I think most would say that the way to sustainable productivity is to work “smarter” not “harder.” Here is a quick rule of “Three C’s” that I use to help my own productivity.
As I work each day, I try to categorize what I am doing in to one of three things:
Creation is just that, it is building things. From writing code to developing a business plan or making a sales call, creation is anything where you actively working to make progress. Needless to say, everyone should try to maximize creation time.
Coordination time is any time spent coordinating efforts across the team. Good coordination is very important in terms of being effective but there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.” When teams are coordinating they are not creating so care should be taking to find coordination methodologies that minimize the time required.
The key to working smarter is minimizing consumption. Consumption is any time spent on an activity where there is minimal to no value-add. A great example of consumption is unneeded EMAIL. When you spend 10 minutes deleting emails that are irrelevant to you that is a pure waste of time: consumption. I actively manage myself off all distribution lists that are not important. If the team waits 15 minutes for me to join a meeting, that unproductivity is consumption (of the team) so I try to be on time and I expect that from other team members.
Leaders should be especially careful about generating consumption in their organizations. Many years ago, I calculated that one email sent to our (large) organization cost the company $10,000 even if everyone just opened it and glanced through it. Needless to say I used to insure large distribution lists could not be used unless the communication was truly necessary and relevant across the audience.
A few simple things like setting an expectation that everyone be on time to meetings or asking team members to focus emails to just the people involved can have a huge impact on productivity. In this era of so much data “noise” hitting us each day, it is important to be aware that team effectiveness will not come from more time at work but from more time spent doing important things.