Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have found that a typical office worker is interrupted every three minutes and five seconds, which takes up to 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to work. Such disruptions consume 28 billion lost hours per year, resulting in a loss of nearly $ 1 trillion to the US economy.
So how can people improve their time management skills and stop switching between tasks to stay focused?
Revisit your calendar
When you don’t know where your time is going, look for a source of truth: your calendar. Where do you spend most of your day? If these are meetings, a solid first step to devoting more time to productivity is to evaluate each meeting and understand whether it can be deleted or not. Even the smallest of interruptions accumulates over time.
In an interview with Catherine Webb, the blogger at Hubstaff said:
“Unnecessary meetings are one of the biggest time wasters we see in remote working. Since many companies have recently started working from home for the first time, many managers use daily check-in meetings to stay informed. Some teams have two or three check-in appointments per day! A recording meeting takes an hour or more that could have been used for productive work, and the interruption makes it harder for your team to focus on their top priorities. Two recordings per day easily add up to 10 hours per week, which is 25% of your team’s potentially productive time. Add any other meeting to the calendar, and you might find that your team spends 30-50% of their time in meetings that could be automated or deleted.
Stop switching between tasks
Google searches for “state of flux” increased in mid-April of this year, which may have something to do with people trying to make the most of their time from home. According to Headspace, psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura call state flow a feeling where, under the right conditions, you completely immerse yourself in whatever you do. Like the days when code or marketing content easily passed from your brain to your computer.
While state of flux is great for hard-to-do tasks, it’s hard to achieve consistently. Three practices can help:
- Soothing internal stimuli (being too hot / cold, being distracted by thoughts)
- Blocking of external stimuli (noise, children, SMS, phone calls)
- Use practiced mental processes (as opposed to ones you are unfamiliar with that require an extra mental load or meta-focus to complete)
Let me dive into the third practice because it is the most complicated. You will need to train your brain in the tasks required for those tasks to become part of your muscle memory. Just like when you make a sandwich for lunch, you go on autopilot, without necessarily thinking about all the steps to do so.
Mike Vardy, the founder of Productivityist, defines the opposite of these mental autopilot processes as “the beginner’s mind.” He says there are a lot of simple things you can do to make it easier to achieve a state of flux in your daily tasks. For example, “It is imperative to write the verb on a to-do list as explicitly as possible so that you don’t have to grope the task with the beginner’s mind.” Instead of writing “Call Jim,” include details and write: “Call Jim at 555-5555 to answer questions about the dataset. “
As you work to achieve a state of flux, it helps to spend time away from external distractions to calm internal stimuli and focus on those difficult tasks. Hopefully, this allows you to stay in the flow longer, without disruption, which is essential as it takes up to 23 minutes to get back on track after each disruption.
Hold yourself accountable
When you work in an office surrounded by colleagues, the environment itself breeds responsibility. People will notice if you don’t do your job exactly. But working from home is another story. Who is there to notice if you are staying on track or not? While a flexible environment can lead to increased creativity for some, it can also lead to distractions and non-work-related tasks for others.
If you or your coworkers are struggling with the transition to working from home, heed the advice of Ethan Taub, CEO of Goalry and Loanry, to stay responsible: “When at home, I strongly advise you to stick to a schedule. or, if you live with others, ask them to tell you if they notice you slacking off. We all do it, it’s a natural thing, but learn to avoid it.
At Capacity, most of us weren’t working remotely until the coronavirus hit. However, we’ve always had a flexible schedule and unlimited PTO. With trust embedded in our culture, each team member has the ability to take the time they need to be as productive as possible. This includes time for family, friends, and other outside factors, which can take a heavy toll on people. Due to the environment of trust we provide, we have seen great benefits in terms of accountability and productivity during the working day.
I encourage all business leaders to give their team members a little more flexibility as everyone discovers how to be the most productive and take responsibility for themselves. Ideally, this will lead to more productive, loyal and happy team members and a better bottom line.
David Karandish is the Founder and CEO of Capacity, an enterprise artificial intelligence company that creates a secure, AI-native knowledge sharing platform to help teams do their best and save time. and money.