Many factors that sap workplace productivity are beyond the control of individual employees. For example, you can’t control whether or not you work in an open office environment, or whether your manager schedules excessive meetings. But there are plenty of productivity eliminating moves that you CAN control. Some of these are obvious, but some are rather stealthy. Do you recognize any of these?
Reply all. When you are copied on an email and you choose to “reply all,” you are not only creating extra busy work for yourself, but for everyone else copied on the message. The “reply all” function does serve a purpose, but it’s not for responses like “Okay,” or “I agree too.” Use this feature judiciously.
Impromptu meetings. The old adage that failing to plan is planning to fail is rooted in truth. Avoid impromptu meetings. They tend to go off the rails easily and degenerate into social gatherings, or complaint-fests. When you have a meeting, set clear time parameters, and have an agenda.
Hearing without listening. Yes, meetings can be boring and taxing on the brain. And, yes, most presenters lack proper training to be able to deliver an effective, engaging presentation. So, what happens? You sit there, staring at the screen, while your mind goes elsewhere. An easy way to combat your boredom, as well as to alleviate the problem of leaving a meeting and having no idea what went on is a simple, old-school technique. Bring a notebook and take notes, by hand. This forces you to pay attention. Plus, things that you write by hand are prioritized in your memory.
Measuring for the sake of measuring. It seems that we are in an age of data/analytics worship. Data and analytics are useful tools. But without applying data to different situations and analyzing them, they don’t really have much value. If you’re expending effort tracking, collecting, and measuring without doing anything further, you’re wasting that effort.
Analysis paralysis. The easiest decision to make is the decision to remain undecided. Feeling the need to have ever more information to determine which direction to take will stymie decisiveness. Over-analyzing any problem will make it seem much more complex than it actually is. Rather than conduct ad nauseum analyses, break the problem down into its component parts and think about these pieces one at a time. Imagine that you’re explaining the problem to a 10-year-old. Use simple, plain language. You might be surprised at how quickly the preferred direction will emerge. Many problems, even if they are complex and multi-layered, often have fairly simple solutions.
Multitasking. This is the Number One productivity killer out there. Whether you’re trying to perform more than one task at the same time, or if you’re rapidly switching tasks in succession, you’re not performing at the top of your game. Multitasking works against nature. The brain can only handle so much information at a given time. If you overload the brain, it will begin to filter out what it deems unimportant. And because of the way the brain works, that means that complex information will be tossed in favor of easy-to-consume information. Do your productivity and your brain a favor and focus on single-tasking.