Balancing act: If it's Tuesday, you're probably too productive to read this
Marijus Auruskevicius, Getty Images/iStockphoto
Even though this column appears online Tuesday each week, you're probably far too busy to read it then.
That's especially true this Tuesday, since it's the day before Christmas. Some of you are probably desperately trying to find that perfect, last-minute gift for your spouse, child, parent or friend.
However, even on "regular" Tuesdays, you probably have many things to do. That's because statistics indicate that Tuesday is your most productive day of the week.
So says a new survey from Accountemps, a specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. The survey of more than 300 human resources managers at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees found that 39 percent said Tuesday was the day of the week on which workers were generally most productive.
"The fact that Tuesday was cited as most productive comes as no surprise: It's held the top spot in similar productivity surveys since 1987," said the Accountemps statement that accompanied the survey results.
As for the other days of the week, Monday was cited as the most productive day by 24 percent of survey respondents, and Wednesday was chosen by 14 percent. Only 3 percent each chose Thursday and Friday as the most productive day of the week for workers. Fourteen percent said no particular day was more conducive to productivity than others, and 3 percent of respondents said they didn't know.
"Many workers spend Monday catching up from the previous week and planning the one ahead," said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps, in a prepared statement about the survey. "On Tuesday, employees may begin to have time to focus on individual tasks and become more productive. The goal should be to maintain the positive momentum established on Tuesday throughout the week."
After reading this, I got to thinking about my average week and which day is most productive for me and my team. I'm not sure that day is Tuesday, but it depends at least in part on how you define productivity.
We have our team meeting on Tuesdays every other week, and it tends to be a day on which many other meetings occur, too. For that reason, I sometimes feel like all I do on Tuesdays is run from one meeting to another.
I'm not saying that all meetings are unproductive. (That's a topic for another column.) However, I do think that some meetings are more productive than others.
I try to keep our team meeting moving along and focused on important things, but I don't claim to have a 100 percent success rate in those efforts. We sometimes get off topic or start talking about things unrelated to work. That can be fun, and I think it helps build a closer team, but I wouldn't argue that it improves productivity.
As for my team, it may sound like I'm just being nice when I say this, but I believe my team members are highly productive every day of the week. Their workload does have peaks of frantic busyness and valleys of calmer moments, but even when they're not facing a tight deadline, they always have plenty to do. And they always get things done.
I think one of the reasons they're so productive is because they plan their weeks intelligently. They all keep task lists, and they move from one item to the next in an organized fashion. This not only keeps them on track, but I believe it also helps when something unexpected develops. When they know what they've done and what they still need to do, it's easier to shift priorities on the spur of the moment.
The Accountemps statement seems to agree with me on this point. In addition to offering the survey results, it provided five tips to help people increase productivity and "make every day like Tuesday." Those tips include:
- Axe the excess. Accountemps suggests creating a to-do list for the day, then cutting it in half, focusing on top priorities. "Too often workers overestimate what they can accomplish and become frustrated by their lack of progress," the Accountemps statement said. "A shorter, more realistic list that leaves room for unexpected projects and setbacks will help you become more productive."
- Aim for quality, not quantity. While multitasking sounds like a good way to increase productivity, it can lead to oversights and errors, the Accountemps statement said. "Repeatedly switching from one project to another also slows you down. Do your best to focus on one item at a time." I've got a few mega-multitaskers on my team, but I tend to work better when I do one thing at a time.
- Know your prime time. Accountemps suggests figuring out what your most productive time of day is and tackling your most critical or challenging assignments then. "Handle less-pressing tasks, like online research, when your energy level starts to wane."
- Dodge derailers. Turn off mobile devices, sign out of email and ignore Facebook, Twitter and other social media when working on important assignments, Accountemps suggests. The statement also says you should politely inform colleagues that you don't want to be disturbed. This sounds great in theory, but some jobs require a quick response to communication from others. I feel that, in my role as manager, I should always be available to my team, so I rarely put out the "do not disturb" sign.
- Explore apps. Accountemps says people should take advantage of software that is designed to increase productivity. "Digital calendars, task management apps and other time-saving programs can help you keep track of projects, meet deadlines and be more productive," the statement said. While I agree that some of these things can help, I also have seen people turn their time management apps into time wasters by focusing too much attention on them.
Send me an email or leave a comment with your ideas, and I'll share some of them in a future column.
And good luck with that last-minute shopping!