We all say things like, “I’d go to yoga class if I had time.” But if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll probably come to the same conclusion many others have: We have time, we’re just not using it productively. The key is learning time management, which is easier said than done. Completing a task requires focus on one objective for a set period of time. Modern work tools or workspaces, however, aren’t set up to facilitate single-task completion.
There has never been more tech for work than there is today… but technology has become a hamster wheel – we’re all running faster to stay in place. Some estimates put the number of weekly emails received by the average employee at over 300, and the average employee may check their email boxes as many as thirty-five times per hour. The younger the worker, the more likely you can add-on messages via Facebook, WhatsApp, LINE, etc. Those numbers are surprisingly high, but perhaps more interesting is the effect this constant task shifting has on your brain. It can take at least 15 minutes to refocus after you’ve handled some distraction, regardless of how trivial it was.
Become More Productive or Face Redundancy
The estimated cost per employee for lost productivity would make most bosses shudder – US$1,800 wasted per year per employee on unnecessary emails, over US$4,000 wasted due to unclear communications, and over US$1,200 owing to spam or ads. Add social media and clickbait sites to “legitimate” distractions such as email, and half your day or more is lost to the sticky world wide web. For every action, however, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Technological solutions for how to increase productivity are abundant and range from the simple such as using a blocking app to sequester yourself during work hours, to complex customer relationship management systems that keep track of the status of a prospect and enable collaboration.
In our era of Zoom meetings and diffused workspaces, it’s more than a good idea to explore tech solutions for greater productivity as your job – or perhaps even industry – could depend on it. A Time magazine article from last summer explored how AI and robots have stepped in to fill the millions of jobs lost in the United States due to the pandemic, a trend guaranteed to accelerate. The article notes some 400,000 jobs were lost from 1990 to 2007 to automation. But just since the outbreak of Covid-19, some 40 million US jobs disappeared, and – estimates say – 42% of those jobs are gone forever. In other words, if you don’t become more productive and become “essential,” there is a decent chance your organization will find a cheaper, simpler solution.
Free Yourself from Distractions and Take Control of Your Time
Starting with the basics is the always best way to go. Why fight temptation when there are ways to remove temptation altogether? Many remote workers as well as students and office workers are turning to “blocking apps.” Such apps sync across all of your devices and force you to stay focused by literally blocking distractions. They are extremely easy to use. After you’ve added the app to your browser, you can schedule certain hours of the day and designate them as office hours. If social media is eating away at your time, the blocking app enforces your commitment to work by simply making those social media sites unavailable during work hours (hours you have chosen when setting up the app’s parameters). Blocking apps also take care of pop-ups and have email functions where are you can let people know that you’re currently not available. Advertising giants – embedded in everything from news sites to social media – have invested untold millions in figuring out how to lure you away from work. With a tech jujitsu move, however, you can use your enemy’s momentum against them and force time to submit to your will.
Scheduling: Don’t Forget “Me Time”
After you’ve decided to make changes and resist distractions, scheduling is the next cornerstone to master. People who know how to schedule and have the discipline to stick to a schedule make demonstrable progress. The first question to ask yourself when creating a schedule is, “Am I being realistic?” Too many of us take on more than we can handle; somehow forgetting that the universe doesn’t always bend to our will. A good schedule is one that’s flexible enough to handle unexpected events, while pushing you forward in a slow and steady manner that actually gets results.
Essential work is always at the top of any to-do list, but your life is an essential task as well. Schedule breaks, time with friends or entertainment with the knowledge that these blocks of time are essential; without them, we humans snap. Penciling in that yoga class instead of it being something you plan to do “when you have time” is investing in your sanity. Exercise, hobbies, fun… you not only deserve these things for ignoring distractions and regimenting your time, but you’ll also see faster progress if you avoid depression, anxiety, and stress. Learn to invest some time in yourself – after all, you’ve earned it.