Every day, the average American is interrupted 50-60 times, adding up to approximately three hours of wasted time. Every day. That leaves five hours a day a person gets to concentrate at work.  

Now add in the time it takes to prepare for and participate in meetings, take breaks, and eat lunch, and you’re left with a relatively small window of time for uninterrupted productivity.

This is not merely an issue of meeting the bottom line. Being able to work productively and actually accomplish projects and tasks is a significant part of avoiding workplace burnout. When people are flustered, trying to accomplish too many things at once, and having difficulty prioritizing and managing tasks, they’re going to work themselves to exhaustion. 

Remember that kid in school who would arrive with a backpack full of loose papers and assignments, much to the frustration of their teachers? They’d miss homework deadlines and could never seem to find anything. When your schedule is unstructured and disorganized like that kid’s backpack, you’re going to feel completely overwhelmed by the smallest tasks. You’re less likely to enjoy your work, and more likely to build up accumulated stress. No one wants to be that kid.

Learning to take accountability for your time is essential for managing stress, staying on top of deadlines, and growing in your role. Whether it’s you who needs some ideas to become more structured, or people on your team, here are a few great tips to help you along the way. 

Block it out

As small as it sounds, setting time aside on your calendar for specific projects or tasks is a great tactic to stay focused. 

  • It forces you to intentionally think about your priorities and time in advance.
  • If you share your calendar, others can see you are busy and avoid communicating with you during this time.
  • It helps you stay accountable to your commitments and priorities and pinpoint potential disrupters that get in your way.
  • It can offer insight into how long it takes to accomplish certain tasks, which will help inform future planning.

Answer your own questions 

How often do you ask others for help? When you come across a problem, what is your first instinct? If you’re in the habit of first asking for help, think about how you might become more self-sufficient. When you stop what you’re doing to ask a coworker, you’re not just halting your own creative flow; you’re asking someone else to do the same, so be sure your questions are targeted and necessary.

Take consistent breaks

There are many schools of thought around the best way to break up your day, but it’s safe to say no one can focus for eight hours straight. Learn to identify when your mind begins to wander, or when you reach for your phone. Watch the clock and see how long you go between these moments. Schedule breaks that correlate with when you naturally begin to lose focus.

Learn to listen to your inner clock and adjust your day around it. By personalizing your schedule, you can set more accurate expectations, reduce stress, and develop greater confidence. Everyone is different. Some people need music to concentrate, and some people like noise or absolute silence. Your attention span is the same.

Keep meetings on task 

Whether you’re running or participating in a meeting, make sure you’ve clarified the agenda and stick to it. If you have something you need to talk about, but it isn’t on the agenda, hold it for another meeting or manage it outside of the meeting through other appropriate discussion or project-tracking channels. The more efficient and precise you can keep your sessions, the more productive they will be. And the happier the participants will be. It’s a win-win.

Cleanliness is focusedness 

The average person who works at a messy, disorganized desk wastes an average of one and a half hours every day attempting to locate things or being distracted by what’s in front of them. Take the time to clean your area. It will help you focus on what needs to be in front of you, allowing you to prioritize the focus of your attention.

It’s a group effort

Remember, not every day is the same. Be kind to yourself. Take each day as an opportunity to learn and improve. Regardless of your role as a leader or a team member, the way you manage time will create a ripple effect among those you whom you work.  

Either by setting an example or creating some simple boundaries around your availability, you empower others to do the same. When you take the time to develop a schedule that enables you to be at your most productive, you bring your team one step closer to that goal.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Theeraphong Khamsawat

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