Personal productivity: Help you, help yourself

With heavy quantities of work, floods of emails, distracting colleagues and trending Buzzfeed articles; it can be hard to stay focused at work. Feeling unproductive at work is both common and disheartening, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In my last post, I spoke about the tools you can use to be more productive; now, I take a look at the things you can do to make yourself more productive. 

How do you waste time? Some stats

The Internet has bought huge advantages to both our working and private lives, but it can also be a major distraction. 40% of unproductive work time is spent on non-work related internet surfing, such as sending personal emails, browsing social networks and even looking at adult sites. 33% of work time is spent socialising with co-workers and 19% on personal phone calls.

So, it’s clear we’re all getting distracted. But how do we beat these distractions and maintain a high level of productivity during our working hours?

Change of scenery

Working from home at least once a week is a great way to “get stuff done.” Working remotely removes the risk of distracting colleagues interrupting you with trivial matters and gives you more time to enjoy your private life by eliminating commuting time. How many co workers sidle up to your desk or catch you at the water cooler for a chat, or call you to check you received their email which quite frankly is at the bottom of your priority list? Working from home means you can spend the day by yourself, concentrating on what you want and need to do, rather than trying to do your own work but being distracted by what others want and need you to do. Thanks to cloud based services, a day away from the office gives you some much needed “my work time” and can leave you feeling refreshed and more focused when you return to the office.

Fewer meetings

How many hours do you spend in time sapping meetings? And how much time do you spend complaining about having to go to said meetings? Do you really need that daily or weekly meeting: is it necessary and is it productive? Often meetings are scheduled with too many people, no agenda, and no desired outcome, and we therefore end up having the time wasting meetings we’re all moaning about. First, think about cutting down the amount of meetings you schedule and when you do have a meeting, think about who really needs to be there, what you will discuss and what you hope to achieve. Fewer but more organised meetings means a less wasted and a more productive use of time. You could also think about having your meetings online providing you with a lot more flexibility; as long as employees have access to a computer or smartphone/tablet and internet access, the meeting can be done anywhere, at any time. This fits in well with remote working and those that are in the office can join the meeting from their desks.

Ignore your email

Don’t let your email determine what your day is going to look like. Lots of us get hundreds of emails a day and refreshing your inbox, moving unwanted emails to the trash can and replying to the odd email here and there is neither efficient nor productive. Instead, turn your email notifications off during the day and set aside some allotted time to respond to them, considering the way you work and when you are most productive. For example, if you are most motivated first thing in the morning, don’t look at your email at all for the first couple of hours. When you begin to lose concentration, take some time to scan your email; then don’t look at your email again until the end of the day; this means you don’t keep interrupting tasks and can get them completed faster. 

Allow breaks but enforce policies

The stats I quoted previously show non-related internet surfing as the biggest time waster in the workplace but the fact is that people need breaks. It’s more unproductive to sit for hours on end, staring at that same document on your computer, than working for 90 minutes and then allowing yourself a five minute break (also known as a microbreak) to rest your brain and refocus your attention. Social media plays a massive part in a lot of people’s lives and with its easy accessibility, it’s a huge source of distraction. Some companies have tried to deal with this by banning sites but this doesn’t work; pretty much everyone can access social media sites on their phone anyway or they can easily distract themselves with something else. Make sites available to employees but communicate a clear policy that outlines the company’s views on taking microbreaks as well as the types of sites they may use and the amount of time permitted. Giving yourself a little break to surf the web can result in a greater focus when you return to your task a few minutes later. 

Don’t forget there are tools out there that can help you be more productive but just having the tools is not enough; you need to think about the way you’re working and  learn to manage yourself well. Thinking about the things you can do to help yourself, as well as investing in personal productivity tools will enable you to stay focused, motivated and more productive at work.


Emily Sullivan

Editoral/PR assistant at HighQ
She has a passion for researching and writing engaging copy and has a keen interest in how technology can enhance people's personal and business lives.
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