Today’s workplace is full of distractions. Modern conveniences, like email and the internet, can be double-edged swords. Technology has made our work more efficient, but it can also become a modern time waster if not used in the most thoughtful manner. Still, it can be a struggle to understand what is and is not a distraction. In a recent poll of more than 2,000 business leaders, we determined what employers believe are the biggest daily wastes of time in the workplace. The results reveal four key areas employers need to focus on to maximize productivity.
Too many interruptions
Twenty-one percent of our survey respondents identified constant interruptions by employees or co-workers as the biggest office time waster. While you cannot fully protect each of your employees’ time, you can help them set healthy boundaries by setting the example. If possible, take some time out of your day to turn off email, hide your phone, shut your door, or block off your calendar. When you communicate beforehand that you need time to focus on a project, most people will respect your boundaries. Employees should feel empowered to set the same kind of boundaries with co-workers when necessary.
Endless email distractions
Another 17 percent of employers revealed that reading and replying to emails wastes the most time. It is easy to get caught up in what seems to be an endless stream of messages in your inbox. Set aside time to address emails so you aren’t distracted while working on other projects. Ensure that your messaging is clear and detailed to avoid unnecessary clarification responses. Only copy people who absolutely need to be on the email, avoid replying to all unless it’s necessary, and include all your contact information in the signature of your message.
Too many meetings
Unnecessary meetings were cited as the biggest waste of time by 15 percent of those surveyed. Cutting down on meetings will not only free up employees’ time but also benefit companies financially. Often, companies pay for employees to sit in meetings they do not need to attend instead of being productive elsewhere. While not all of meetings can be avoided, most can become more efficient. Start by creating clear instructions for everyone involved with the meeting, including what you expect of them or any material you want them to bring. Remember to be clear on the point of the meeting and avoid spiraling into discussions that are off topic. If meeting participants are spending most of their time doing other work on their computers or phones, it raises the question: Is the meeting really necessary and being run in the most effective and engaging way possible?
Too many leaders do not make organization an item on their to-do list—assuming they have a to-do list at all. Staying organized cannot be an afterthought. It takes deliberate action. Staying organized requires setting aside time to declutter, to take an inventory of your priorities and to find efficiencies. It is about staying physically organized (desk, papers, files), digitally organized (emails, calendars, social media), and mentally organized. Here’s a little self-test: Ask yourself, “What are the three most important items on my calendar today? What are the top three tasks I must accomplish?” If the answers don’t come quickly, you are not organized. It may be tempting to rely on an assistant or colleague to serve as your “office brain,” but no matter how reliable that individual may be, complete reliance is courting disaster.
With so much happening all around us—from ringing phones to Twitter alerts—it is no surprise many of us find it difficult to focus at work. Thankfully, there are steps you and your business can take to overcome these interruptions and ensure a more productive, enjoyable workplace for everyone.