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.
Are you not as productive as you’d like to be? Maybe your beliefs and attitudes towards time are holding you back. Here are five myths related to time management. Review these to determine if old, out-dated beliefs are hampering your productivity.
Myth #1: There isn’t enough time.
How many times have you said, “There isn’t enough time.” The truth is that you and the most accomplished people have the same amount of time. We all have just 24 hours in the day, and 168 hours in the week – no more and no less. It’s how you choose to prioritize your time that makes a difference.
Myth #2: I’ve got to figure out ways to save time.
There is no such thing as saving time; however we can certainly utilize our time better to become more efficient.
Myth #3: The more I work the more I’ll get done.
Just because you work more hours, doesn’t mean you’ll accomplish more. Activity isn’t the same as accomplishment. In fact, if we work ourselves to the point of becoming fatigued, we are actually less productive. Research shows it take five-times longer to solve a problem when we’re fatigued.
Myth #4: If you want a job well done, then you have to do it yourself.
Many people think they have to perform a task themselves in order to do it right. However, that’s not necessarily true. Top achievers orchestrate the work flow and trust the talents of others. They’ve learned to delegate effectively, and therefore get more accomplished.
Myth #5: High achievers work harder than others.
High achievers don’t necessarily work harder than others, they work smarter than others. They know their priorities and focus on the right things. They also make more efficient use of their time.
For tips on how to better utilize your time, listen to Take Control of Your Time audio CD.
Does this sound familiar? You dial a phone number. While the phone is ringing, you read an email message. Then when someone answers the phone, you haven’t got a clue as to who you called! How about this? What do you do during a teleconference call? Are you intently listening to the caller, or are you checking stock prices on your computer? If you’re like most professionals, you’re probably multi-tasking. With so much to do, it’s tempting to try to do multiple things at once.
Professionals use multi-tasking as a way to get more done. They believe it increases their productivity and efficiency. But does it really? This may surprise you, but there’s no such thing as multi-tasking. The brain cannot focus on more than one thing at a time. In reality, it’s actually switching back and forth very quickly between tasks.
Recent studies show that multi-tasking, in fact, reduces productivity. That’s because people lose time when they switch back-and-forth from one task to another. Each time you’re interrupted, it takes time to switch gears and get back your train of thought. For example, you’re working on a report, the phone rings and you answer it. When you hang up, you return to your report, and ask yourself, “Where was I?”, and then collect your thoughts.
When you multi-task, not only does it take longer, but you’re not as effective. Think about it. If you’re reading an email while trying to listen to someone speak, are you really hearing them? No! You’re only hearing about half of what they’ve said. Then that leads to miscommunication, which can cause further issues.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re more productive when you multi-task. If you really want to be productive, focus on one task at a time, complete it, and then move on to the next task.
Have you noticed that your energy level fluctuates throughout the day? We all have our own natural rhythm. Many people have more energy in the mornings, and then experience an energy lull in the middle of the afternoon. Some people are “morning people” who jump right out of bed in the morning with lots of energy. Not me! Others of us are “night owls”. We get our second wind in the evening.
It’s important to be aware of your energy cycles, so you can plan your work around your energy levels. If you plan important work during your prime energy level, you can accomplish so much more! Think about it. How do you feel when you’re in prime time? You feel energetic – like you can tackle the world! This is your prime productivity time. Take advantage of it, and focus on activities that require a lot of concentration or creativity.
During prime time, focus on:
- Important tasks
- Critical decisions
- Problem solving
- Brainstorming/generating ideas
- Complex thought
If you try to do these tasks during your energy lull, it will take much more time. Resist the urge to do easy, trivial things during prime time. Save routine paperwork for times when you have less energy. By planning your work around your prime energy levels, you’ll be amazed at how productive you can be!
How can you make the most of each day? Start by taking five minutes in the morning to plan your day. Planning will help you identify what’s most important for you to focus on today. Investing just a few minutes at the beginning of each day can make a significant difference in your productivity.
Each morning list your tasks and activities that you want to accomplish that day. Be realistic about what you can and cannot accomplish in the given time. Once you’ve listed your tasks, then prioritize them. Prioritize them according to importance (A, B, or C). “A” priorities are those things you must get done today or there will be a negative consequence. For example, let’s say you have a report that’s due today. Your boss needs this information for an important customer meeting tomorrow morning. If you don’t get it done, it will negatively impact the outcome of the meeting and your boss’ perception of your performance. “B” priorities are those things that are important, but not necessarily urgent. And “C” priorities are those that you would like to accomplish (such as filing or updating records); however there’s no real consequence if they don’t get done today.
The biggest mistake people make is labeling too many tasks as “A” priorities. Ask yourself, “Do I absolutely have to get this done today?” and “What is the consequence of not completing this task today?” These questions will help you determine if it’s truly an “A” priority. Another mistake people often make is trying to do too much (myself included). Be realistic about how much you can accomplish. When you estimate the time it will take to complete a task, it’s a good practice to double the time. Also allow for interruptions and the unexpected. You never know when something important will come up. When things come up, be flexible and willing to modify your priorities as needed.
Once you’ve prioritized your list, you’re ready to get started. Start by completing your “A” priorities and then move on to your “B” priorities. Once you complete a task, put a checkmark next to it. If you’re like me, you’ll gain satisfaction just by checking it off your list. By following these tips for planning your day, you’ll be more productive, effective, and satisfied!