Workplace productivity – Don’t let disruptions erode your effectiveness
By Strauss Water Canada
August 9, 2017
How to drive out time wasters and get more productive
Interruptions and disruptions in the workplace is a growing challenge for organizations, big and small. A challenge that has reached epidemic proportions if you believe several recent reports on the issue. According to Basex research, interruptions cost the U.S. economy $588 billion a year, driving down profitability and costing jobs and economic growth. In Canada, the trend is similar.
According to another study, the typical knowledge worker is interrupted every 11 minutes on average throughout the day. Incoming emails and phone calls, texts and instant messaging, notifications and alerts, not to mention people popping into our office to ask a “quick question” break your concentration, fragment the workday and translate into increased risk of error and workplace stress.
Self-interruption is a growing phenomenon
What is truly surprising is that the same study revealed that 50% of interruptions are self-inflicted. That’s right! Half the time, we interrupt ourselves and move from task to task, sometimes not returning before the next day!
What is truly surprising is that 50% of interruptions are self-inflicted.
One of the big culprits behind self-interruption is multi-tasking. We mistakenly believe it makes us more productive, but in fact, it simply depresses productivity.
This is because multi-tasking decreases our ability to focus. We all know that our attention span has been shrinking year over year, with serious consequences on our ability to complete our tasks quickly and accurately. Between the year 2000 and 2013, our attention span has dropped from 12 seconds, to a mere 8 seconds, which is lower than a goldfish.
Getting back on task is a challenge
Even worse is the fact that it takes an average of 23-25 minutes to get back on task after an interruption. In fact, in another study, researchers found that interruptions accounted for up to 6 hours of time each and every day. No wonder we sometimes feel as if we can’t get anything done.
So here are a few simple tips to help you focus on your work and help to minimize distractions:
Lock in “task time”
Set up a meeting with yourself, add it to your calendar. Tell the rest of your team that you’re unavailable. If you can, spend the time off-site at a local coffee shop or other quiet space and get some alone time with your brain.
Switch to Airplane mode
Switch off your phone, or at least set it to silent. Switch off notifications and alerts to avoid distractions. Close your web browser, email app, and get laser-focused on the tasks at hand. If you need to do research on the web, use a browser like Safari or Firefox that have a “read mode” that blocks out all the distracting ads and useless information that fights for your attention.
Grab a tall glass of refreshing water
Your brain is made up of 73% water. So even mild dehydration can literally shrink your brain and has a direct impact on your mood and your ability to focus. A couple of tall glasses of water before you begin a task will keep you mind off your thirst and on the task at hand. Remember that you should always drink 8 glasses of water a day, and usually half of that while at work.
Close your office door
An open-door policy sounds great in a staff meeting, but when you want to get work done, you must draw a line in the sand. Make yourself (or download from the Web) a traffic-light door-hanger to ward away unwanted disruptions. Red for “do not disturb”. Green for “it’s okay to knock”.
Begin with the tasks you dislike most
Procrastination is a significant source of disruptions and self-interruption. Best to start with them early in the day when you’re still fresh. Once you’ve completed them, reward yourself by tackling something you love.
Take regular breaks
Productivity experts recommend never try to focus for more than 90 minutes at a stretch. Some even recommend a short break every 20-25 minutes. Use a timer if necessary. Get up and stretch your legs, grab a tea or a glass of water. Beware of too much caffeine that can make you jittery and distracted, decreasing your ability to focus.
Get rid of needless tasks
Relentlessly drive out time wasters that gobble up your time and that of your team.
Consider replacing your tired old water cooler with a point-of-use or under the counter system (like our WaterBar and built-in units) that will eliminate the hassles of changing water bottles, dealing with water deliveries, reordering when you run out, cleaning, maintenance and more.
These solutions also remove bottlenecks in the lunch room: time wasted boiling water for tea, soup and oatmeal. It all adds up to hours of potential time savings that can be put to better use.
So you see, there are some simple and easy solutions to get more out of your day and help to cut down distractions in the workplace. If you practice them diligently, you’ll soon start to see the rewards of a more productive and less stressful life.