Even the most productive of us can wonder how we’re going to achieve a seemingly never-ending to-do list at work. With numerous tasks and projects being juggled on a daily basis, many of us can find ourselves tied to our desks long after we should have clocked off and gone home for the day to see loved ones, relax and enjoy a favorite hobby.
But what if I told you that it’s often not the amount of work that’s holding you back, but the little distractions that are sapping your time and preventing you from being your productive best?
Even just a few moments of distraction or not planning your time properly can have a big impact on when you finish work and head home. Try these tips to wave goodbye to those annoying daily time drains and usher in a new, super productive you!
There’s no doubt that digital technology has helped immensely in the workplace, but boy can it be distracting!
From picking up your cell phone every 20 minutes to check for missed calls to swooning over your friend’s latest vacation to Hawaii on social media, these few stolen moments at work can soon add up and leave you wondering why you’ve got so little time to complete the tasks you’ve got lined up for the day.
If missing deadlines and falling behind on your workload is becoming a bit of an issue and you find yourself frequently taking work home with you or eating dinner at your desk each day, it’s time to banish these digital distractions and put those devices we rely on so much back where they belong!
Leaving your cell phone in your purse or bottom desk drawer and out of sight can help you concentrate on the task at hand and not become distracted each time someone responds to your early morning Tweet.
It’s all too easy to reach for the phone as soon as a message or alert pops up on screen, so if you put it somewhere that you can’t see it, then you’re far less likely to stop what you’re doing to respond to time-draining social media posts or pointless messages.
Instead, consciously check your phone just every two to four hours if you can’t bear to be completely without your device during the working day. Even this small change will win back precious moments and give you back your productivity.
If you need your cell handy for work calls, at least turn off the alerts from social media, as they can be a massive drain on your day.
Overlooking small chunks of time
If the day ahead feels overwhelming, with lots of meetings, you might get caught up in moving from activity to activity, and overlook the brief moments during which you could address relatively easy tasks on your to-do list.
Instead of thinking that you need big blocks of time to get things done, recognize that you can still be productive during smaller chunks of time. Whether it’s responding to an email, making a quick call, proofing a few pages, or simply prioritizing your load for more efficiency in the future, don’t let those moments go to waste!
Further, for assignments that are amenable to it, you might also break down bigger projects into small bite-sized chunks in a list format. That way, you’ll be able to tackle smaller elements piece by piece, when you can, and stay motivated to get the job done.
Too Much Socializing
Still, when you’re busy, you’ll need to be intentional about how much time you’re spending connecting with others. After all, a quick trip to the lunch room can easily turn into a gripe session that only serves to negatively affect your mood, and waste time.
If you find that you’re prone to being distracted by the latest workplace gossip, then you’ll need to set some boundaries on how often you’re socializing during work hours. To do this, you could close your door or put on headphones when you need to send a signal that you’re focused on getting the job done. Or alternately, you could politely say something like, “I’d love to talk, but I’m swamped! Maybe we can go have lunch later this week.”
By setting boundaries, you’ll be able to reduce the amount of time that you’re distracted by chatty colleagues that are probably putting off doing the work that’s been assigned to them.
Being Unrealistic about Your Natural Rhythms
If you’ve got a task that requires your total attention or is quite technical, you’ll ideally want to schedule it during your most productive times. In his book When: the Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, author Daniel Pink argues that individuals vary in terms of our moods and peak hours for cognitive tasks. Still, on a whole, most of us are most effective at analyzing and focusing in the morning, and better at being creative and brainstorming in the afternoon.
To be at your best, therefore, it’s important to figure out your own natural rhythms and schedule your time appropriately. If you’re more productive when you’ve just arrived in the office and had a quick pick me up coffee, then make sure to tackle your big tasks before lunch. Meanwhile, if you’re someone who doesn’t get going until the afternoon, then you’ll want to schedule the important piece of work that demands real brain power and focus accordingly.
Pay attention to your own unique natural rhythms and use them to your advantage as they hold the key to a productive new you.
Being Afraid to delegate
One of the secrets of the most productive people is that they’re able to delegate work to others without going on a big guilt trip about it. Learning how to assign work to others not only shows that you trust in their abilities to do a good job, but it can also lighten your workload and allow you the breathing space to prioritize what you specifically need to get done.
Remember, appropriately giving some of your workload to a colleague or direct report doesn’t mean that you’re unable to complete the task because of a lack of ability, but rather that you have the foresight and skills to see that others are better placed to help you deliver the project as a whole on time.
Watch out for these time saps, and see your efficiency go through the roof!
Take My Mindfulness Quiz!
Want to see how mindful you are in your career? Take the quiz and find out! (You'll also get daily tips to help you to be more mindful).