Productivity -  what does that even mean?  To some of us it’s a bad word, but to others it’s a goal to live by. Every day we are consistently rated on how "productive" we are.  Maybe the judge is completing a certain number of pieces per hour or making a certain number of phone calls each week. Even if there is not an exact scale to measure, each of us has an internal gauge telling us whether or not we have been productive. 

If we fail to meet our goal, we are discouraged.  If we surpass what we expected, we feel like superheroes! But… do we ever stop and consider different ways to become more productive or do we continue the rat race of longer hours and less sleep?

Usually we feel “too busy” to look outside the box for another answer. How many times have you thought to yourself, “I don’t have time to find a new way – it’s easier if I just keep doing it like this!”. I think deep down we all have that fear if we take the time research something new and it doesn’t work, we will be even further behind then we already are.

Well…. what if I told you I was a fairy Godmother and could wave a magic wand and make your life easier? Don’t believe me? Think I’m crazy? Good… now we are getting somewhere. 

There are no fairy Godmothers and no wands to change your life, but there are some proven and trusted ways that can truly help you be more productive. The difficulty is in distinguishing between verified time savers and gimmicks that are only designed to take your money and waste your effort.

For example, my husband is a civil engineer that specializes in selling software to improve productivity for engineering companies. He consults with companies daily that are working on large projects such as designing roads, buildings and bridges. Designs that used to be drawn on paper are now prepared in the computer. He has the ability to demonstrate how a small investment of time and money can dramatically change workflow. This new software can complete a single task that used to take 5 hours down to 5 minutes!  Imagine how much more you can complete with that kind of time! And yet, not everyone decides to make the investment.

Let’s take something a little more relatable to an average person - a vacuum cleaner. My kitchen floor (non-carpeted) needed to be swept but instead of a broom I grabbed the vacuum. Why?  Because it’s faster and easier than a broom.  Apparently that was a shock to a friend that was visiting and perplexed she asked “What are you doing?  Why are you vacuuming?” 

My easy answer was "it's quicker and works just as well."

My friend had never considered using a vacuum on her kitchen floor, she always grabbed her broom. By thinking outside the box, just a tiny bit, I took a tool designed for something else and used it to work faster. 

But what if there was something even better that required an investment of my time and money? There are many Robot Vacuums that work all day without any help from me.  They are without a doubt more productive and would make my life easier! But, do I have a robot vacuum? No. Why?  Because I assume it either costs too much money or I'm not sure it will actually work.

While for your home it might make sense to be slow to invest in the newer technology, so many of us use that same logic for a business. Our excuses are At home those excuses might fly but for business those excuses should never happen! And yet, most of us use them every day. 
Why are people afraid to make small investments with big payoffs?

I don’t know why it's so hard to change but maybe people think it’s easier to leave good enough alone, they don’t see the value, or they’ve never taken time to calculate the advantage.

Let’s take something we all use every day, all day - computers. Everyone HATES old slow computers, they make us want to throw them out of the window or take a hammer to them! And yet, no one’s boss ever wants to spend money on a new one. How many times have you sat in front of your computer waiting for something to load? And what does everyone do while it’s loading -  complain? zone out? get frustrated or distracted?

As you sit through the infuriating wait, have you ever stopped to calculate how much they actually stunt your productivity?

Let’s do the math. If one person wastes only 2 minutes per hour waiting for the computer that is:

16 minutes a day
80 minutes a week
69 hours a year
At a $40K salary, that is over $1200 a year.

If you have 20 employees that is at least $24,000.
The actual numbers make an investment in a better computer for your employees a lot easier to swallow.

Here are a few simple tips that demonstrate how technology implemented correctly can improve your productivity:

Strategic IT – Properly investing in your IT and treating it as a Strategic Area of your business instead of just an added expense. Technology is very powerful and done correctly can get you ahead of your competitors.  Think of all the businesses that are now obsolete that used to be common place. They didn’t pay attention to the changing world around them and plan for the future.  Many companies don’t understand the power that was at their fingertips and never asked for help. Technology was something they used to complete their job instead of considering it a tactical advantage or a strategy for growth.

External Access – Your technology infrastructure and work from anywhere capabilities are often overlooked or implemented poorly. A company may enable an employee to work from home but makes it too cumbersome to be worthwhile.  Ensuring that the ability for an employee to be able to quickly access work files is worth every penny you invest in it.

Multiple monitors – This may seem like too simple a solution but the worker who has two to three screens are more productive. A research study by John Peddie Research (mentioned in NY times and shows that having dual monitors increases productivity by 20 to 30 percent.
Automation – How many times do we do the same task repeatedly without thinking about it?  How much time could you save if you had software that could take a task that takes an hour to complete and do it in 5 minutes?   You can either go online and search for automation tools or contact your IT company you will be surprised at how many options are out there.
Password Generator/Manager – Let me guess – either you use the same password for every site you have a piece of paper somewhere that takes you 5 minutes to find every time you go visit a site you haven’t been to in a while.  A password generator stays in the background and automatically generates a random secure password for each site you tell it to and then remembers it and fills it in when you go back to that site.