We face distractions everywhere, but the seemingly endless time-wasters at work can affect not only productivity, but one’s reputation and self-esteem. To put forth your best effort on the job, it’s vital to know the difference between easily fixable distractions and activities or perceptions whose impact on productivity can be misunderstood.
One of the greatest potential obstacles to productivity is your work environment. To address distracting noise, including conversations, music and presentations, consider masking it with professional-grade headphones or by placing a white noise machine in the vicinity of the sounds.
In the pre-Internet era, talking on the phone at work was a necessity. That’s no longer true for everyone. Even though it might seem like a convenient way to complete some office tasks, answering non-urgent calls sets you up to be interrupted and delayed. Set specific time periods during which you don’t take calls unless they are truly urgent. Indicate this on your voicemail greeting, letting callers know when they can reach you or when you will be able to get back to them. When you must take phone calls, stand while talking on the phone. It will shorten the length of the conversation.
Though phone calls eat up time unnecessarily, embracing social media to share ideas with colleagues ultimately can help you become more productive. While it may sound counter-intuitive, one ASU management professor says technology can bolster personal relationships with telecommuting workers, part-time employees and staffers who work in satellite offices. The professor says that social networking sites nurture casual and candid rapport and can be an important ingredient in building links between coworkers.
Myths about effective work habits can actually reduce your efficiency if you buy into them. For example, multi-tasking doesn’t necessarily boost efficiency. Rather, multi-tasking may be a sign that you can’t commit. Cognitive research has revealed that “every shift in direction, every switch in tasks…costs.”
The phrase “time management” doesn’t make sense because time cannot be managed. We can’t manufacture time or manipulate it. Focusing language on “time” rather than on “priorities” results in avoiding responsibilities. It justifies sitting in a time management course rather than completing a task. We can manage priorities, but not time itself.
It’s also a myth that the most productive people are the busiest. If productivity means acting on priorities, then reflection, assessment, conversation and planning are required for real productivity.
The bottom line is that understanding what constitutes a needless distraction and what can translate into helpful collaboration or “priority management” can lead to a superior work product. Minimizing true distractions and maximizing opportunities to connect with colleagues is the essence of real productivity.
To learn more about eliminating time-wasters, listen to Take Control of Your Time audio.