Picture this: you’re an employee whose regular workday involves being bound to your desk for 8 or more hours. Yet by the end of each day, you find yourself saddled with unfinished work.
You’ve been at your desk for pretty much every minute of every hour, so where does all that time go? Is the only culprit your bad time management? How do we even begin to tackle the issue of bad time management?
Here are some of the most common things we do at work that we think help our productivity but actually don’t, what we can do about them, and additional actions we can take to improve our workflow and focus.
You’re Wasting Time By…
This is one thing many of us think we’re capable of doing, but science has shown that we’re actually not. Each time you switch to a different task, your brain needs time to turn your intention of working on another task into the act of carrying it out.
If you’re simply switching from task to task a few times a day, you don’t lose a lot of time. It’s when you’re constantly task-switching throughout the day that you’ll be losing accumulated chunks of time that could’ve been used for completing a single task before moving on to completing the next.
To combat this, plan out your daily schedule and block off time for each task. This keeps you on track by giving a guideline for the time you should take to finish one task before moving onto another.
2. Carrying Out Smaller And Easier Tasks First
Tasks that are smaller and easier to do are often plentiful, which makes us feel like we should get them out of the way first. This leads to us appearing busy at work all day, but the reality of it is that we’ve spent most of our time on the unimportant things.
For example, unless your work heavily requires you to check and clear your emails every half an hour, you’re probably just wasting your time constantly reading random emails that don’t require your immediate attention or action.
In that case, you should configure your inbox to notify you of replies to important email threads or urgent, time-sensitive emails. You can then read and reply to them as and when needed, rather than spend too long going in and out of your inbox with no particular purpose.
3. Foregoing Short Breaks
If you’re anything like me, you think that staying chained to your desk is the best way to get things done. Some have said that not taking any breaks actually makes it harder to focus on tasks, which leads to us taking longer to complete a task than if we did take that quick break.
Taking quick breaks helps give our brains a rest from constantly having its focus mode switched on. This helps us return to difficult tasks with a more refreshed mind where we might then find previously-unthought of solutions to issues.
4. Overlooking The Power Of Music
While there’s debate on whether or not music can help you absorb and remember information better, there’s no denying that music can boost moods.
Research has shown there’s a correlation between a good mood and improved productivity, so blocking out the world with your noise-cancelling headphones and blasting your favourite music should be justifiable to your boss.
5. Having Long Meetings
A longer meeting doesn’t necessarily translate to a more productive meeting. We’ve all been to at least one meeting that took up hours of your time yet resulted in no useful outcome.
Cut short those meetings by making it clear what the goal of the meeting is, listing out topics of discussion, setting a time limit, and involving only relevant team members. This should give your meetings direction and boundaries that you can stick to for a productive outcome.
Other Things You Can Do For Better Productivity
The 80/20 Rule
This is also known as the Pareto Principle where you categorise your tasks into 80% of smaller tasks that don’t bring much value and 20% of larger tasks that actually make a difference to your work. This helps you focus on the 20%, which many have claimed maximises results with minimal effort.
It’s essentially a form of time management where you make your goals very clear from the start and work on breaking them down into measurable and trackable tasks. It helps you prioritise tasks that make a difference in your work and also enable you to put in minimum effort to achieve a maximum result.
Find A Rhythm That Helps You Focus
For some people, they find a working rhythm through music. I, on the other hand, cannot work with music. I find that it disrupts my focus, so I prefer to work either in silence or simply to the background noise in my office.
Personally, what helps me focus on work is actually snacking. For some reason, the rhythmic chewing of whatever snack is at hand helps me form my thoughts clearer and almost faster. Experiment with all the different ways people keep their focus sharp and you’ll find a way that works best for you.
Of course, these things are subjective and what might not boost our productivity may boost your productivity through the roof. Perhaps you can get most of your work done by multitasking and maybe clearing away your smaller tasks first helps you focus and get the most out of the rest of your workday. At the end of the day, it all boils down to finding what works best for you.
- You can read more about what we’ve written on work culture here.
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