Be productive in an unproductive work environment

It’s not only the pandemic that’s taken a toll on the workforce.

According to a study by BrandMapp, Covid-19 ranked only third in a list of “stressors” (factors that “kept South Africans up at night”). These stressors, such as crime and corruption, while perhaps not so heavily weighted in the context of productivity, have far-reaching impacts that can be attributed to hefty lifestyle changes, such as emigration, which in turn, can cause a dip in productivity – at least on an individual level.

Introduce other factors to the mix, such as loadshedding and mass power outages, and it’s a wonder that we get anything done at all.

Gareth Bird, COO of the Skills Development Corporation, says creating an environment of productivity under unproductive circumstances takes methodical planning, persistence, and well-deserved downtime.

And here are his top six tips for staying productive this year:

  • Work like tomorrow won’t happen: It’s the mundane tasks that cause speed bumps in our day-to-day. By dealing with them as and when they arise and treating tomorrow as if it may not come (at least not in a work sense), you will immediately alleviate dozens of headaches, all before they become headaches. One tried and tested method for this is to allocate one or two hours each day to administrative tasks. This hour shouldn’t be an ‘if, but, or maybe’. It has to be a dedicated hour (or two) that is as set in stone as any of the other tasks booked in your diary.
  • Travel smarter: Being perpetually on the move can make you feel as though there’s little room for anything else. Travel smarter if you want to maximise your productivity.
  • Plan (for the unplanned) if you want to perform: When you wear several company “caps”, you need to make sure that you’re wearing the right caps for the right amount of time. This won’t happen if you don’t plan your time accordingly. Start with recurring meetings and build everything around that. According to Gareth, you should budget time for “walk-and-talk” meetings, so that you’re able to support your team on the fly.
  • Stay in one time zone: Not literally stay in one time zone, but rather work per the time zone that provides the highest amount of productivity.
  • Spend your downtime (and up-time) wisely: Burnout is a serious issue in the workplace and is just as damaging to productivity as something like loadshedding, if left unchecked. Burnout, however, has been proven to be easily beaten with the right mix of work and life. You have to put boundaries in place to protect both your work and personal schedule. You need to make a concrete decision to “shut down” once the last email of the day has been sent. Remember, every facet of life has a time and place – ringfence each one to its dedicated timeslot.
  • Feed both your mind and body the right stuff: No amount of planning and diligence will render results if your body does not have the fuel it needs to thrive. This may mean that you’ll need to switch from eating for satisfaction to eating for functionality, though a carefully crafted meal plan can assist in finding a great middle ground.