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7 time-wasters that reduce your productivity

You put a lot of time and effort into reducing waste and improving productivity at work. But, scrutinising your business processes is not the only place you will find improvement opportunities.

Personal productivity gains can make a difference too. Drop some habits that drain your personal productivity and lift your performance.

But remember, the goal isn't to spend more time working. It's spending the time you work more productively.

Cornell's Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory found that workers using a computer who were reminded to take a break were 13% more accurate in their keystrokes than those who weren’t reminded to take a break.

This study's result is in-line with other studies that have identified working intensely and then taking a break refreshes you cognitively. Making you more productive.

Most of us are guilty of personal work practices that get in the way of doing what is important and urgent. Doing things that seem important, but eat up time and get in the way of achieving your goals. Time-wasters that can also affect the team you manage and influence workplace culture.

Do any of these time-traps feel uncomfortably familiar to you?

1. Hitting the inbox first thing every morning

Email is full of distractions that can divert you from your to-do list. Only you and your email know how much time you spend together.

Get back in the driver’s seat and schedule email the same way you would other activities you need to spend time on.

2. Always answering the phone

Your phone isn’t a fire alarm. You’ve already decided that who you are with or what you are doing deserves your attention.

Before you answer the phone, stop and think. Is breaking your conversation or concentration the right thing to do? Voicemail can take a message, better still when you don’t want to be interrupted divert the phone to voicemail or turn it off.

3. Putting off a task until later

Just get to work on it. Your schedule will never be any clearer than it is today.

Your brainpower is not going to be significantly better at any other time. It is most likely that you are just getting in your own way.

4. Responding to everything immediately

This is the classic way to work on other people’s priorities and lose sight of your own.

First, know what is urgent and important to you. Then you can prioritise your attention more effectively, achieve great things and help others appropriately.

5. Aiming to get it 100% perfect

Slow progress, failure to complete projects, and waste are symptoms of perfectionism. Setting measurable goals is realistic.

Perfection isn’t a goal. A 10% increase in output is a goal. So is aiming for another 10% increase once you have achieved the first increase in output.

6. Meetings and conference calls

A collaborative study by Microsoft, America Online and concluded that the average worker actually worked only three days per week or about 1.5 hours per day spending the rest of their time in unproductive meetings.

To hold an effective meeting have an agenda based on goals, with outcomes to be achieved during the meeting. Gather information prior to the meeting. Invite people to the meeting because they need to interact to work together on one of the meeting goals.

7. Multi-tasking

You can lose up to 40% of your productivity if you multi-task. Task switching causes fractional time wasting every time you change tasks, it increases error rates, and memory losses. You can only attend to one cognitive task at a time.

You can probably walk and talk at the same time. But, there is a high likelihood that while you walk and talk you will run into something or not remember what you have seen. It's best to do one thing at a time.

Making changes

You could be overwhelmed trying to tackle all of the drains on your personal productivity at once. Increase your chances of changing your habits by focusing on changing one at a time.

Look at workplace culture too. Is there something to change that would improve everyday working productivity for everybody?


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