Staying productive at work can be difficult, especially when we’re constantly surrounded by potential distractions. We’ve all experienced the days where every minute seems to drag on. You check your phone after what seems like at least half an hour, only to see that a mere 9 minutes has passed.
So when we’re feeling spaced out and distracted, how do we regain and more importantly, maintain focus? Angela Mager of Dropbox gives us her top tips to staying productive throughout the working day.
Individuals are ultimately responsible for their own time management and work styles, but external factors that make up the modern office – place, process and technology can significantly enhance or disrupt the ability for individuals to engage in quality work.” says Angela Mager, Dropbox Spokesperson
How do you think people can stay productive throughout the day?
- Try the Pomodoro Technique – Allocate 25 mins to complete each task, followed by a 5 min break. This is an especially useful technique for perfectionists who always spend that little bit longer on a task than they need to
- Know your body clock – know when you work best, and do your best work then
- Minimise distractions – suspend email and chat notifications so that you can engage in deep interrupted blocks of quality work
- Do batch work – knock out series of tasks that require similar levels of cognitive output e.g do a batch of admin work when your cognitive levels are low or a batch of creative writing when your cognitive energy is high
- Take breaks and get out of the office – re-energise by getting out of the office for a break or consider doing a walking meeting outside instead of in the office
What would say are the biggest distractions to employees?
For Dropbox Hack Week we asked our team hack their workflows to identify work conventions that they feel are outdated, no longer effective or cause distractions – and in the process find new, better ways of working.
One of the biggest distractions we identified was tech distractions. The average number of apps used in businesses is up by 43% in the last four years. And the average executive has gone from receiving 1,000 communications per year to over 30,000 that’s a 30x jump – that represents 1 communication every 4 minutes.
So, naturally one of ‘work hacks’ we tried was suspending email and chat, because constantly checking and responding to emails or even the simple process of switching between apps can break the flow and disrupt focus from work.
How can employees remain focused on the task at hand?
It comes down to three things: Place, Process and Technology.
Place: find a physical environment that is quiet and conducive to deep focused work. If you work in a hot desk environment, consider bringing in headphones and putting them on to signal to others that you do not want to be disturbed.
Process: adopt a process that minimises distractions such as email and chat notification management, or a time management technique like Pomodoro
Technology: use a digital smart workspace that integrates all of your most used tools and applications into the one place, and surfaces the content you need based on its understanding of documents
Do you think losing focus is inherently an individual issue or can external causes also be to blame?
It is a mix of both. Individuals are ultimately responsible for their own time management and work styles, but external factors that make up the modern office – place, process and technology can significantly enhance or disrupt the ability for individuals to engage in quality work. By optimising these external factors, workplaces can help reduce distractions and create physical and digital environments for their people to focus on the work that matters.
Is there anything that employees can do even before arriving at work to ensure productivity and sharpness?
Plan ahead: Spend the last 15 mins of your day jotting down your priorities for the next day. This puts you in place of control and stops you from reacting to tasks as soon as you get into work every morning.
Switch off: Once you’ve jotted down your list of priorities, shut down the computer and switch off.
Scan emails: Use your commute time to quickly scan emails and/or chat to make sure there is nothing urgent you need to attend to. Once you get into the office, go straight to your list of priorities and knock those off, instead of spending your morning responding to those non-urgent emails or chats.