The quality of our work depends on the level of effort and skill that we display. But when our focus is off, things can get sidetracked and cause us to miss deadlines and deliver poor quality results.
That is what happens when we allow workplace distractions to lead us astray. So how do you stay focused amid all the things that demand our attention?
Your first order of business is to determine how you are spending your time. Once you have a handle on what kills your productivity, you can develop a strategy to correct things. The key is to get a handle on email, interruptions and unnecessary meetings and focus only on what is essential. If you feel that your productivity could use a boost, keep reading for more information on how to identify the things that steal your productivity and learn how to get them in check.
You will never get a handle on what is holding you back at work if you aren’t clear how you spend your time. Spend a week tracking every hour of your workday. Make a note of how much time you spend on things such as email, meetings, actual work, etc. You might be surprised to see how much time you waste on things keep you distracted and hinders your productivity. When you identify these productivity killers, you can then develop a plan to make improvements. As you review your log at the end of the week, ask yourself these questions:
Gaining clarity on these items helps paint a picture of where you need to begin your cleanup work.
As long as you have an inbox, there will be plenty of emails to fill it. You must accept that fact and understand that you will likely never empty it. With that said, you need to manage how much time you spend on your email each day. Limit how many times you check your email to once in the morning and once in the afternoon before you leave for the day. First, respond to the ones that have the most impact on your job or to your success towards your corporate goals. Skip the less important emails and schedule an hour once per week to address them all at once.
If you worry about missing important emails, learn to use the tools available in your company’s email program. You can set filters to sort out emails from your boss or important clients and route them to a separate folder. Using a variety of keywords, you can filter your email to a manageable list that you can stay on top of each day.
Your coworkers mean well and probably don’t intentionally mean to cause you any delay in your work. The problem is, if you don’t manage the interruptions, there will always be some pressing issue or question that demands your attention immediately. With that said, communicate with your coworkers about your availability during the day. If you know that you do your best work in the morning, request that they not disturb you until the afternoon. Another strategy is to wear earphones and listen to music while you work. Even if you don’t play music, the headphones should be enough of a deterrent to make someone question the importance of the potential interruption.
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If you are a manager, set time aside during the day for “open office” time. Make yourself available for a couple of hours each day so that your team can access your questions and get your input without having to interrupt you all day.
Socializing isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it helps strengthen work relationships. However, when it takes up so much of the day that you can’t focus, it may be time to cut back. Perhaps only socialize over lunch or schedule a group break each day.
Of course, work socializing isn’t the only problem that hinders productivity. Responding to text messages and spending time on social media can be a real productivity killer. Put your phone on silent during the day so that you can remain focused on your tasks. Set aside time each day to check your phone and respond to text messages.
Meetings are a great tool to share goals and progress, communicate ideas, work through problems and strategize. However, too many meetings that don’t have a clear focus takes everyone away from their work. Not only that, unnecessary meetings kill productivity and spoils employee morale.
Before scheduling meetings, ask yourself if a meeting is truly necessary or if you could convey the information in a more effective format? Also, determine the right people for the meeting. Involving the wrong people waste their time. Also, be sure you have a clear agenda for the meeting. That way, you can stay on topic and have a set timeline for when the meeting starts and ends.
It can be hard spending so many hours each day staring at a computer screen or repeatedly doing the same task. It can probably get quite boring over time. The trick is not to let the boredom lead you down the path of numbly going through the motions. The quality and quantity of your work will likely suffer.
Take regular breaks throughout the day. Get up and take a walk, do some deep breathing or sit in your car for a bit. The point is to walk away from the task to give your mind and your body a break. Taking some time away gives you a chance to recharge. If you find that any of these things don’t help, it may be time to ask yourself if perhaps you are no longer challenged and have outgrown your position. Speak with your manager to see if there are more challenging tasks he or she could assign you. Doing so gives your mind a new challenge to focus on and helps to develop new skills.
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