As your workday comes to an end, you suddenly start thinking that you failed to accomplish something on your to-do list— and you find that your list becomes longer with each day. Being productive in the workplace can be tough. Managing your time is a good start but it can be a struggle to know how and where to begin changing your unproductive habits.
Wanda Thibodeaux of magazine Inc.com wrote that focus is usually “a matter of physical wellness and preparation.” You can get enough rest, plan your day ahead, or listen to music to help you focus. Then again, workplace distractions turn your hard-rock focus “into an elusive great white whale,” added Thibodeaux.
What Distracts Employees In the Workplace?
Udemy, an online learning and teaching marketplace, found that people were mostly distracted by chatty co-workers (80%) and office noise (70%). In its “2018 Workplace Distraction Report,” these distractors were followed by changes in the workplace (61%). Smartphones (69%) were the number two distractor among the workforce’s youngest, as they acknowledged that checking one’s personal devices disrupts their focus.
74% of Millennials and Gen Z reported being distracted and of those, 46% said it made them feel unmotivated and 41% said it stressed them out. Further, 36% of millennials and Gen Z reported spending two hours or more checking their phones during the workday. T
The hours spent on their phones added up to at least 10 hours each week when they’re doing something outside their job. Overall, 62% of respondents said they spent about an hour per day looking at their phones. 33% or one-third of Baby Boomers claimed they never use their personal devices at work.
When asked if using tech for personal activities or work-related tools is more distracting, 78% of Millennials and Gen Z said using tech for personal activities was more distracting. Only 22% said using work-related tools was more distracting. Among Gen X, 57% said it was more distracting to use tech for personal activities, while 43% reported feeling more distracted with using work-related tools. For Boomers, the figures came at 43% and 57%, respectively— a sharp contrast from Millennials and Gen Z.
58% of respondents said they do not need social media to do their jobs; however, they are unable to make it through the day without social media. 40% had “occasional” work-related activity and 76% had never received training from their employer on using social media as part of their work experience. 51% said their employer restricted social media use.
43% reported turning off their phones during work hours to cope with distractions. 30% used relaxation techniques such as listening to music and meditating, while 26% accomplished tasks that did not require much focus.
What Employees Want From Their Employers
When asked what their employer could do to reduce distractions, 57% of workers would prefer more freedom to work remotely or adhere to flexible schedules. According to a 2015 survey by CoSo Cloud, an Oakland-based company, 77% of the 39% who worked remotely at least a few times a month reported greater productivity while working off site. 30% accomplished more in less time and 24% accomplished more in the same amount of time.
In the Udemy report, 38% would want their employer to establish designated spaces for quiet vs. noisy work. 37% preferred their employers to provide training on time management, effective meeting skills, etc. Workers would also like them to define cultural norms surrounding noise levels and interruptions (31%) and to assign regular “no meetings” days (23%).
How to Bolster Your Productivity At the Workplace
1. Avoid Multitasking
Multitasking is indeed tempting when the tasks you are assigned to seem small or easy. Neuroscience professor Earl. K. Miller said it’s not “humanly possible.” In fact, you’re just fooling yourself when you say you can juggle phone calls, presentations, and eating lunch. Focus on accomplishing your tasks one at a time and you’ll end up completing it faster.
2. Do The More Complex Tasks First
Harder tasks should be done first when you’re most alert. However, setting them aside at a later time would be detrimental since you are too burned out to give it the attention it needs. There’s no “right” schedule that works for everyone. For example, you can opt to finish big tasks first thing in the day if you’re a morning person.
If it helps, you can break up a big task such as a project into smaller goals. That way, you will feel more in control, thereby bolstering your productivity. Creating smaller goals also make big projects less daunting.
3. Stop Yourself From Making Emails Your Top Priority
Productivity expert Julie Morgenstern recommended spending the first hour of your day completing tasks that require the most brainpower, quoted Courtney Connley of CNBC, a business and financial news source.
Ask yourself, “If I can get one thing done that can make me the most accomplished and secure in my job, what will it be?” You can even decide on it the night before so that you kickstart your day with complete control over what needs to be accomplished.
4. Set Your Phone to Grayscale
Chris Bailey, a productivity expert, suggested turning your phone screen to greyscale to render apps and social media less appealing. On average, we check our phones every 15 minutes or less, stated psychology professor and author Larry Rosen.
Hence, it can take about 50% longer to complete the initial task at hand than if you’d never been distracted by your phone, Bailey added. He said we are wired to pay attention to anything due to the stimulating, high-saturated colors we see on our phones.
5. Monitor Your Day-to-Day Activities
Productivity expert Laura Vanderkam suggested starting small by creating a weekly spreadsheet. Divide your spreadsheet into half-hour and one-hour time blocks and enter activities work or sleep about three times a day.
In her book, “Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done,” people who feel they have ample time are “exceedingly mindful of their time” because they take ownership of their lives. They also tend to think through their days and weeks beforehand and reflect on their lives to see what worked and what didn’t.
6. Take Breaks
Does working longer mean you are getting more things done? No. Regular breaks aid in concentration and boost your mood. You’re not a machine. Breaks can be a five-minute walk around the office or a 15-minute mid-afternoon coffee.
There’s no one size fits all to boost your productivity. Hence, it is recommended to try all the above-mentioned tips to see which ones work best. Don’t expect your workday to be 100% productive. There will be some unproductive days, but don’t fret. Get back on track as soon as you can and watch your productivity levels spike!