On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate your level of productivity? If you consider yourself to be someone who is easily overwhelmed with work, you're in good company.
In the current "always on" work culture, even the most productive people feel like they don't accomplish much on a daily basis. And that's understandable, especially with all of everyday office distractions.
A 2018 study from the workplace learning platform Udemy revealed the biggest workplace distractions that harm employee productivity. The team collected data from more than 1,000 working Americans (ages 18 or older) and found that the biggest distractions and productivity killers were colleague interruptions (80%), office noise (70%) and smartphones (65%).
The good news is that you might be more skilled at managing your time than you realize. If you identify with any of the tendencies below, be assured that you're a lot more productive than your peers.
Interruptions from colleagues and general office noise (i.e. printers, phones and outside sirens) were cited as the top two causes of workplace disruptions, according to the Udemy study.
If you've developed strategies for how to deal with this, you're already ahead of the game. These might range from wearing noise-canceling headphones to making it a habit to step outside once or twice a day to reset your focus.
It also helps to have places in mind where you can retreat to if the interruptions become too unbearable. This might be a home office, coffee shop, library or even a private meeting room in your office that you can book.
The most productive people also know how to set boundaries with their colleagues and aren't afraid to say things like, "Sorry, I'm in the middle of something right now. Can I get back to you later?"
Have you ever had to look something up on Google Maps for work only to find yourself, 20 minutes later, with a dozen browser tabs open as you try in vain to find the best pizza spot in town? It happens to the best of us.
Productive people keep track of time — not in an obsessive way, but they often monitor how long they're spending on a certain task to see if they need to speed up or start wrapping up and moving on to the next project.
We're all human, so we have a tendency to procrastinate at every chance we get, but there are many helpful tools out there to help us manage every minute of our day, including website blockers that disable access to distracting websites.
These days, there are more than enough ways in which anyone can get in contact with us at any time. From phone calls to text messages, emails to Slack notifications and Twitter DMs to Instagram comments, that's a lot to stay on top of.
The key to not letting all these communication channels distract you is to simply limit your access to them. If you're the type to get frustrated with never-ending Slack notifications and prefer to do work communication over email, there's no shame in being direct with your colleagues.
In fact, most of them will appreciate your candidness. No one likes to sit around waiting and wondering why you haven't responded to the Slack message they sent two hours ago.
In his book, "Deep Work: Rules for Staying Focused Success in a Distracted World," Cal Newport, an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University, notes that most people simply don't know how to prioritize efficiently.
On either Sunday night or Monday morning, review your tasks for the week ahead and see if the timeline makes sense. If one task is more important and may take you longer to complete, consider moving it to an earlier day in the week.
Then, repeat the process at the end of each workday. Keep in mind that urgent requests may come up, and a task you thought would take just a half hour could end up taking three.
Context-switching is when you stop what you're working on to check your email or text messages for just a few minutes, then get back to what you were previously working on.
This tendency can be a threat to your productivity: Each time you switch from one thing to another (before making progress on either), you experience a "transaction cost," which drains your energy and slows you down.
Productivity and a good night's rest go hand in hand. When I interviewed Arianna Huffington about her morning routine, she told me that 95% of the time, she gets eight hours of sleep a night. But it wasn't always this way.
More than a decade ago, Huffington had a painful wake-up call after collapsing from sleep deprivation and exhaustion. She hit her face on her desk and broke her cheekbone. It then became clear, she explained, that the endless hours she spent working had led her to burn out.
Nowadays Arianna treats her transition to sleep as "a sacrosanct ritual," and highly productive people know to do the same.
Benjamin Spall is the co-author of "My Morning Routine," which was named as one of Amazon's best business books of 2018 and a Financial Times book of the month. He has written for the New York Times, New York Observer, Quartz, Entrepreneur, Business Insider and more.
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