Active Voice: Want to be Super-Efficient at Work? Banish those Distractions

The average lockdown working day worldwide is now around 48 minutes longer than before the pandemic, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. It comes as no surprise that the number of meetings has increased by 13% and people are sending an average of 1.4 more emails per day. We offer you tips to avoid becoming overwhelmed by work and ensure optimum efficiency.

  1. We are naturally pre-disposed to being poor multi-taskers, so prioritising your time is critical to improving efficiency. The biggest drain on our time is distractions. There is an inbuilt desire to read and respond to every email that arrives in our inbox, but resist this urge. This unintentional task-switching eats up more time than you might think. University of California information scientist Gloria Mark found that it takes an average of 26 minutes to recover from “trivial” interruptions. Try staying focused on your planned tasks, turn off email notifications and instead set aside a time schedule to check your inbox at defined times of the day.
  2. Start the day with structured “me time”. Go through email and social media updates that have piled up overnight and triage the backlog. Knock out quick responses and referrals, so other people can start working on tasks. Schedule the bigger tasks. And delete the stuff that is informational or not important.
  3. Reduce all meeting times by 25% – this is easier to accomplish if you’ve called the meeting! You will get the same amount of work done, because so much time is wasted dealing with conference call setup and inane banter. If you cut one five-person meeting per day from one hour down to 45 minutes, you will gain back 25 hours a month of work time. That’s roughly 300 hours a year or almost two months of work.
  4. Write down your top three tasks for the day and how you plan to achieve them. Keep referring back to this during the course of the day to avoid falling down that digital “rabbit hole”.
  5. Schedule regular breaks during the day. Running from back-to-back meetings is not productive, because you get tired and lose focus. Block off time in your calendar and take breaks. Making these breaks a routine increases predictability, creating a regular schedule to keep your mind organised. If you can afford it, take a 10- to 20-minute power nap after lunch, too.
  6. Converse, don’t email. Pick up the phone and talk directly to colleagues. You can give precise direction and clear-up misunderstandings quickly. So much time is wasted and confusion generated by perpetuating endless email threads.