Labor Day got me thinking about how the concept of work has changed over the years. I respect and applaud men and women who work with their hands in trades and services, especially because so much of the work being done today is in an office environment. That is where our focus is today, but even if you are a craftsman or laborer, you will find some benefit in these recommendations.
Do you want to improve your performance and get more done at work? If you’re an honest, hard-working employee, manager or executive your answer is probably “yes”. In my consultations with executive coaching clients, working smarter, streamlining efficiency and increasing productivity are nearly always included in their primary goals. So one tool we use regularly is a list of time killers at the office. This list is comprised of activities that on the surface seem harmless or even important, but in reality can greatly undermine the quality and quantity of work we produce.
No one is immune from falling into these workplace booby traps, so let’s look at five of the most common time killers and see if you can eliminate any of them from your daily routine.
- Checking and responding to your email throughout the day
According to RescueTime.com, a typical employee who works at a computer checks email more than 50 times a day. That’s once every 9.6 minutes. To eliminate this time killer pick four times during each day to check and respond to your email, twice in the morning and then twice again in the afternoon. Avoid temptation by turning off the alarm that notifies you of new mail and never underestimate the amount of time you lose by starting and stopping a project. The waste of productivity is even greater when you spend time reading or viewing non-business related messages.
- Participating in unscheduled meetings
When someone pops in or wants to meet without scheduling in advance they are asking you to stop your work to meet their need. On occasion, this type of impromptu meeting addresses an issue that is also a priority for you and may help to increase your overall productivity, but that’s typically not the case. If someone needs to talk, ask that they schedule in advance whenever possible, even if it’s for later the same day. This will allow you to set time aside between projects rather than in the middle of one.
- Engaging in hallway chat
Brief hallway discussions related to clarifying a relevant business matter or kindly asking how someone is doing can increase efficiency as well as build relationships. However, most hallway conversations are not business related and, even if they are, they are likely to interrupt you long enough to compromise your momentum and focus. If it appears you need more than a minute or two, agree upon a time to meet when you are free.
- Answering the telephone every time it rings
You may be thinking, “Wow, how can I not answer my telephone? That’s part of my job.” Unless you are in customer service or technical support, it’s not likely that your job requires you to immediately answer your telephone. If possible, when you are working on a project allow calls to go to voice mail. Then at your convenience take a brief break to respond to the messages before getting back to your project. In most cases, the caller can wait a short time before hearing back from you.
- Working without taking a break
Working on a project for an extended period of time without stopping can be very counter-productive. Scheduling breaks during the day to eat a light lunch or snack, walking around the building or taking a 15 minute power nap will improve your concentration and focus as well as increase your energy, which will result in greater efficiency and creativity.
What strategies have worked for you to make the best use of your time at work? Have you found ways to apply any of these ideas at home? Let us know what worked – or didn’t work – for you!
Live, Work & Relate Well!
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.