How to Increase Capacity When You Have None

In 2013 I obtained a certificate in Business Process Management. A key lesson I learned was the difference between efficiency and capacity. Recognizing the differences is not always easy, or apparent. However, when you feel like you just can’t keep up with what you need to do, it’s worth examining both.

Efficiency determines how quickly tasks can be finished up to a certain standard. A lot of people confuse efficiency with working faster. In some cases, being more efficient can increase speed. However, I consider efficiency as a way to complete tasks without missing anything or reworks. Sometimes this might take a little longer, but if it prevents reworks or mistakes, it’s worth the extra time. Reworks take twice as long, or longer, to finish.

Capacity refers to the total output of a particular process. Often when a business, or person, needs to get more done, they focus on efficiency rather than capacity. Making a process, or action, more efficient can lead to a perceived increase in capacity. However, there is a limit.

For example, a customer service center has the capacity to help 1000 clients/day. They currently serve about 800/day on average. However, each day they are receiving nearly 2000 inquiries. Even if the process was as efficient as possible, the customer service center only has the capacity to assist 1000 people. Or 50% of the clients, working at 100% capacity. There is no space to grow.

The problem is a lack of capacity, not working efficiently. Although in this example efficiency would definitely help.

I’m sure many people, like myself, are falling behind in everyday life. In my case things that normally could have been delegated to other people (or services) I now have to do myself because of pandemic restrictions. Or common tasks, like shopping, take longer because they have to be done a different way (read more here).

Tips and Tricks to Increase Capacity

My capacity is 100%, but I need to squeeze it for more, without exhausting or injuring myself. This is no easy feat, but I’ve discovered a few tips and tricks.

  • Commit to doing one extra thing a day. The pace is slow, but in a month you will have crossed off 30 (extra) to-dos.
  • List everything so you don’t forget about it.
  • Plan which things to do when. Decision fatigue is a real thing. If I already know what I need to do, this saves me time and energy.

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