Jason Shah is the founder and CEO of Do, a collaboration platform that helps you run productive meetings.
I started Do, a productivity platform for meetings, when I realized how much time people were wasting in ineffective meetings. Since then, I've made it my business to improve efficiency in every aspect of my people's lives. One major time-drain I noticed was losing focus by the day-to-day distractions of team members. Most people are subject to the whims of managers and other team members, so it's natural to feel compelled to drop what you're doing and address their needs. However, you probably have found that you end up losing focus on your own projects or even have a hard time figuring where you left off.
If that describes your work environment, odds are you're having trouble differentiating between necessary and unnecessary tasks. Here are some tips on how to cut waste out of your day.
Track Your Daily Activities
If you were to estimate how engaged you are at work, your guess would likely be on the far side of reality. The only way to figure out how productive you are is by tracking performance. There's a range of apps and techniques, but the best method is still the simplest: pen and paper. The idea is to write down everything you're doing in real time and allot a specific amount of time to each task. After doing this for a week, you will have a better idea of what tasks you can easily eliminate from your work routine.
Mindfulness is the key. Every morning, I take a deep breath and think about what matters that day. And as I go through the day, I do my best to block out the noise, archive emails that don't matter, delegate to others, stick to the day's goals and jot down new ideas that I can address later. And being true to the one thing that matters makes priorities clear.
Consolidate Time Spent Communicating
Interruptions like email notifications and phone calls can kill productivity. And when you really think about it, most things people ask you for aren't urgent. They might ask you to send over a completed file for review or make a quick correction to the report you submitted. You can avoid a lot of hassle by shutting off your communication devices when working on a project. Set aside some time once or twice a day to answer all pending messages. You may want to discuss your limited communication time with your team beforehand.
I tune out noise from my devices and notifications when I need to concentrate. The "Do Not Disturb" feature on the iPhone is a huge help. Closing instant messaging programs like Slack, screening for urgent calls only and uninstalling apps with annoying notifications do the trick for me. I acknowledge that my phone is a distraction -- not a utility -- when I'm trying to do other work.
It has often been said that a messy desk reflects a messy mind. Although you don't need to be obsessive about keeping your desk, stationery and memos in perfect order, you'll find it much harder to identify waste in your day if your workspace is unruly. With that in mind, the process of de-cluttering and organizing can often help you see where you are wasting time unnecessarily. I periodically remove items from my to-do lists. It's easy to leave things hanging around. Eliminating things and "pruning" my to do's keeps me focused.
Finally, don't forget to take a few breaks throughout the day to keep you refreshed and centered on your work. Although it seems counterintuitive, listening to your body when it's exhausted can help you achieve long-term productivity rather than just short-term bursts of energy.
Productivity isn't just about working. It's about working smart. It's about fulfilling our life purpose in the most effective manner possible. Eliminate the frivolous and do what matters in the best way possible.