Don’t let time traps sink office productivity

It turns out that even tiny distractions can derail productivity – a US study recently found that even a three-second break in attention can cause distractions and errors, and result in wasted time. Given that the office is full of time-wasting pitfalls, from chatty colleagues to ringing phones, long meetings, pinging cellphones and social media temptations, it is important to learn how to cut down on distractions for an office environment that is focused and productive.

Strict software for internet junkies – Use clever website extensions to block access to time-stealing sites. Users can install Leechblock as an add-on for FireFox, or StayFocused for Chrome. These require that the user inputs their most common website distractions, for a “back to work” reminder when attempting to access these sites. For those that get side tracked by mails, messages and notifications while trying to write, FocusWriter blocks out all distractions, providing only a full screen as a writing space.

Keep a “procrastination pad” – Brilliant ideas or urgent interruptions can distract from the task at hand. A neat trick is to have a procrastination pad to jot down ideas, fleeting thoughts or items that need doing, flagging them for later without switching focus.

Don’t be a slave to email – Having constant access to email is a productivity killer. New emails flooding in are a constant distraction. These days, it is good practice to switch email notifications off and have allocated blocks of time during the day for checking and responding to mail. It is also better not to do this right at the beginning of the day, as a disruptive email can throw off the day’s schedule. One of the time slots should be at the end of the day, when tasks that arise can be listed and prioritised for the next day.

Make meetings work –  Unnecessarily long meetings can be draining and waste a lot of time. Make meetings more efficient by sending required reading in advance and encouraging attendees to brainstorm prior to the meeting, so that they are primed and ready for the meeting itself. Limit meeting attendance to crucial individuals only – send interested but non-essential parties the minutes instead. Set the expectation that all individuals must be prepared and then schedule the meeting with brevity in mind – meetings don’t have to be an hour or half an hour long. Try 15 or 20 minute slots instead.

Invest in some time-trimming tools – Technology can often be made to work smarter. Manage your office printer network, for example, with Seartec’s Fleet Manager software. Fleet Manager reduces the time spent on tasks such as tracking multifunction printer toner levels and ordering toner, by automatically tracking toner levels and ordering replacements at a specified level. The software also tracks the service needs of all copiers in order to log and attend to any problems so that down time due to maintenance issues can be avoided. Fleet manager will even analyse the usage of all copiers in the office in order to flag over- or under-utilised machines and suggest faster and more cost-effective solutions. To install this free software, which is applicable for any brand of copier, contact Seartec on 0800 474 277.

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