During any given work week, even the best teams run into roadblocks that hinder efficiency. Unproductive meetings, email bloat, and not knowing what everyone else is working on can prevent your team from crossing items off your to-do list and doing them well.
Team efficiency refers to how much high-impact work your team can do—simply by removing workplace friction and distraction. Team efficiency isn’t productivity for productivity’s sake—rather, it’s how you can build an effective workplace and encourage healthy teamwork in the workplace to improve your overall team performance.
To improve team efficiency, you have to reduce the barriers to high-impact work that your team encounters on a daily basis. According to the Anatomy of Work, global employees spend the majority of their time (60%) on work about work, and only 27% of their time on skilled work. When you improve team efficiency, you’re giving your team their time back to focus on the work that matters most.Read: Efficiency vs. effectiveness in business: Why your team needs both
To help you and your team increase your efficiency mojo, use these nine tips to supercharge your project management skills and improve both the speed and quality of your team’s work.
To quote Dave Barry, “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’.”
One of the easiest ways to improve your team’s efficiency is to get rid of unnecessary meetings. That’s not to say all meetings are bad. Meetings can be productive, provided that there is a clear agenda, that the right people attend, and that everyone is prepared to contribute to a solution, but that’s not always the case.
If planned without a clear agenda or objective, even short 30-minute meetings can add up and eat into the amount of time your team has to work toward tangible goals. Instead, ask yourself (and your team) if you really need that meeting.
Before scheduling a meeting, ask yourself if it’s really necessary. Sometimes, we default to scheduling a meeting when another form of communication might be more effective. By eliminating unnecessary meetings, you can give everyone more time to focus on the work that matters. For example, if you’re scheduling a meeting to share an update on a project’s status, could you send your team a digital update instead?
Team meeting alternatives:
Instead of scheduling a team update, send a project status report.
Instead of meeting for a team brainstorm, share a virtual brainstorming board.
Instead of planning information sharing meetings, share the context asynchronously.
Alternatively, you might be invited to a meeting you feel is unnecessary. For example, if your role in the meeting isn’t clearly defined, is your presence definitely needed? Consider sending the meeting organizer a message to ask if you should attend.Read: Do your work meetings waste time? Use these tips to improve.
Some meetings are important, and teams can get great work done when they meet together. But no matter what type of meeting you’re planning, there are some easy ways to make it more actionable, productive, and effective:
Create and share an agenda before meeting. To improve team efficiency during meetings, make sure every meeting has a goal. It might also be helpful to identify the meeting’s non-goals, to ensure the meeting doesn’t get sidetracked. Create and share a meeting agenda so everyone is on the same page. If there’s any reading or supplemental documents, share them in the agenda as well.
Align on meeting conventions. Whether you’re meeting in-person or virtually, define and share group norms for your team or company. Should team members put their laptops away? If it’s a virtual call, should video be turned on? If multiple people have something to share, who goes first? Share these conventions before meeting.
Take actionable notes. Before meeting, assign one person to take meeting notes. Ideally, take notes in the same place you shared your agenda. Along with notes, capture action items with due dates and assignees.
Collect feedback to increase efficiency. Check in regularly with your team to make sure meetings feel valuable to them as well. If few people seem to be getting a lot out of particular meetings, continue moving that sync to a digital update or project status report instead.
On any given day, each of your employees may have ten different tasks to complete across multiple projects. In the moment, each of them seems important and urgent. Where should they start? Where should they devote the bulk of their time and brainpower to do their best work?
Naturally, some tasks and projects are more important than others. That’s where having a well-defined set of goals and an idea of how your work ladders up to them comes into play. Your shorter-term goals provide a firm foundation for longer-term goals, such as a product roadmap or release management plan. Having a clear vision for what tasks align with company- or department-wide goals helps keep everyone on the same page and empowers individual team members to make decisions that impact the big picture.
When you have a clear understanding of how your work ladders up to company goals and objectives, you can better understand which projects and tasks will have the largest impact. In fact, according to the Anatomy of Work, employees who have clarity on how their work impacts their organization’s mission are 2X as motivated as their counterparts.
Focus on those pieces of work before you move onto less impactful tasks. If a task or project is not supporting your company’s larger, more overarching goals, objectives, or mission, rethink whether it’s necessary or not.
Claire Knebl, Director of Marketing at Ritual, leads a high-performing and engaged team by obsessing over customers. “I take a week to get into my target customer’s mindset before starting any campaign. I focus on learning as much as I can about them, often through informal conversations, to learn how they live every day.”
Inevitably, there will be times when members of your team have too much on their plate. Without a system in place to help them delete, defer, delegate, or diminish lower priority work, their work efficiency will suffer as a result. In fact, according to our research, 85% of employees report they’ve experienced overwork, and 42% believe that staff morale is low because of too much work.
You can improve your team’s efficiency at work and boost workplace happiness with good workload management. One easy way to manage your team’s workloads is to delete, defer, delegate, or diminish lower priority tasks. Take a look at your project’s bigger picture and identify what work needs to be done through a needs assessment and which tasks are a priority:
Building on the principle outlined in tip two, if an aspect of a project does not support an overarching company goal—delete it.
If there is a more pressing project that has a greater impact on team goals, complete that task and defer a less important task for when you have more time to tackle it.
If there are two tasks of equal importance assigned to one person, delegate one of those tasks to another team member with more bandwidth.
If there is a task you can’t defer, delete, or delegate, find ways to diminish the amount of time it takes to complete. Eliminate meetings related to this task, shorten meetings, or reduce their frequency. You can also work on the highest priority parts of a project and defer the rest until later.
Workload management is how you distribute and manage work across your team. To get started with workload management, you first need insight into your team’s workload and capacity. You can track this information with a workload management platform—which provides a window into your team's workload. Then, once you’ve put together a full list of all of the tasks and work your team is responsible for, you can allocate resources based on team capacity. With this insight, you can also adjust team workload as needed, to prevent burnout and boredom.Read: How to effectively manage your team’s workload
As Director of Marketing at Ritual, Claire Knebl recommends choosing three things to focus on each week. “You can usually only get three big things done in a week. The first should be something important and strategic. The second should also be important but simpler that can get crossed off the list earlier. And the third should be a reach for support.”Read: Improving team effectiveness: 4 models to guide you
No two employees are alike. Each person has different experiences, strengths, and weaknesses that make them a valued member of your team. Similarly, different people enjoy doing different work. For instance, one person on your team may enjoy conducting and organizing research into a report, while a different teammate would rather chew glass than compile research findings.
Knowing who on your team excels at a particular skill, and finding ways for them to spend time on work they enjoy, can help streamline tasks and projects. Additionally, if you know a person is more excited to work on a specific task, they’ll be more likely to work with a higher degree of quality and complete the task faster. Giving your team work they find personally rewarding or challenging can help everyone to do their best work.
Once you know what needs to be done and who will do it, it’s time to make a plan of action for your team to follow. Having a well-thought plan that’s been clearly mapped out from the beginning can eliminate additional “work about work” at a later time.
To start, make sure each of your team’s projects have a clear plan. Planning out a project from the start ensures that realistic timelines are in place for each project milestone, all the way up to completion. Each person knows who is responsible for completing a piece of the puzzle and has 360-insight into what’s underway and what has been completed. Then, coordinate and schedule all of your projects across your program that makes the most of your team’s time.
Stakeholders and team roles
Milestones and deliverables
Timeline and schedules
Using a work management tool can help you set up all of the smaller tasks that lead to accomplishing a larger goal. Making use of templates within Asana can help you replicate a process that’s worked before and make sure that no step is left out and no work slips through the cracks.
Just because you work in a different department doesn’t mean you can’t work together. After all, you’re working toward the same goal as part of a larger company. Knowing what other teams are working on can encourage teams to collaborate with one another when work and goals overlap.
Work management tools can increase cross-team visibility, mapping each phase of a project back to a singular set of goals. These tools can serve as a centralized hub to share what you’re working on with the rest of the team and identify areas where people of different responsibilities can collaborate. By sharing a single source of truth with your team, you can boost teamwork and reduce the barriers to high-impact work so your team can be more efficient.
At Carta, an SEC-registered transfer agent that helps public and private companies issue and manage securities, compliance specialist Jina Kim relies on Asana to encourage collaboration across all of their business units, see who is working on what, and understand how each team and team member’s projects impact one another.
“For example, the support team comes in one day and they realize that something has changed in the product overnight, they need a way to find out,” observed Jina.
Attending meetings can disrupt your efficiency, making it harder to get in the flow and finish a project. Having at least one full day at the office devoted to deep work—that sweet, sweet block of several uninterrupted, meeting-free hours to dedicate to a project—can go a long way toward improving efficiency and productivity.
At Asana, we have No Meeting Wednesday, which allows everyone to engage in heads-down work without worrying about meetings. We ask employees to avoid scheduling internal meetings on Wednesdays and to be considerate of one another’s schedules. This allows all team members to have large blocks of time to “do” work instead of just talking about work. As a result, the team has more time to analyze, execute, and review critical processes on projects. Many employees cite No Meeting Wednesday as their favorite day of the week and often see projects crossing the finish line on Hump Day.Read: 6 tips to harness the power of flow state at work
Every team has a variety of communication tools at their disposal, but they’re only useful if your team knows how and when to use them. Most teams are already dealing with tool overload—the average employee shuffles between 10 apps per day. Not only is that context-switching tiring, it can also be hard to find information when you need it, further down the road.
To help them out, clearly define the purpose of each communication channel. For outside communication with vendors and clients, stick to email. For immediate answers to questions, use an app like Slack. And to plan, manage, and communicate about actionable work, stick to a work management tool like Asana.
While communication tools can make your team much more efficient, using them inconsistently can actually create more work. If you see a tool’s purpose can be replicated through another channel (with additional, unique benefits), it should be eliminated. As a result, your team will need fewer tools to communicate with each other and use each one to their best benefit.
In a work management platform like Asana, you can integrate all of your favorite business tools. That way, your team has access to all of the context they need all in one place.
Improving efficiency is a continuous process. It may seem overwhelming, but simple tools and tactics can help make everyone on your team more efficient. And the more fluent you and your team become in using these tools, efficiency becomes second nature and a built-in part of any project. Learn more about how Asana can help make you and your team more efficient and get ideas to put into practice within your own organization.