Highly collaborative work requires being on the same page about who is doing what and what their status is. But this type of communication isn’t always straightforward and clear. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to spend less time checking-in on others and more time on your own projects? Here are three easy shifts you can make to help your team members be more productive:
Prioritize, with explanations
Many times, missed deadlines or slow progress is due to a lack of clarity around what is a priority and what is not. When work comes in from multiple directions, as is often the case for a knowledge worker working in a team environment, it can be even more confusing to know what to tackle first. Mental resources spent trying to figure this out divert the energy for actual, real productivity. Make it easy. Tell people what you need by when and why and keep it in bite-size chunks if possible.
When priorities shift, make it clear that is what happened. For example, “I know you are working hard on that report to be done by Friday, among other things, but a key meeting has been rescheduled to occur sooner and now I need your help urgently. Can you do some research on best practices for technology in education and let me know what you find by the end of the day tomorrow? I need 5-10 bullet points I can speak to later that evening. Please let me know immediately if anything comes up that interferes with your capacity to get this done.” Consider what impact that might make on someone, as opposed to a series of unprioritized, unexplained tasks assigned without context and without deadlines.
Track projects in a visible way
Often, being more productive is simply about being more organized. When there are 10-20 things on your to-do list, you don’t want to keep that to-do list in your head. It helps to have it down on paper so nothing falls through the cracks. The same is true for managing a project with multiple people involved, and it has even more of an impact.
Keep track of projects in a way so everyone can see what needs to be done by when and by who. Make updates consistently, whether it is daily or weekly. This structure and visibility provides clarity around immediate next steps. When it is on paper (or a screen!), it is easy to see how getting your work done on time impacts the ability for others to get their work done on time, and thus, deliver the project on time. Seeing a large, complex project move forward from week to week is very motivating.
Don’t extend deadlines
In the HBR article, Here's What Really Happens When You Extend a Deadline, Heidi Grant Halvorson writes, “Research suggests we have a lot of difficulty using our newly-found time wisely. We wind up facing the same problem again — the same time pressure, the same stress, the same feeling-not-quite ready — only now we've gone an additional week, or month, or year without reaching an important goal.” In addition, she states, ”If you push back a deadline without addressing the poor time planning that landed you in hot water in the first place, you will likely end up in hot water again down the road.”
If a deadline is going to be missed, take a good look at your processes, prioritization and communication, and skills and capacity. Then, take some time to fix the root cause of the issue.