Didn’t finish your to-do list during the day? Work more hours! That used to be the accepted approach for inspiring productivity in the workplace.

But companies and great managers now realize that finding ways for employees to work fewer, more productive hours is the best way to optimize balance for health, happiness, and improved work performance.

Why many of today’s productivity ideas don’t help

Gurus today suggest productivity-boosting activities that range from taking afternoon naps, to shutting off email during the day, to working only in 90-minute intervals. These gimmicks aren’t realistic for most work environments, where employees are usually expected to work regular hours and be reachable for most of the day.

Luckily, there are ways great managers help their employees improve productivity at work without encouraging them to nap in their sedan or make you wonder if they’ve been kidnapped. You can use these proven stratagies with your employees.

Here are the three steps to take

1. Make it personal

Ask your employees to consider how accomplishing daily tasks might make their life better. Also, most people work more effectively when they know their efforts are contributing to a bigger picture. So be sure to also communicate how individual employee efforts help your company reach its goals.

Ask them to focus on how micro-level achievements help them on a personal level:

  • Take baby steps toward a longer-term career goal.
  • Reduce the stress that comes with leaving work undone.
  • Free up more time for personal pursuits.

Encouraging this kind of introspection that leads to identifying personal internal drivers is a great way to help employees tap into their intrinsic motivation.

2. Leverage the power of rituals

We all have workday rituals, whether we realize it or not. Getting coffee, checking emails—these small tasks set our day into motion.

The most productive workers also add organizational tasks into their workday rituals. Help your employees create rituals that trigger productive bursts. The key is to keep them simple and easy to commit to:

Set reminders to go over entire to-do list twice a day.

  • Morning: Review tasks for the day, and define what you have to achieve to consider the day a success.
  • Evening: Determine what you achieved, and set priorities for tomorrow.

Give yourself small wins. Break up each to-do into smaller tasks, so you can check those off throughout the day.

3. Nudge mental reward centers

We know that recognition for good work leads to happiness and productivity, which is why corporate culture looks for social ways to encourage recognition of employee accomplishments. It’s important to keep employee recognitions frequent and keep them integrated with regular employee work outcomes. In other words, regularly recognize employee accomplishments rather than activity.

RedCritter Connecter is a great way to build a culture of employee recognition. You can regularly recognize and showcase employee accomplishments, so that your employees know that their contributions are valued.

Now that you're a productivity guru, leave your employees with some final thoughts...

Sometimes aiming for productivity can become another convenient excuse to procrastinate. Encourge your employees to keep productivity efforts clear and personal.

  • Never work extremely hard to accomplish very little.
  • Make productivity matter by tying it to a larger personal goal.
  • Celebrate the small successes along with the big wins.