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While hustle culture characterized the early 21st century, a new wave of slow productivity is being ushered in. The focus has turned from reaching perfection through the ceaseless endeavor to accept a level of ‘productive imperfection’ in which it’s ok to let go of ideals and still get a lot done.

We’re all guilty of conflating the concept of busyness with productivity, and that’s at the core of the discussion we want to explore in this article. 

Read on to find out how you can coach your teams to work more effectively without being hamstrung by the ambition for perfection.

Beat Decision Fatigue by Settling for Imperfection

Decision fatigue can affect anyone in your team, and as such, it’s worth tackling head on from the outset to avoid burnout later down the line.

What is decision fatigue?

It’s the accumulation of decisions that pile up on one another, causing you to feel mentally tired and less able to make the right decision. 

Many productivity gurus will tell you that one of the best hacks for making the most of your mornings is to strip away as many decisions as possible:

  • Lay out the clothes you’ll wear the night before
  • Prepare breakfast in advance
  • Establish routines that become second nature

The genius in this approach is that you can show up for the day’s work with a fresh mind and all the willpower you can muster. By making fewer decisions throughout the day, when the time comes, you’ll be in a better position to consider all the options and make the right call.

On a practical level, you’re unlikely to implement a minimalist morning policy among your team, so what are your options for reducing the frequency of decision fatigue?

Accept that you can’t - and won’t - always make the right decisions.

The sooner you, and your team members, accept and internalize this, the easier it will be to cope with the everyday decisions you face at work. 

Moreover, you can still encourage your team to spend less energy on the relatively unimportant decisions they make each day, such as the following:

  • How to sign off on an email
  • Which font to use in a letter
  • What to eat for lunch

If your team members can identify the more trivial decisions and make them without much of a second thought, it will help them digest more important decisions and give them the amount of consideration they deserve.

Done is Better than Perfect

The phrase ‘done is better than perfect’ is a useful mantra to use in team meetings and communication. 

At the essence of the phrase is the idea of loosening your grip on the ideal scenarios, the perfect situations, and the win-wins that are mostly unattainable.

How does it apply to the workplace?

Well, many employees subscribe to the idea that it’s important to over-deliver at work. Perhaps because they don’t want to be passed over for a potential promotion, or perhaps because the expectation of more is implied from the moment they first showed up in the office.

It’s not uncommon to see companies posting job ads for candidates that ‘go above and beyond’, ‘perform well under pressure’ and in some cases they’ll even use words such as ‘rockstar’ or ‘superhero’ to describe the ideal candidate.

We’ve normalized the idea that simply performing one’s job isn’t enough.

To reverse the impact this pursuit of perfection could have on your team, it’s important that they know you don’t expect them to over-deliver on every task and project that comes their way. Let them know that they’re all valuable members of the team - regardless of how far they’re willing to go to pull off perfection.

There’s an idea that the outlier or top performer in a team or organization should set the standard for everyone else, who should strive to meet it. 

While there are positives in encouraging employees to do their best work, setting unrealistically high expectations is a surefire way to heighten the risk of burnout and quiet quitting.

When an employee feels like they’re consistently under-delivering at work or unable to keep up, they’re much more likely to disengage, thereby undermining the attempt to boost productivity by setting such high standards.

Encourage team members to take it slow, and you’re more likely to achieve your goals at a sustainable pace. 

Direct Your Attention Intentionally

Attention is the most valuable resource we have, so if we can learn to channel it in the right ways, we’re less likely to fall prey to traps of perfectionism at work.

There’s a lot of emphasis placed on habit-building these days, in no small part due to hugely popular books such as ‘Atomic Habits’ and ‘Slight Edge’ which demonstrate the impact of the compound effect and how small habits can lead to great results over time. 

While that may be true, there’s a cost to fixating on your work-related habits: if you break a habit, you can use it as an excuse to berate yourself.

This is another example of how perfectionism - in this case, maintaining an unbroken streak - can have a knock-on impact on how you feel and perform at work. 

As a team leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your team members are directing their attention to the right things. It isn’t essential that they produce X amount of words a day, respond to colleagues within 20 minutes or less, or any other strict work-related habits they’ve created.

Normalize imperfection, and teach your team members the value of focusing their energy on high-priority tasks in the moment rather than maintaining particular habits.

Monitor Productivity Trends

If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of productivity within your team, you need a reliable employee screen monitoring software system.

Insightful, as an attendance tracking software solution lets you manage and monitor your team’s productivity as a result of hours worked. With this information, you can identify trends and check in with team members if you notice that they’re struggling to keep up.

Using employee monitoring software is one of the best ways to increase productivity in a business because it gives you the cold facts to work with. Better yet, with Insightful, you can go beyond just monitoring work performance by sharing reports with your team to add an extra layer of accountability and help them own their output.

When you track employee computer activity and make team members aware of their productivity levels, you can help them find a rhythm that works best for them. 

If you notice they experience slumps at the same time each day, for example, you could show them how to prioritize tasks. That way, they can get high-value tasks done in the morning, so that they can ride out the slumps with easier tasks in the afternoon.

A workforce optimization system like Insightful facilitates work computer tracking and allows you to monitor employees and generate productivity reports that you can use to evaluate performance with them.

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