How to Maintain Productivity When Short Staffed

Eric Howard
Editor, Los Angeles Lawyer


Los Angeles County Bar Association

Since the Pretty Good Recession of 2008, bar associations across the country are contending with what the French call le whammi double of diminished income and the continuing insistence of employees to receive paychecks. So when potentially excess personnel (PEP) in your communications department die of heart attacks at their desks, do not send an e-mail asking to be on the hiring committee that will never again exist but rather take a hands-on approach—drag them to the supply room, take their three-hole punches, and follow these five steps toward greater productivity.

Step one: Relax your shoulders, take deep breaths, and whimper under your desk. As explained on the Managing Stress with Kundalini Yoga page of, a simple eight-breath mantra can teach the body to release stress into the office air conditioning system. For this to work, the head must be bowed so as not to hit the keyboard tray, and the hands need to be in the gyan mudra. Touch the tips of the thumb and the forefinger and keep the other three fingers straight. Breathe out while slowly chanting these eight words: "Om mani, padme, I can't DEAL. HELP ME." Then flick that stress away as a wise, innocent child would a booger. Get up, walk calmly to the restroom, and sob as quietly as you can in a stall.

 Step Two: Give up anything that robs you of precious work time. Some PEPs misapply their communications skill set by talking with spouses or children, but is this a realistic approach to managing multiple projects with competing deadlines? Commuting to and from a bed at home adds carbon to an already overloaded atmosphere. Set up a cot in that unused cubicle. Take a creative approach to meeting the hygienic standards listed in your job description.  

 Step Three: Rend your garments, stagger like a zombie into your boss's office, and threaten to slash your wrists and bleed all over his or her desk if you don't get a temp. Talk like Gollum while doing this. If your boss is still skeptical, slash across the wrist, not with the vein, as this gives you more time to wail before you pass out.

Step Four: Tell your team members to go away and not come back without everything you want. In a positive, informative manner, set project goals and quality standards while maintaining a flexible, results-oriented approach to humiliating anyone who dares to bother you with questions.

Step Five: Slap the final product together. In challenging professional environments, it's important to set aside time for positive self-assessment. You defeated the Perfection Monster! We live in a multitasking world, and nobody really has time to care what you do, so long as he or she can be seen doing whatever it is he or she is supposed to be doing. Reflect proudly on how your work helps your fellow PEPs achieve this important goal.  

 While this list isn't exhaustive (see step five), these steps helped me increase my productivity after a reduction in staff. If they don't work for you as well, it's probably because there's something wrong with you.