10. E-Mail, Texts, and Phone Calls
These days it’s easier than ever to stay connected, especially when your e-mail is synched to your phone AND available on your computer. Every time you hear that notification, you simply just have to acknowledge it. Break this habit and schedule time once an hour or maybe 4 times a day to read and reply to the most important emails. Anything that’s not a priority, flag for later. If you’re trying to concentrate on a tough task or are having a meeting: put that desk phone on Do Not Disturb, turn that cell on to silent, and let calls go to voice mail. Deal with it later.
It’s all too tempting to stay in touch with friends all day via text messaging, and one or two throughout the day is fine. But try to keep the texts to a minimum. And absolutely NO instant messaging programs at work!
Ancient, faulty, or broken equipment wastes your time while you stand around waiting for it to work or spend your time trying to fix whatever’s going wrong. Slow fax machines, old computers with hardware or software issues, constantly jamming printers or copiers (remember that scene from Office Space?), outdated machinery…all huge time stealers. Give your employees efficient equipment in good working order. The investment is worth it in time and increased output.
8. Colleagues and Employees
Having an open-door policy is great, but too many interruptions can lead to time consuming conversations that head off track. Look at ways to streamline your management techniques. Another problem is those colleagues coming to you to share workload too often- if you are already heavily inundated, sometimes it’s okay to say no or offer to help when you have more time. Got a chatty colleague blathering on about their personal lives or anything and everything NOT work related? It can be hard to tell a co-worker (especially one having a rough time personally) to stop talking your ear off. Be as tact and polite as possible, for example, by saying ‘John, I am so sorry to interrupt but I’ve got a lot on my plate this morning. Hold that thought for later, we’ll chat at lunch/on break/a bit later. Okay?’ If it becomes a problem that you really can’t solve with diplomacy on your own, seek help from HR or a manager.
Ah, meetings- where minutes are taken, and hours are lost. If you’re in charge of the meeting, prepare for a meeting by sending out an agenda ahead of time to all those who will attend, and stick to it the best you can. If things get off track or conflicts arise between employees, the best thing to do is suggest it be discussed at a later date or time, and get back to the issues at hand. Try to keep meetings (especially those involving the entire management team or office) to a maximum of two hours. Also, try not to include staff in meetings when they have little or nothing to do with the issues on the table if you can help it. Sending them the minutes afterwards is okay.
Desk or cubicle clutter makes it impossible at times to find what you’re looking for, and the same goes for poor organization of digital files. Make use of the file folders, filing cabinets, desk drawers and labels that are around the office. That’s what they’re there for. Avoid leaving food and beverages on your work area when you’re done (I’m personally notorious for this)- spillage and crumbs are problems for computers and phones. Spend the last 5 minutes of your day before you leave tidying up and organizing for the morning.
5. Poor Workplace Morale
This is a huge problem, especially with the recession – morale and productivity are at a terrible low, as cutbacks and layoffs are at an extreme (and ever rising) high. Encourage employees to approach management for open discussion with any concerns they have. Management, this means listening patiently with an open mind, and being gentle and constructive with criticism. When layoffs are unavoidable, and you have no other option, keep the door open for people to return to their jobs when times get better. Let them know that if they haven’t found work elsewhere by then, they were valued at their jobs with you and you are open to re-hiring them in the future.
Recession and layoffs aside, increase morale in other ways. Provide a good atmosphere with proper lighting, aesthetically pleasing and ergonomically sound work stations. Where possible, allow for a break room to be used for relaxing and eating lunches. Accommodate smokers (even if you happen to disapprove of the habit- that’s irrelevant here) by allowing them a designated area with disposal units for ashes and cigarette butts.
Also ensure that health and safety standards are up to par and regularly met. No one is happy working in a dirty or potentially harmful environment. Remember, happy employees make happy employers.
It may sound simple, but it’s easier said than done! Arriving to work on time or early is key, even if it’s just that extra 5 minutes. Pack your lunch and choose your work-clothes the night before. Set your alarm that extra 10 minutes early and avoid snoozing if you can resist. This allots you spare time to stop and grab that coffee and still not be stressed or made late by unexpected heavy traffic. When you arrive to the office late and frazzled, it sets the tone for the whole day to be stressful, causing you to spiral down into a state of feeling unmotivated and unable to concentrate.
3. Poor Time Management
This is a pretty broad term and a whole other post in itself, and it kind of ties into #4, but I’ll try and be brief here. Procrastination is, of course, the worst. Try to schedule your hardest and most pressing tasks to be tackled first thing in the morning or first thing after lunch when you’re least swamped by other unexpected priorities. As soon as it’s out of the way, you’ll feel much better. Ask for help completing tasks where needed (without entirely passing the buck). Keeping to-do lists and making note of things in your planner are more useful than you might think, and helps you prioritize when there’s a lot on your plate. See the links in #1 for tips.
2. Not Knowing Your Software
Even if all you work with is your email client, you’d be amazed at the tips and tricks you can use to make using it easier and faster. When you don’t know your way around a spreadsheet, working with one can take forever. Spend a half hour or so in the evenings at home or on your laptop browsing the internet for tutorials and pre-made templates that might save you time. A great site for Microsoft Office can be found here. Another big thing: learn your keyboard shortcuts. If you don’t know what CTRL + C and CTRL + V do, you’ve definitely got a problem.
Whether you’re bad for procrastination, have a short attention span, or have trouble prioritizing when you’re overwhelmed, sometimes you are your own biggest obstacle to efficiency. Learn to balance work with rest by allowing yourself short allotted breaks twice daily for browsing the web, having a snack, or taking a short walk. You’ll get back to work refreshed and lower your stress level. You are the number one person responsible for your own success. Spend your spare time reading up on self improvement and productivity. Enlighten yourself with sites like Zen Habits or Stepcase Lifehack.
Quote for March 26th, 2009:
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”
- Paul J. Meyer