Today’s workplace is full of distractions. The typical knowledge worker is interrupted every three minutes and takes nearly 25 minutes to get back to where they left off after just one distraction. These frequent interruptions account for 28 billion wasted hours a year, and a loss of almost $1 trillion to the U.S. economy alone.
Productivity plays a huge part in their company’s health. Yet, in the work-from-home landscape most people have been operating in for the last year, the distractions of managing e-learning lessons or doing laundry while simultaneously trying to be efficient at work is almost overwhelming.
While the right technology is crucial to a productive work environment, true productivity requires a joint effort from humans and machines. The future of work depends on productivity. Luckily, there are a few ways professionals can ensure they’re limiting distractions.
1. Set clear goals.
When you set clear goals, your to-do list becomes much easier to complete. By understanding what you’re shooting for, you can better prioritize the tasks that help you reach those end results, instead of distracting yourself with every menial task that pops up throughout the day. That said, for this to work, setting your priorities straight should be a daily ritual. In the new world of work, every minute counts. Prioritizing your to-do list each day allows you to spend your time productively, knocking out tasks that help you hit your goals first and setting aside the ones that don’t for a later time.
2. Break down tasks into digestible parts.
Feeling unmotivated or even overwhelmed with a big task is normal—how you decide to deal with these moments of unproductivity will make or break your workflow. The key to overcoming seemingly impossible tasks is to break them down into a set of smaller, bite sized chunks. Identifying the desired outcome ahead of time allows you to break down the different components of a big project and determine the smaller tasks you must tackle to complete it. This type of visualization makes the process of completing a task much more manageable.
3. Schedule time for email.
While still an incredibly important form of communication in the business world, email can be a secret time-suck during your workday. To avoid falling into the habit of frequently breaking away from a project to check your email, set aside designated times to run through your inbox in between tasks. This is easier said than done! There will always be an incoming email, but chances are it’s not something you need to drop everything to address. Giving yourself a specific timeframe to check for new messages will help you set boundaries and ensure you stop opening your inbox every time there’s a new notification.
4. Optimize your meetings.
Meetings are an expectation in the modern work environment. They are essential to making sure team members are looped in on all updates, promoting new ideas and aligning on strategy and next steps, but meetings can also eat up valuable time in the workday if they aren’t run effectively. One way to optimize your meetings is to schedule them for 25 or 55 minutes rather than 30 minutes or an hour. This gives you a few minutes to collect your thoughts before moving on to another meeting or task. Constantly jumping from one thing to the next doesn’t give you a chance to catch up on priorities and prevents you from making the most of your time. Another way to optimize meetings is by creating an agenda prior to the call. By sticking to a set of talking points, you don’t risk derailing the meeting and, in turn, are able to make the most of your time.
5. Set specific work hours.
Setting specific working hours is crucial in a blended work-personal life environment. It can be hard to unplug when there isn’t a strong distinction between your work and personal space. By determining a set schedule, you give yourself a firm timeline for when to be “on the job” and when to be “off the clock”. But what if your working hours don’t line up with those of your team?
One productivity hack I’ve taken on is scheduling emails and Slack messages. I often enjoy working late, undistracted nights and want to get the thoughts out of my head before the next day. Scheduling messages for your team can allow you to do that without disrupting your team’s schedule too.
6. Take a tech Sabbath.
I’ve written before on the importance of an email/Slack Sabbath – taking 24 hours to completely unplug each week. This is an ancient practice that is more needed than ever in our always on, always available culture. As a result, you’re able to be more productive during the time you are working, knowing you get 24 hours to unplug each week.
The future of work is much more flexible than the workplace of the past. Being more productive during the day is critical to getting work done and feeling more satisfied in your role without burning yourself out in the process. By making a few small changes to how you tackle your workflow, prioritize tasks and manage your calendar, you can significantly impact your work day and ensure your time is well managed.
David Karandish is the founder and CEO of Capacity, an enterprise SaaS company, with a new kind of helpdesk, powered by artificial intelligence, that automates support for your customers and employees. Before founding Capacity, David was the CEO of Answers Corporation. David and Chris Sims started the parent company of Answers in 2006 and sold the company to a private equity firm in 2014 for north of $900 million.