For most American workers, productivity, or lack thereof, is a major issue. Almost 30 percent waste an hour per workday performing unproductive tasks, according to survey data from Gallup. Of course, no one is immune to these brief bouts of idleness – even the most accomplished, career-driven executives sometimes wander off and waste time.
If you occasionally struggle to stay on task, consider these strategies for bolstering productivity:
Most professionals despise deadlines. No one likes working under pressure. Besides, when are pre-project timelines ever accurate? Still, deadlines do carry a variety of benefits, the Harvard Business Review found. First and foremost, they push their adherents to work faster and with more focus. Plus, deadlines facilitate true prioritization and give meaning to even the most mundane tasks.
To overcome daily lulls, institute strict time limits for completing major tasks. However, don't stop at one hard deadline – establish multiple thresholds for each task so you can accurately monitor your pace and maintain focus. Additionally, be sure to plan for contingencies by building in extra time.
Finally, be judicious about assigning deadlines. Not every duty deserves a time limit.
Reject more meeting invites
Meetings are sometimes a necessary evil. Teams must gather from time to time to reconnect and reestablish synergy. Unfortunately, too many of these conference room sojourns can decrease productivity and disrupt workflow. In fact, American office employees spend around 31 hours each month in unproductive meetings, software developer Atlassian discovered.
So, carefully consider each calendar invite that enters your inbox and think before summoning your colleagues for some paltry project update. Instead, try connecting with them using more efficient communication channels such as chat or email. If you must call a meeting, implement some strict rules to achieve maximum efficiency. For instance, organize a standing-room-only session instead of booking office space. This simple move will lend the gathering more immediacy and, more importantly, keep down head count.
"Don't feel you have to invite everyone who ever thought about the problem," Bob Pozen, an instructor at Harvard Business School and fellow at the Brookings Institute, told the Harvard Business Review. "If you think someone might be offended, you can send out a memo and loop back with them afterward so they know what's happening."
Additionally, come in with a set-in-stone agenda to discourage ramblers and keep things moving.
In today's technology-driven world, crippling distractions are a single swipe or click away at all times. With this in mind, fight the urge to acknowledge email, text or app activity by deactivating push notifications on your device, Inc. advised. Instead, set aside a few minutes each day for checking your personal communications.
Institute a similar strategy for work-related correspondence. If you're working on a major project, close out your office messaging account and carefully screen your work calls. Unless a major client or superior calls, don't pick up.
If you find your mind wandering or feel the irresistible urge to check your personal email, take a walk. Brief periods of workday exercise increase productivity, researchers at Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet found.
Work fewer hours
Professionals spend the majority of their time in the office discussing actionable tasks rather than completing them. As a result, some business leaders are calling for an end to the eight-hour workday, arguing that modern tools have made work easier and less time-consuming, Inc. reported. Stephan Aarstol, CEO of Tower Paddle Boards, is one such executive.
"Some business leaders are calling for an end to the eight-hour workday."
Employees at the San Diego-based company work focused, five-hour days, giving them ample time to decompress and deal with other issues that might impact their productivity. Plus, this methodology leaves virtually no time for meetings. Tower employees can work for five consecutive hours with few distractions and go home to enjoy their lives outside of work.
"With our five-hour workday, we've created a workweek better than most people's vacation weeks," Aarstol told Inc. "Our workers have moved into a world of abundance, not scarcity, because we've massively shifted their quality of life by giving them the only scarce thing left … their time."
Though you might not have the luxury of working five-hour shifts, you can regain some of your sanity and improve your productivity by cutting back your hours. Start by eliminating weeknight and weekend tasks – these extra hours of downtime will enable you to come into work refreshed and ready to produce.