Work Not Working For You? Increase Your Productivity By Asking For What You Need

– Posted in: career management, time management

maximum productivityIn a recent Forbes post, I write for the manager’s benefit on how to motivate when morale is low. I mention three specific needs that individuals have –motivation, information, or skills training — that can make a team more productive. Do you know what you need for maximum productivity? The answer changes over time, and it could be more than one thing. But getting specific about what you need is the first and arguably most critical step (after all, how can someone agree to your request if you don’t know what you’re asking for!). Here are 10 items you should consider asking of your manager to better support your work productivity:


If your role or immediate project requires deep thinking, creativity, or analysis, you may need quiet and space to think. If you’re in an open environment or face frequent interruption, a request for privacy might be the support you need.


If you work best using your own approach and schedule, then let your manager know you’ll need some flexibility. Don’t assume your manager or rest of your team will immediately buy into your specific way of doing things, especially if you’re new to the project or you work differently than your predecessor.


If you’re not sure how you’re doing, ask for specific performance feedback on your performance. Don’t assume that no news is good news. Many managers (and people in general) avoid conflict, so may not speak up to course-correct quickly enough. If you are the one to speak up and ask for feedback, you can refine and adjust along the way.


If you’re not sure what you should be doing, maybe because there are too many things to get done or projects keep shifting, then ask your manager to prioritize. You can definitely suggest priorities based on your understanding of the business, your role, and your preferences, but don’t assume your manager shares the same priorities.


Performance feedback and priority of projects are critical parts of getting more clarity on your responsibilities, company strategy, and what is essential to your job. You also may need more clarity on key decision-makers or important clients or institutional history (e.g., what’s been done before). Ask for the information you need to do your job.

Navigation assistance

In addition to knowing decision-makers, key clients and other influencers, you may need introductions to them. A person-to-person referral is often much more preferable to just introducing yourself. Your manager can also give you background about the person or insights into how best to work with them.

Big picture

Your manager should know more about the big picture – what other people are working on, how other pieces fit into what you’re doing, how everything fits into the company strategy. Having this information can help you be more effective and efficient with your work. Don’t assume your manager will tell you everything that’s critical for you to know – s/he might forget to relay what was discussed in the executives-only meeting, or s/he might assume you already know something.

Next steps

What happens after you hand off your work could impact how you present it or what areas you focus on. Ask your manager for what’s next for the projects you’re working on. If you’re not actively engaged on future workstreams, your manager might not think to fill you in, so be proactive and ask.

Tactical help

Sometimes you need tangible assistance in doing your job – training in a proprietary system or competitive information from your internal strategy people. Get familiar with company training offerings and a general org chart, and then ask your manager to fill in gaps for resources you can’t find on your own.

Best practices

You have your own ideas for how to structure a PowerPoint or a market analysis or whatever report you need to submit. But there may be preferred formats or shortcuts to information that your manager can share. Don’t reinvent the wheel – ask for any company best practices in any new projects or responsibilities you take up.

Of course, after you pinpoint what you need for maximum productivity, you’ll still have to successfully make the ask. Focus on the benefits to your work, not you personally. Do your own research so you’re clearly helping yourself and being part of the solution. Ask sooner than later so you and your manager reap maximum productivity benefits.

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