In a world of 24/7/365 contact, push notifications, social media, instant messaging, and texting, we're becoming increasingly distracted at work. A study by Dovico showed that the average person is distracted 50 to 60 times during their work day, and a full 80% of those distractions are not important. These distractions prevent us and our team from spending more time in the "Flow " where human beings are almost 4 times more productive. As a result, our teams are less productive and more stressed than they've ever been. So much for technology making humans more productive...
So what can we do? How can we stop the insanity and allow our teams and ourselves to spend more time actually doing what we are good at?? How can we remove that constant feeling of being behind? The folks at HBR have ten suggestions. I've stolen their list, but am putting my twist on their list....
1. Email and texts do NOT equal instant messaging.
Somehow we have become trained to believe that emails and texts need to be responded to immediately, just like an IM or a phone call. They do not. It is okay to answer emails, social medial and texts at a time that is convenient for you. We'll be talking about how in our next tip. BTW, let your team and the customers that contact you directly know that you are going to change this up, especially if you have trained them to expect instant answers from you. Use an auto-response to let them know you got it and you'll respond as soon as you can.
2. Batch check everything.
Set up a time for you to check your email, social medial, and texts. Even a "quick look" to check things out makes us significantly less productive throughout our day. I had to set a timer to remind myself to check emails on the hour (roughly). Do yourself a favor...shut off the push notifications that pop up each time you receive an email. Even looking at the notification will take you out of The Zone of Productivity and cause you to take about 15-20 minutes to return to the same level of productivity.
3. Do not disturb.
This can be tough especially in an "open" office environment (the topic for another blog post later). Devise a "signal" that is universally recognized by your team as the sign for "please do not disturb unless the building is on fire". I've seen signs used effectively, some have used small "flags" that people pop up to indicate they are in DND mode. To be effective, this needs to be allowed for every member of your team and you need to respect it as you expect them to respect your DND time. "But we're in the Customer Service department...how would we EVER do this?" Scheduling "project time" and having a place to go that is off the sales floor to work on projects has been used quite effectively in active Customer Service areas.
4. Avoid the calendar game
Block out times on your calendar for you to work. Scheduled work times avoid the game of calendar Tetris that people play with calendars. BUT, don't do like one executive I have worked with who blocks entire weeks for work leaving no way for a team member to see when they are available to schedule time with them. This does the exact opposite as it requires several emails back-and-forth to schedule a meeting, which reduces everyone's effectiveness, including yours, as you are now busy answering several emails providing dates and times when you are available.
5. Make meetings more productive...
By requiring less follow-up. make sure that each meeting ends with:
6. Stop Using Reply All
This just adds unnecessary clutter to everyone's inbox. Reply only to those that need to see your reply.
7. Find a quiet place.
And for this don't just think audible distractions, think visual. The more we have going on around us (and in an open environment that's virtually EVERYTHING) the easier it is to become distracted, and as we mentioned in number 2 distractions cost us time to get back into the "flow" which does = lost money. If nothing else, negotiate time to work from home during some of your week to lessen your distractions.
8. Turn off push notifications.
Distractions, distractions, distractions...not sure how to do this. Here is a great resource for the how. Remember "The Flow" as defined in #'s 2 and 7??
9. Use airplane mode on your electronic devices.
Used during certain times of the day this technique can ensure that you are not disturbed. Concerned about missing the all-important message from your spouse, or waiting for some critical information from a team member or a customer? Use Do Not Disturb mode and set them up as a VIP, so that they will be able to get through, or set DND mode so that a second call from the same number rings through.
10. Empower your team.
If they don't need to come to you for approval, they don't need to disturb you. Push all but the most critical or controversial decisions to your team. After all, that's why you brought them onto your team, right?? The fewer times you have to be disturbed...(you know "The Flow" in #2 and #7)
I know that not everyone can implement all of these in your work environment, but there should be at least 1 or 2 things in the list that you CAN implement to help yourself feel less "late" and harried and make yourself more productive.
Leave me a comment with a technique you use to make yourself more productive and it may show up in a future episode of Unlimited Leadership, my podcast.
See ya next time...and tune into our podcast Unlimited Leadership for even more.
Scott is the owner and principle for Unilimited Pie. He has been many things in his life: Firefighter, Paramedic, Teacher, Business Owner, and Award Winning Leadership Development Expert. But what he is the most proud of are the leaders he has grown over the years in each of his roles. Leadership can be learned, if you have the right person to advocate for YOU.