By Akintola Benson Oke
I AM delighted to attend the opening session of this 2-Day seminar on ‘Work Ethics and Attitudinal Change for Improved Productivity.’ I am of the view that this is one of the most consequential topics for the workplace today.
Given the ubiquity of the Internet and Social Media today, many people unknowingly waste their time in chatters that are not productive by any measure whatsoever under the guise of keeping abreast of developments around them. It is therefore imperative to learn how to remain productive in the midst of all the things that have the tendency to distract us.
The approval of this training should signify to all that the administration of His Excellency, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, is devoted to transforming the Lagos State Civil Service into the most modern, most responsive, most skilled and most knowledge-exposed in Nigeria and Africa.
We owe the Governor our thanks and gratitude. I call on you all to join and support his efforts to ensure that every officer in the Lagos State Civil Service is equipped with the soft and hard skills required to achieve the corporate objective of moving Lagos State forward.
John Rampton, an entrepreneur and investor, recently posed a question that all of us should consider. He said, “Every minute of your life is gold. Are you treating it that way?” In the same way, I want to ask everybody here today: ‘Are you making every minute of your life count?’ In other words, are you productive?
In the article where he posed that question, John Rompton argued that because “there are only so many hours in the day…making the most of your time is critical.” In saying this, he was, in fact, echoing long-gone thinkers and philosophers.
Another business titan who echoed the wisdom of the ancient thinkers and philosophers was Mr. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computers, who, in his famous speech to the Yale University Convocation, emphasised that everybody’s time is limited.
Summarising Mr. Jobs’ views, George Ambler wrote as follows: “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent.
It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it…”
I therefore say to all of you today: the first and most important reason why you should take the issue of productivity seriously is because your time is limited and you ought to make it count for something worthwhile.
Of course, productivity is also important in many more ways. Andy Core, an author and speaker on Work-Life Balance, Wellbeing, and Peak Human Performance, wrote an article where he explored how productivity impacts an organisation and its major stakeholders. He posited that the organisation’s customers are the first to benefit from a productive workforce.
According to him, “Productivity in the workplace will often translate into good customer service and interaction. This total client experience is the key to satisfying customers and clients, and almost all highly productive companies use this to gain customer loyalty. When a customer is loyal to your business, they will share their experience with others, which is a marketing advantage coming out of high levels of productivity.”
In our own case, our customer is the general public; the good people of Lagos State. When each officer of the Lagos State Civil Service is productive, the members of the public interfacing with the Civil Service will obtain such huge benefits and satisfaction that will positively rub off on the reputation and morale of the Civil Service as a whole.
The organisation is second in line to benefit from increased productivity, according to Andy core. He wrote that, “the employees themselves are an investment, and like any investment, they should yield a healthy or worthwhile return to the organisation.
Therefore, when employees are highly productive, the organisation achieves its goals of investing in them in the first place. Productivity also helps to motivate the workplace culture and boost morale thus producing an even better company environment.”
In the third place, employees themselves will benefit from increased productivity in the organisation. More often than not, when an organisation is highly productive, it eventually becomes successful, and because of this, incentives are bound to be made available to the employees.
These may include pay raises, bonuses, and so on. This will also motivate employees. Indeed, productivity in the workplace is an important aspect of every organisation and when all stakeholders understand this concept, success is just around the corner.
In light of the above, it is therefore important for each person to consider how to make each moment count in their own interest and in the interest of the organisations they serve. On this matter of increasing productivity, John Rompton said, “There are two ways to increase your output—either put in more hours or work smarter. I don’t know about you, but I prefer the latter.”
Working smarter has now been established as better than working harder. Also, behavioural scientists have found that while being more productive at work is not rocket science, it does require being more deliberate about how one manages one’s time.
I will now take you through the seemingly obvious but very important strategies formulated by John Rompton for increasing productivity in the workplace every day. The first strategy is to track and limit how much time you spend on tasks. You may think that you are pretty good at gauging how much time you are spending on various tasks. However, some research suggests only around 17 percent of people are able to accurately estimate the passage of time.
The second admonition is to take regular breaks. This may sound counterintuitive, but taking scheduled breaks can actually help improve concentration. Some research has shown that taking short breaks during long tasks helps you to maintain a constant level of performance; while working at a task without breaks leads to a steady decline in performance. The third strategy is to set self-imposed deadlines. While we usually think of stress as a bad thing, a manageable level of self-imposed stress can actually be helpful in terms of giving us focus and helping us to meet our goals.
For open-ended tasks or projects, try giving yourself a deadline, and then stick to it. You may be surprised to discover just how focused and productive you can be when you are watching the clock.
Another useful strategy is to follow the “two-minute rule.” Entrepreneur Steve Olenski recommends implementing the “two-minute rule” to make the most of small windows of time that you have at work. The idea is this: If you see a task or action that you know can be done in two minutes or less, do it immediately.
ACCORDING to Olenski, completing the task right away actually takes less time than having to get back to it later. Implementing this has made him one of the most influential content strategists Online.
Another recommended strategy is to say no to meetings whenever you can. Meetings are one of the biggest time-consumers around, yet somehow we continue to unquestioningly book them, attend them and, inevitably, complain about them. According to Atlassian, the average office worker spends over 31 hours each month in unproductive meetings. Before booking your next meeting, ask yourself whether you can accomplish the same goals or tasks via email, phone, or Web-based meeting (which may be slightly more productive).
In order to discourage unproductive discussions, it has been suggested for workers to hold standing meetings. If you absolutely must have a meeting, there’s some evidence that standing meetings (they are just what the name suggests—everyone stands) can result in increased group arousal, decreased territoriality, and improved group performance. For those times when meetings are unavoidable, you may want to adopt this strategy.
The seventh suggested strategy is to quit multitasking. While we tend to think of the ability to multitask as an important skill for increasing efficiency, the opposite may in fact be true. Psychologists have found attempting to do several tasks at once can result in lost time and productivity. Instead, make a habit of committing to a single task before moving on to your next project.
Another strategy is this: Take advantage of your commute. This goes for any unexpected “bonus” time you may find on your hands suggests author Miranda Marquit. Instead of Candy-Crushing or Facebooking, use that time to send out some emails, create your daily to-do list, or do some brainstorming.
Also, your productivity will be well-served if you give up on the illusion of perfection. It is common for many people to insist on attempting to perfect a task—the reality is nothing is ever perfect. Rather than wasting time chasing after this illusion, bang out your task to the best of your ability and move on. It is better to complete the task and move it off your plate. If need be, you can always come back and adjust or improve on it later.
Taking exercise breaks may also make you more productive. Using work time to exercise may actually help improve productivity, according to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. If possible, build in set times during the week for taking a walk or going to the gym. Getting your blood pumping could be just what is needed to clear your head and get your focus back. Also, try to be proactive, not reactive, turn off notifications on your phones when engaged in serious projects, work in 90-minute intervals and minimise interruptions (to the best of your ability).
It is my fervent hope that you will take the best advantage of this seminar and resolve to be even more productive than ever before. As always, I wish to thank all the people who have worked tirelessly to ensure the realisation of this seminar including the principal officers at the Ministry of Establishments, Training and Pensions and other departments and offices that have been involved in organising this training. Once again, we all are indebted to the visionary and passionate leadership of His Excellency, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the Executive Governor of Lagos State. His interest in the welfare and training of officers of the civil service is unparralled. I hope that you all will actively participate in this workshop with a view to complementing the efforts of our Governor in ensuring the progress of our dear Lagos State.