“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” — Paul J. Meyer
I’m gonna start this post by sharing a story about Mark, who happens to be a good friend of mine.
Mark worked as a Quality Analyst. He was one of the most disciplined and hardworking people in the office. However, ironically, Mark was also one of the few people in the organization who was unable to meet deadlines consistently!
For someone who was so dedicated to his work, it was unclear what’s making Mark fall behind than other employees (in terms of productivity) who seemingly found time for other non-work related activities other than work and still managed to complete tasks and projects.
Mark was quite perplexed himself. He was working hard as he could to be more productive, but still, nothing worked for him. He was getting more and more frustrated with each passing day, which further affected his performance at work and personal well-being.
“I don’t know what more I can do to get more done in less time?” said disgusted Mark to me as he wore a worried look on his face as we discussed this matter during a coffee break in our office.
“People have been spending less time than me on the same work and still they are able to deliver more. This is simply driving me nuts. Harder I work, the less productive I seem to get.” added Mark.
“Mark, you are working hard, it’s visible to everyone in the office, but are you also working smarter?” I asked him. Mark couldn’t find an answer. He looked completely out of sorts. He realized there and then that perhaps he needs to change the way he works to deliver more goods in less time, without letting work-related stress and pressure get to him.
“I don’t know if I am doing smart work. Honestly speaking, I have always found this term confusing. I mean either you do work or not, what’s this smart work all about.?” Mark said to me in a kind of submissive tone.
“Have you ever tried to prioritize and visualize your tasks, keep track of time spent on doing them, and organize your work?” I asked Mark, and he just shrugged his shoulders.
I’m sure, by now, you would have understood the crux of the matter. It could very well be that some of you are also facing the same problem as that of Mark – putting in hard work but not getting the desired results in terms of productivity.
This article is composed to help fellow professionals achieve more in less by making small yet significant changes to their work regimen. When followed and practiced earnestly, you would be amazed at the results.
However, before I write about solutions, it’s important to figure out where the problems are arising. This means finding out the common disruptions at work that you might not even be aware of but are consuming a significant chunk of your time and deliverables daily.
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We Really Don’t Work For 8 Hours In A Day
“A UC Irvine study revealed that, on average, office workers are interrupted every 11 minutes. And yet it takes around 25 minutes to get back on track.”
As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works 8.8 hours every day. Yet a study of nearly 2,000 full-time office workers found that most people aren’t working for most of the time they’re at work.
According to research, the average employee stays productive for less than three hours a day. Yes, you read that right. Just three! Most employees finish three hours of work and spend the rest of their time on water cooler conversations, gossiping, checking their social media accounts, making calls, or searching for a job opportunity elsewhere.
As you can see, the major part of your 8-hour working day is ruined by distractions at work. Take a look at some of the most common time wasters at work that you can avoid to get more out of available time at work.
Table of Contents
- 6 Most common time wasters at work:
- Let’s find out what all you need to do to become more efficient, productive, and organized at work.
6 Most common time wasters at work:
“There are 5.15 billion unique mobile phone users in the world today, according to the latest data from GSMA Intelligence and 3.96 billion global users are using social media.”
This figure pretty much sums it up for what primary purpose your employees are using their smartphones.
Smartphones have become an essential part of working professionals today, though they are not without pitfalls. On one hand, they help us to feel connected with our colleagues, managers, and bosses, this connectivity often comes at the expense of productivity.
Smartphone usage statistics suggest that an average person spends about three hours a day on their mobile device. I know you are not supposed to throw your mobile phones out, but we can try to reduce its usage at work in a way that your work doesn’t take the backseat.
“A recent survey revealed that about 15% of employees occasionally, and 21% of employees regularly engage in gossip.”
Gossip can destroy an organization’s work culture and cut down on productivity. Even though it’s hard to not indulge in gossiping, it’s when a seemingly harmless chit chat heightens to a time-waster at the workplace that hampers your productivity big time.
Statistics show that gossiping consumes no less than an hour in a day (or even more) in some offices. Often, these are disgruntled workers who are quick to gossip to – ones who hold grudges, didn’t get a good appraisal, and disagree with the senior management on some or most issues.
Workplace gossiping can have negative consequences in the form of lack of trust amongst employees, reduced productivity, rumors circulation, divisiveness, unexpected turnover, loss of great talent, to name a few. Surely, it can’t get any worse than that!
Noisy Offices and Talkative Coworkers
“According to a new poll by Udemy and Toluna, 80 percent of people report being distracted by chatty coworkers, the number one office place distraction.”
Unnecessarily loud coworkers and noisy offices are reported to be the second most cited workplace disturbance. It can have a massive impact on your productivity. To make matters worse, open-office floorplans and shared office spaces often exacerbate this issue.
To many people, the sounds of conversations, laughter, ringing mobile phones, closing-opening of drawers and doors, etc, might seem normal. However, researchers have termed such noises as distractions, which do not let you focus properly on the task in hand.
According to research, to focus on cognitively demanding work, we need to be in an environment not louder than 50 decibels. However, most open office environments are more than that with a 60-65 decibel range. It can be said that unnecessary, loud, consistent noise in the workplace does not do your work performance any good.
Multitasking – Trying To Do Too Many Things At Once
“Some researchers suggest that multitasking can actually reduce productivity by as much as 40%.”
A lot of people at work think that by trying to do too many things at a time, they would be able to achieve more productivity in less time. Moreover, most of us think that by multitasking, we would be able to impress our bosses or managers, but the reality is the exact opposite.
Unless you belong to those exceptionally talented 2.5 percent of people who are good at multitasking, there are good chances that your performance will take a backseat. Quickly switching your attention and focus from one task to another can cause mental blocks that can slow you down.
You can compare multitasking at work with texting while you drive. You are not able to concentrate properly on both tasks (texting and driving) at a time because your attention is divided. Your workplace task juggling may be less dangerous, but has the same effect of slowing you down.
Lack Of Healthy, Nutritious Diet Intake
What you eat has a direct effect on the way you feel and work throughout the day. It’s difficult to work when you’re hungry, but satisfying your cravings with junk does little more than instant gratification. Nutrition is extremely important for cognition and focus.
The WHO reports that “adequate nutrition can raise your productivity levels by 20 percent on average.” Say no to sugary, processed foods and drinks because these will provide you with a sudden boost of energy followed by crashes. Sugars and carbs are not enough to create a steady supply of glucose.
You need to consider healthier options that will remove your hunger as well as keep you focused and energized throughout the day. Stick to foods rich in protein, fiber, healthy fats, and complex carbs to maintain a high energy level at work.
It can be said with affirmation that not all meetings are productive. You might have been a part of a meeting this week, which turned out to be no more than a huge time-sucker. Precious time is lost because people are asked to pause their work and attend a meeting for an hour or so, of which they need not be a part of.
If you are not required to be present at a meeting, you need not attend it! And when you are required to attend it, keep your conversation short, to the point. No need to attend weekly status meetings when it can be done via email, group chat, phone call, or texting.
You can also schedule necessary meetings, with clear purpose and agenda in advance, for a single day in a week, at a fixed time, to do away with holding meetings 3-4 times a week.
As you can see, distractions are always present in the workplace. It’s just that some of them eat into our work time and focus more than others. However, there’s always a way out.
You can cut down on these time-wasters by implementing some easy, effective, and proven strategies, which will help you achieve the desired output by efficiently utilizing your work time.
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Let’s find out what all you need to do to become more efficient, productive, and organized at work.
Prioritize Tasks – Focus On Most Important Ones First
This was the first thing I asked Mark, and this is the first strategy that I’m discussing and keeping it on the top here. Why? Simply because you should be doing tasks that are of utmost importance first, less significant tasks can wait.
Often, we are focused on checking off to-do list tasks that we end up performing a mix of important and less important tasks. When looking to prioritize tasks, you can use the Eisenhower Matrix to categorize them as:
- Urgent And Important: Do these tasks as soon as possible
- Urgent, But Not Important: You can delegate these tasks to others
- Important, But Not Urgent: Schedule these tasks for later
- Neither Urgent Nor Important: Remove them from your schedule ASAP
The most productive people work on high-value tasks as well as delegate some of these tasks to the right people by giving them enough time and guidance. They recognize that they can’t get everything done.
Track Time Spent On Doing Tasks
Tracking time does not only mean using automatic or manual timers to accurately record the time you spend on doing tasks. Rather, you should track time to check if some tasks are taking more than the expected time. You might be spending extra time on tasks that are supposed to be completed in less time, but you’re not aware of it.
Using an efficient project management and team collaboration tool like ProofHub, with built-in time tracking software can help you know exactly how much time you spend on doing daily tasks, add multiple timesheets to record time data, set time estimates, and create custom time reports of people and projects all at one place.
Get bird’s eye view of all time data of people across all projects, billable or non-billable, project progress, and status in bird’s eye view without the need to jump through projects. You will be able to identify tasks that are taking more time as well as make people in your company more accountable for their actions.
Manage Tasks Smartly
Managing projects and tasks at the same time are no easy task and any project manager can testify to this statement. Many project managers make the mistake of taking it lightly. Using a functional task management software, you can break projects into tasks and further divide bigger, complex tasks into smaller, more manageable subtasks.
Prioritize and assign tasks and subtasks to the right people, set deadlines, and track their progress to ensure that your project stays on track and gets completed on time. Task management enables teams to collaborate and coordinate among themselves to efficiently and effectively perform tasks and eventually complete projects.
By doing so, you ensure a clear distribution of work responsibilities among team members, without any confusion and delays. You can see work moving through multiple stages on Kanban boards and the Gantt chart allows you to easily adjust your plans as work changes and deadlines shift.
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Work To Get Inspired
So many people talk about getting motivation and inspiration to work more and deliver more productivity. However, with the most productive people, it’s the other way around. They don’t wait to feel inspired; they focus on getting started irrespective of whether they are motivated or not.
You don’t need to handle everything at once. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Take it one task at a time rather than looking at the enormity of the project, which will intimidate you. If you feel overwhelmed or procrastinating things, take a small step towards a bigger goal i.e. finishing and delivering the project on time.
Break the task into smaller chunks and learn to delegate smartly. Taking action is the biggest source of motivation. In other words, you don’t wait for things to happen but make things happen.
Say No To Multitasking
In a modern-day working environment, it’s so easy to fall for the temptation of multitasking, but don’t do that. Most, if not all, people are not good at it and it adversely impacts your work quality, concentration, focus, and reasoning capabilities. Rather, make a habit of committing to a task in hand.
When you try to multitask, you are quickly switching your focus between two things. Every time you switch, you shift your focus and take some time to get up to speed on a new task. Your concentration and flow are continuously hindered due to having to switch between tasks.
There are many ways to avoid multitasking, like:
- Don’t undertake tasks that you can’t handle
- Set a time for distractions (checking social media, casual conversations, etc.)
- List your priorities
- Don’t be afraid to say NO
- Focus on a single task
- Keep your workspace decluttered and organized
- Use apps to block distractions
Sharpen The Axe
As the great Abraham Lincoln famously said, “ Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” The lesson behind this quote is unquestionably clear – If you want to be productive, you need to add new skills, learn new things, and improve on your current set of skills.
There are many ways to be even better at what you do. You can read, take coaching, seek the guidance of seasoned pros of your trade, identify your weaknesses, and work out how you can iron out these flaws. Stay updated with the latest trends and practices in your industry to stay well-informed.
Sharpening the ax means to keep working on your strengths and weaknesses to achieve high levels of efficiency at work. Dedicate time to improvement and your responsiveness to a variety of situations will significantly improve.
Take Good Care Of Yourself
You can’t be at your productive best unless you are in the best shape, both mentally and physically. Being productive does not mean working to the point of burning out yourself. It’s about creating a fine work-life balance that you should master.
Do you know what highly productive people never miss out on? They give their well-being the foremost priority. They rejuvenate, recharge themselves by taking short breaks from work at regular intervals. They don’t let work overlap personal space.
They eat healthy food, exercise regularly, actively participate in non-work related activities, and go out on weekend trips just to keep their minds and bodies in the best possible shape.
By And Large
HIghly productive people are not from Mars or Venus. It’s just they are better at minimizing or even eliminating distractions at work, use technology to their advantage, and combine smart work with earnest efforts to deliver the goods consistently.
Automating most of your tasks and improving team collaboration can help you significantly to simplify complex tasks and get more done in less time. For that, you would need a feature-rich project management and team collaboration tool like ProofHub to manage everything from one place and have ultimate control over teams and projects without breaking a bank.