We’re busy. Unbelievably busy. So busy, in fact, that the office day just rushes by. But the question is… are we productive at work? Because being busy is not necessarily the same as being effective.
If we’re honest, the answer is probably that we’re not as productive as we could be. So what are those major productivity killers? And, more importantly, what can we do to avoid getting sucked in by them?
Surveys vary. Research by officetime.net said “33% of people spend 1-2 hours each day attending to their emails, while 22% spend more than 2 hours per day”. In comparison – an article by Inc.com said that “half of the average employee’s time is spent on email and other ‘necesssary yet unproductive’ tasks. We can argue about the numbers, but I think we can all agree: email takes up a lot of our time. So what should we do about it?
Some companies have banned the use of email on Fridays occasionally, or even (gasp!) for an entire week! It’s probably not practical to go to that extreme, but, on a limited scale, cutting back on the distractions of email could be helpful. Try closing your email client (e.g. Outlook) for an hour or two while you really need to concentrate. You might be surprised at how productive you are in comparison.
2) Well-meaning interruptions and office chats
This cool infographic about ‘Top 10 Time Killers (and how to fight back) says that 9/10 people say they spend up to 2 hours a day chatting about work – often about non-business related things.
While building relationships with colleagues is invaluable, working from home occasionally can prove to be more productive. There is less risk of distraction and you can make a cup of tea without ending up in a half-hour chat. If your company allows you to work from home, give it a try. But – beware of the distractions of email and other household tasks that reduce the time you’ve saved by working from home in the first place!
3) Endless meetings
Meetings are necessary, important, and unavoidable. But if 7/10 people spend up to 2 hours per day in meetings – on top of the email, chatting etc. – then it’s hardly surprising that more and more people end up working from home, at night, to get the jobs done they were supposed to do during the work day!
Meet, by all means, but decline meetings that aren’t relevant if you don’t have the time. Ask to see the meeting minutes and actions instead. It’s also helpful to make and stick to an agenda. I know someone who walks out of a meeting if there isn’t an agenda. It’s a bit extreme, but his point is that a meeting without an agenda (even if it has 1 item and a follow-up action planned) might not be worth having in the first place. Lastly, keep meetings short and to-time. Often people have to go from meeting to meeting. A 5 minute delay could mess up their entire schedule, or mean they have to leave a tightly-run meeting before the actions have been agreed.
Beware the distraction of the smartphone! Research has shown that multi-tasking can actually make us less, rather than more efficient. According to the study, “chronic multi-taskers actually underperformed compared to colleagues who stuck with the one task”. By splitting our attention, rather than doing things twice as fast, we can actually do both things less well.
Turn off your phone if you really need to concentrate. Split up your calendar and allocate the time to a specific task, then do it! And move yourself away from distractions (like chatting colleagues). But, most importantly, don’t get distracted by email!
5) Travel time/ commuting
13% of those surveyed say the spend 1-2 hours a day travelling. Many commuters find it’s actually a lot more than that. So how can we make the most of this dead time?
Do things while you’re waiting. If you're stuck (on a train, in non-moving traffic, or at the airport etc.) then mobile apps can help you use that ‘dead time’ to do other, more productive things: like your expenses, for example.
Want to know more about making the most of your travel time, and finding a better way to do your expenses? Download the Expense Management in 5 Steps: “Don’t Wait to Fix It” Guide.