While the beautifully designed spaces and free coffee of the modern workplace might not look like a 19th century sweatshop, it might still feel that way to employees slogging through their to-do lists. If you feel like there simply isn’t enough time in the day for everything you need to do, the answer could be putting some techniques in place to optimize productivity and cut distraction from your working life.
Regardless of the industry, employees need to know how to deal with busy work environments. With some awareness, it is possible to implement a strategy that will cut the productivity killers out of your working life.
Serial Killer: Cell Phones and Social Media
A 2018 survey by Salary.com identified everybody’s guilty secret: even though it has dropped by about 10% from when social media was first introduced to the world, cell phones and social media are the biggest time thieves in the office. According to this survey, about 39% of respondents claimed that they spent about an hour a week on non-work-related social media and instant messaging, with 29% admitting to about 2 hours a week, and 3% saying they are spending 10 hours weekly on “personal business” at the office. These distractions included checking personal email, catching up on the news, doing a bit of clandestine shopping on Amazon.com, and looking at what else is out there on LinkedIn. Facebook topped the list of distractions, but other studies found that blocking personal sites on work computers was an ineffective solution because workers were plagued by “Fear of Missing Out”—and this just added to their general distraction.
The Silent Thief: Constant Distraction
Despite the popularity of open-plan offices, there have been very few strategies implemented to stop noise and clutter from stealing employees’ focus at work. Productivity expert and well-known self-help guru Robin Sharma summarized it best by saying, “We live in a world where focus is more valuable than even your intelligence.” In his master class on increasing productivity, Sharma advises creating a bubble of total focus. Of course, this bubble is a quiet place (not a busy open-plan office or factory setting). Sharma argues that mediocrity is the price most people are paying for being chronically distracted by screens, games, messages, and life in general. He proposes creating an environment that allows for total focus and high-quality, thoughtful work.
The Stalker: Email
A 2012 survey conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute found that next to “role-specific tasks,” email is the second-most time-consuming activity for workers. With many people overwhelmed by their inboxes, the tendency can be either to ignore many messages or to waste hours reading and responding to emails—even though the time could be better spent elsewhere. Tim Ferris (the man behind “The 4-Hour Workweek) advises people overwhelmed by email to create an automated message telling people to be patient, to not expect an immediate answer on non-urgent matters, and to phone if the matter truly requires a rapid response.
Sowing Confusion: A Lack of Clarity
In his five steps to productivity, Dave Allen (the guru on getting things done) proposes a five-step process to figure out where you are going, how to get there, and how to avoid being distracted by all the shiny baubles along the way. He suggests that you first write down or record everything that is on your mind to stop the noise. Next, he advises that you clarify what must be done. This is followed by organizing, reflecting, and then simply doing.
The Kidnapper: Dismissing the Power of the Calendar
Well-known and inspirational author Bob Goff said, “The battle for happiness begins on the pages of our calendars.” Before him, Steven Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, wrote, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Now is not the time to throw your caution and calendar to the wind. Successful people have routines and schedules, and while there is the odd unicorn among them fluttering through the day but still getting an enormous amount of world-changing work done, chances are that you are not that person. Having a schedule can work in your favor. There is some disagreement about whether it is better to write down a schedule on a piece of paper or put it in your phone, but experts do agree that as long as things are scheduled, they are more likely to get done.
There are many things that put workplace productivity at risk, from email and other distractions to a lack of a clear vision of overall goals and objectives. By addressing these and other productivity killers, you will be surprised by how much more efficient you (and your team) can become. On an organization-wide level, this can translate into an incredible increase in revenue, profits, and business growth. If you need some help with enhancing your team’s productivity, CMOE can help. CMOE offers learning and development programs designed to enhance your team’s effectiveness, time-management skills, and ability to balance competing demands. Learn more about how CMOE can help your organization here.
About the Author
Tom Buckland is the head of content at Andinspireme is an award-winning people-development company that specializes in corporate employee engagement, workplace happiness, and wellbeing.