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by Siobhan Green | March 31, 2009

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No one can be productive every minute of every day. The average employee actually only works approximately 6 hours of every 8 hour day - the rest is taken up with breaks, chatting with co-workers, grabbing a cup of coffee, travelling to and from meetings, etc. However, it is very easy to waste a great deal of time during the day, and find yourself rushing at the last minute or missing deadlines.

Common productivity busters are identified below, along with suggestions on dealing with them:

1. Chatting with co-workers. While you should not undervalue the importance of getting along with co-workers, it is easy to focus on the social aspects of your job rather than the tasks at hand. Not only is chatting not productive, it also looks bad, especially if it is disruptive of other people's work. Learn how to say "I would love to chat, but I have to get back to work now."

2. Working late/weekends: Tasks grow to fill the time allotted, so don't let a task spill over past quitting time or into the weekend. A common procrastination technique is to not do any real work during the day, and then "catch up" after 5 p.m. or on weekends. While this might actually be a valid strategy to employ once in a while if you find it difficult to get work done during the day (due to meetings, telephone calls and other distractions), it can be a bad habit to get into. In general, you will find that you are not more productive - your per hour productivity will most likely decrease, as well as the quality of your work, since you will be tired and more likely to burn out. And waiting until after everyone has gone home to get work done can mean that other people will not be around to give you crucial feedback and information.

3. Don't forget to alternate work with breaks: nothing will hold your attention 100% of the time, and staring at your computer screen doesn't count as work. Break your work into 15 minute chunks, alternating with smaller tasks or something fun like personal e-mail.

4. Disorganization: if you cannot find your notes from an important meeting, don't know where you filed the previous version of a document, or need to call someone and don't have the number, you will waste a good deal of time every day. Whne this happens, figure out ways you could have saved that time if you had an organizational system in place. Build time into your weekly schedule to organize yourself.

5. Email, IM, surfing the Web: Do not kid yourself. If you are holding a conversation with your spouse about your upcoming vacation on IM, you are not giving the document you are editing your full attention. Multitasking is possible if each task only takes a small percentage of your attention, but just because the Powerpoint presentation is open on your desktop doesn't mean you are actually working on it.

6. Perfectionism: Not every thing you do must be perfect. If you find yourself spending hours laboring over an e-mail to a co-worker, or revising and revising the layout of a draft document, you may be spending far too much energy on inconsequential details. While over-delivering to a client is terrific, you don't want to give away your company's work for free. So if you have promised an outline, deliver an outline, not the final product.

7. Accurately assess how long something will take: It is easy to underestimate how long a task will take to complete.

8. Learn what distracts you: some people are good in the morning and relish the few hours before everyone arrives. Others hate mornings and would rather come in later and work past 5 p.m. for some quiet time. Some people enjoy listening to their favorite CDs while working, others find it too distracting. Find out what works for you and make sure that your co-workers and boss understand that you are trying to work in the most productive manner for you.

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Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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