Let me check Facebook one more time. Oh wait, let me make sure that email from my daughter didn’t come through. I wonder if I should research spring break vacation locations? Hmm…is there still popcorn in the conference room?
Does this sound like you? Most of us spend at least a little more time during the workday focused on activities that our supervisors might be “less than thrilled” about and consider “not the best use of our time”.
Maybe you’re bored at work. Or maybe you have a hard time focusing and find yourself procrastinating. Or perhaps you’re a perfectionist and what might take some people an hour to complete, takes you days and days.
There are many reasons why you might not be as productive as you’d like to be at work. And I have a great saying about the why. “IT DOESN’T MATTER!” Well, that’s not entirely true. As a psychotherapist, of course I think the “why” matters. And it’s important, BUT, when you are trying to change a behavior, I think it’s a waste of time to focus on the why. Do you think the passengers on The Titanic all sat around once they hit the iceberg and tried to figure out exactly why the course and trajectory of the ship intersected that exact iceberg at that precise moment? Maybe a few, but I’d say the majority were running, swimming, and paddling for their lives.
The same is true with changing behavior. Don’t get stuck trying to figure out the why. I encourage people to start trying new strategies to change the behavior first, and then later going back to look at the why.
So if you (or someone else) at work is less productive than you’d like and you’d like to change that, here are some strategies…
- Make a list! At the beginning of your workday, make a list of five priorities. On that list, only put the things that you know are reasonable to accomplish in that day. And be specific. Then put that list somewhere you can easily see it.
- Know your productivity sweet spot. Everyone has a time of day when they are most productive. For many people, it’s in the morning. For others, it’s at night. Know when you are most productive and tackle those more difficult projects and the projects you enjoy less at your most productive time of the day.
- Take breaks! This is counterintuitive, because we often think that productivity comes from bearing down and focusing. A good rule of thumb is a 5 minute break per every hour of hard work. After working for an hour, it can be really helpful to stand up, stretch your legs, and take a mental break. If you are lucky enough to have an Apple watch, it comes with a built-in alarm feature that automatically alerts you to let you know to stand up and take a break. Genius.
- Avoid multitasking. Again, somewhat counterintuitive. Most of us are pretty good multitaskers. But multitasking often creates a facade that we are really busy and being productive when in reality, we’re distracted and not being as productive as you could be. Think about it. Have you ever tried to draft an email while you are on the phone with your mother while simultaneously knowing you are hungry so trying to sneak a snack? It doesn’t go very well, because your focus isn’t 100% dedicated to the task at hand. Chances are that the email had a few errors, your mom didn’t feel listened to, and your snack went uneaten. Make a list of priorities and tackle one at a time.
- Learn to say no. Have you ever had a co-worker stop by your office and want to talk about his personal problems for half an hour? Not only can it be annoying, but it can be energy-zapping and can take you off task. Learn to set healthy boundaries and say no, even if you might initially hurt someone’s feelings. You might try saying something like, “Hey, Bob, it sounds like you had a rough weekend. I’d love to hear more, but right now I’m on a deadline. Could we grab coffee or lunch sometime?”
- Track your time. Some companies already do this, but there are several self-tracking inventories you can get (like Rescue Time). These trackers literally track how much time you spend on various activities. You might be surprised about how much time you’re actually spending checking Facebook throughout the day. If you’re “app-averse”, no problem. Just catalog your time the old fashioned way with pen and paper.
- Set goals for the next day. Before you leave the office, write down three to five achievable goals that you want to accomplish for the following day. Leave your list somewhere you’ll see it first thing tomorrow.
- Turn off notifications. This was a major surprise to me. One time when I was updating my phone’s operating system, I turned off the social media notifications. My phone used to ding or vibrate each time someone liked my facebook status, retweeted a tweet, commented on a photo, or added me as a contact. Without even thinking, each time I received an alert, I automatically reached for my phone to see what the alert was telling me. Once I disabled the notifications, I had to log-on to each social media site to see whether I had any notifications. It’s been a major time saver for me.
- Give up perfectionism. Often, when we strive to be perfect, it’s really just an excuse to not finish a product. Learn when something is “good enough” and strive for productivity, rather than perfection.
Therapy and coaching can be very effective with helping people become more productive. Call Omaha Psychotherapy today at 402-715-9710 to arrange an initial consultation to find out how therapy can help you.