay flexible. It could be the best thing you do for efficiency.
Allowing employees to work remotely doesn’t mean setting up walls between team members. Teams are most efficient when there is open communication and collaboration. Project management tools can be useful for securely sharing files, commenting on each other’s work, and assigning tasks to one another.
The robots aren’t ready to take our jobs just yet, but they can help us become better at our jobs. Automations can perform repetitive tasks on our behalf, freeing up more time for us to focus on productive work. Project management software is great for creating automation rules. For example, you might set a rule that says “When project budget is approved, notify project owner”, “Every Monday at 09:00, create a new group: This week”, or “When the due date arrives, move item to Phase B.”
We’ve hinted at it throughout this article, but it’s worth repeating again: technology is key to improving your workflow. Cloud-based software – such as communication apps, task management tools, or time tracking programs – can lead to dramatic improvements in efficiency.
Whatever it is you do to improve efficiency – whether it’s prioritizing, delegating, or automating – project management software can do it all. The best project management tools are highly intuitive and require no coding or technical knowhow. Just choose the software, build projects from pre-made templates, and watch efficiency soar.