Establishing achievable and realistic expectations is crucial for workplace success. These guidelines help in fostering productive interactions with clients, colleagues, and managers, while also ensuring that you stay in sync with your own boundaries, responsibilities, and objectives.
Of course, it’s important to have ambitious goals, but if you start asking too much of yourself, the strain of unreasonable expectations can inhibit your performance. On the other hand, when you’re honest about what’s actually attainable, you create space to redefine your objectives, adjust your workflow, and enhance the overall quality of deliverables.
In this month’s edition of The Productivity Box, let’s dive into the benefits of setting realistic expectations to improve task completion and fuel you through the workday.
How unrealistic expectations reduce productivity
More than 50 percent of U.S. workers feel stressed out on the job, and the pressure of unrealistic expectations is a leading cause of all that stress. Over time, chronic stress can escalate into burnout, which often results in negative performance outcomes. Here are just a few ways that burnout could impact:
- Lack of motivation
- Task aversion
- Decision making errors
- Exhaustion or cognitive drain
- Adversity towards collaboration with others
- Mental health issues
- Low organizational commitment
- High absenteeism
- Impaired concentration
- Prone to distractions
It’s hard to feel any sense of accomplishment or job satisfaction when you’re under the weight of expectations that are just too heavy for one person to bear. The more you strive to meet those unrealistic expectations, the more burned out you’ll become. And your productivity level will take a sharp nosedive.
So if you’ve been cracking due to mounting pressure and towering objectives, it could be time to re-evaluate the nature of your expectations.
How realistic expectations boost productivity
Setting realistic expectations isn’t just about work/life balance. It’s about setting yourself up for success in every area of life—work and personal. Here’s how.
1. Reduce stress levels
When your main objectives for the workday are practical and achievable, you’re less likely to feel stressed or overwhelmed. That’s because goal attainment leads to feelings of autonomy, competence, satisfaction, and a deeper sense of meaning, according to Frontiers in Psychology.
In other words, realistic expectations allow you to actually complete tasks. And you finish each one feeling less overwhelmed because you know you have a manageable number of tasks ahead of you.
2. Strengthen motivation
As obvious as this might sound, the more realistic your expectations are, the easier they will be to sustain. This feasibility drives commitment, work ethic, proactivity, and intrinsic motivation, according to the PLOS One Journal.
That pride you feel when crossing a task off your agenda incentivizes you to tackle the next project with equal momentum and enthusiasm. It’s a cycle of positive reinforcement that will lead to productive outcomes.
3. Boost time management
Effective time management allows you to prioritize the right commitments, establish deadlines that make sense, parcel out large projects into smaller tasks, and then arrange your schedule to maximize efficiency, reports the Sage Open Journal.
Realistic expectations like this help you allocate working hours and energetic resources as wisely as possible. This means you won’t waste valuable time on activities that are unnecessarily ambitious or non-essential.
4. Enhance work quality
If you’re under pressure to meet unreasonably high performance benchmarks, you might feel tempted to rush through your tasks without care and precision. When you’re concerned about speed over anything else, this will affect cognitive inhibition (ability to tune out distractions). This can lead to errors and inaccuracies, the Acta Psychologica Journal explains. Whereas realistic goals enable you to slow down and focus on quality.
5. Optimize collaboration
When it comes to team dynamics, setting realistic expectations will ensure that everyone is on the same page. If those expectations are impractical, teamwork can suffer from a lack of shared goals, fractured communication, low morale, and ambiguous roles, another study from PLOS One indicates.
On the flip side, when all team members are aligned with clear objectives they can reach, productive collaboration and cohesion will thrive.
6. Increase adaptability
Unforeseen challenges can arise in any workplace, but realistic expectations build the resilience to adapt to shifting circumstances. Adaptability will foster critical thinking, innovative problem-solving, and flexible decision-making in the midst of stressors or difficult changes, the Advances in Health Sciences Education Journal reports.
Even if you can’t control a situation, maintaining realistic expectations will help you navigate it with a level head.
Power through your work day with realistic expectations
Whether you are in a conventional or a hybrid work environment, establishing realistic expectations will simplify your tasks and greatly enhance your overall productivity.
Embracing this mindset allows you to set achievable objectives, clarify your top priorities, minimize stress, enhance collaboration, unleash your full capabilities, and chart a successful path to navigate each day at work effectively.
See you next month with even more productivity hacks that can boost your performance at work.