Productivity Pointers: The survey says

 Microsoft survey on productivity

In a recent survey by Microsoft on productivity, 20,000 European workers were provided with a questionnaire in relation to work-communication tools. Employees indicated that a steady stream of emails, messages, and notifications impacted their levels of productivity and concentration. And that one expert had indicated that staff suffered elevated levels of technostress. The report, which sampled views from 21 European nations, including the UK, found that only 11.4% of European workers said they felt highly productive. This research outlines the challenges to concentration and productivity created by employees constantly exposed to an abundance of communication technology at their fingertips. Employees, who are also bombarded and distracted by endless amounts of notifications, updates, and alerts.  The research also pointed to the dangers of being constantly connected, expecting each and every employee to respond to messages and requests at all hours of the day.

Social Media and productivity

Social media platforms have also taken this condition of distraction to the next level.  Speaking at an industry event recently, early Facebook investor and founding president, Sean Parker, said that the massive social network is “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology” in order to attract and retain users’ attention. And that “the thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?” 

So, in light of this, how can you lower your technology stress levels and increase your productivity and that of your employees?

To improve your productivity, you could consider the following pointers:

1. Prioritise the important, not the urgent

 

When missing your deadlines is not an option, the Covey Time-Management Matrix can help you to manage your available time more efficiently. This allows you to package your tasks into one of four different quadrants in the Matrix.  The key is for you to ensure that your time is balancing the short-term aspects of your role / your business with the long-term ones. 

Let’s look at the Matrix quadrants

 

Quadrant 1Quadrant 2
Urgent and important activitiesNot urgent but important
These are items that you could not have been foreseen, such as emergencies, problems, last-minute preparations, etc.These are your tasks without a high urgency, but that can play a significant role in future, such as strategic planning, health, education, exercise, and career.
Quadrant 3Quadrant 4
Urgent but not importantNot urgent and not important

These are your items that appear to have a high urgency but that are not important but can impair your ability to deliver on your goals.  Try to delegate or reschedule them. These types of tasks and requests can impact your productivity. Therefore, try to avoid being constantly interrupted. Allocate timeslots in which to address all issues at the same time so that your concentration does not end up suffering. Examples include interruptions, meetings, etc.

This is the space filled with your usual time-wasters: nothing more than distractions, such as surfing the internet, Facebook, TV, trivia, etc.

 

Quadrant 1 – Urgent and important activities. These are items that you could not have been foreseen, such as emergencies, problems, last-minute preparations, etc.   

Quadrant 2 – Not urgent but important. These are your tasks without a high urgency, but that can play a significant role in future, such as strategic planning, health, education, exercise, and career.   

Quadrant 3 – Urgent but not important. These are your items that appear to have a high urgency but that are not important but can impair your ability to deliver on your goals.  Try to delegate or reschedule them. These types of tasks and requests can impact your productivity. Therefore, try to avoid being constantly interrupted. Allocate timeslots in which to address all issues at the same time so that your concentration does not end up suffering. Examples include interruptions, meetings, etc.   

Quadrant 4 – Not urgent and not important. This is the space filled with your usual time-wasters: nothing more than distractions, such as surfing the internet, Facebook, TV, trivia, etc.

 

2. Give yourself dedicated time to work  

To avoid distractions, you could give yourself the time to work on the most important, but not urgent activities (Quadrant 2).  To do this, you want to make sure you allocate two slots of 45 minutes, with a 15-minute break at half-time. This length of time allows your brain to get in the zone, consequently accelerating your concentration and productivity levels. Make sure you switch off distractions completely, such as pop-up alerts from email and social media feeds.

 

 3. Manage email communication

What do you do if your employees tend to start their working day using their inbox as their to-do list?  This inevitably becomes a distraction and wastes time, with your employees trawling through every email, line-by-line.  You could apply the following recommended approach by using the 4 D’s for email communication, in order of priority / preference: 

 

1. Delete it.  

If you can remove any email on an initial scan, all the better.

2. Delegate it.  

If you have a team, or contacts, to whom you can delegate, consider this as your next option.

3. Diarise it.

To avoid distractions that impact on your concentration, identify a suitable calendar time to address the task at hand.

4. Do it. 

If none of the above work, you may need to perform the requested task right there and then. This, however, should always be your last option. 

 

4. Consider Email freedom

Lastly, consider complete freedom from email.  You could, like some firms have done recently, introduce a ‘no email’ day policy once a week. You could also ban emails sent to people sharing the same building. As well as removing the ‘cc’ culture (covering one’s back). This ultimately forces you and your team to have face-to-face or phone call engagements with your other team members. This, in turn, can lead to improved productivity and team morale. Therefore, to be highly productive, the technology you use, needs to be handled with care. It needs to be a supportive solution to your business goals delivery, rather than a designed distraction, reducing your personal and business impact.  

 

 

Lotuswise Chartered Accountants and Business Consultants can help you and your business become more efficient and raise your productivity levels. To find out how, please contact usTo also get even more useful business and finance information and tax advice tips, check out our app on Google or Apple stores.

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