Have you ever had this experience? You wake up excited to get to work. Your calendar is pretty open. You have prioritized your tasks. Fast forward to the end of the day and, despite all of your productivity tools, you have gotten almost nothing done! How did this happen? And how can you improve the efficiency of yourself and your team?
It all comes down to...
Distractions and Continuous Partial Attention
Distractions are surprisingly costly. According to a University of California at Irvine study, it takes on average 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task you were executing before the distraction. Whether it is a colleague taking advantage of your open door policy, your phone ringing or someone asking you where Conference Room C is, the distractions, and time lost, adds up.
The phrase continuous partial attention was first used by Apple and Microsoft executive Linda Stone. It is used to describe "post multi tasking behavior" - your brain is always attempting to do two or more things simultaneously. Whether purposefully or accidentally, when doing multiple things at once, productivity suffers.
That doesn't mean we should all start working from home. There are still many benefits of working together with your coworkers in a well organized modern office. The advantages range from improved internal networking to increase creativity.
Here are 3 simple ways to get your work done at the office.
Eliminate Visual and Noise Distractions
Hearing about your co-worker's weekend escapades or just chatter in general can be distracting, and take a major toll on productivity. Not only that, but if you work in an open office environment, constantly seeing people running back and forth around your desk can take your eyes off your computer screen, focusing instead on what is happening around you.
Eliminate visual distractions by - politely - asking coworkers to congregate elsewhere if they always seem to be in front of your desk. Modern corporate office design is moving back towards offices, so if you can, you should tend to keep your door closed. To clear out the office chatter, invest in good quality headphones and listen to music that's created to help you focus. Use an iPad receptionist to avoid visitors from roaming the office looking for someone to sign for a package or deliver a coworker's lunch order.
Put Your Phone on Silent
Even hearing your phone vibrate can decrease productivity. When you hear the buzz of a new notification, or a desktop pop ups, your mind can visualize a variety of scenarios of who it could be, and then distract you from what you were working on. The solution? Put all of your digital office tools on silent rather than vibrate, or better yet, do not disturb, and see how much more work you'll get done.
Focus on One Project at a Time
In case it's still unclear, humans are bad at multitasking. Multiple studies prove it. In fact, multitasking can reduce productivity up to 40 percent. Your boss or job description likely asks you to multitask but don't. Although it may give the appearance of doing more, noting is done well. Practice saying no to those who ask you to divert your attention from your tasks to help with theirs. If something does arise, don't let your brain juggle two projects simultaneously. Instead, write down - yes, with pen and paper - your thoughts on one of the tasks. Even if you never refer to those notes, you will be much more effective in working through both items.
With a little effort in where you focus your energy at work, your proficiency will rise. And make sure your smart office technology is working for - not again - your productivity.
Instead of asking where the time went, you might wonder what to do next. Or, dare we say, go home early!