Posted by Robert Half on 11 March 2015
Technology is generally recognised to be a great productivity driver. But beware it doesn’t turn into a source of distraction.
If you end too many workdays with a sense of “time regret” – that feeling of frustration when you see the many items still unchecked on your to-do list – digital distractions like mobile notifications and click-bait links on social media may be to blame. But you don’t have to avoid technology altogether. The trick is to hone your time management skills at work so you can still enjoy life online without allowing your productivity to dip.
Technology is a continuous source of distraction and it often creates a false sense of urgency. Thoughts like, “I must respond to this email now”, “I must send this message now”, “I must update my Facebook status now” or “I must watch this online video my friend shared now”, are how we convince ourselves that we’re being productive by cramming as much as possible into an hour when we’re actually not.
Stop and take a breather. More often than not, there are many things you encounter during the work day that can be put off until later especially in Singapore where social media and tech gadgets are widely used.
Here are a few common examples of digital distractions at work and some time management tips for dealing with them:
- Internet surfing and social networking: You surf the net to search for the location of a client’s office and the next thing you know, you spend almost an hour catching up on news, reading articles and scrolling through the latest notifications across your social networks.
The solution: A better approach is to build personal web surfing and social networking time into your day in a structured way, so you’ll be less inclined to become distracted when you need to stay focused. Set aside a 10-minute time window every two to three hours to take a quick peek at what’s happening on your favourite sites — in accordance with your company’s internet use policy, of course. This will help you to stay connected to your friends as well as the job you love.
- Emails: Sometimes you may be surprised by the sheer number of emails you receive every day – not just from colleagues and clients, but also from friends, family, and the many publishers you subscribe to. No wonder you have more than 500 unread emails in your inbox.
The solution: Take some time out to process the emails you receive and decide which ones to delete, respond to or file away. Try using email filtering tools to help you. There are also many free or low-cost solutions online. Downloading these solutions and tools will help enhance your time management skills at work.
- Instant messaging: Sure, with the onset of various chat apps, instant messaging has never been more convenient (Even WhatsApp is on desktop now for Android users). But when your friends or family members use it frequently throughout the day to contact you – thinking it’s less disruptive than calling you at work – you can easily get sucked into idle chit-chat.
The solution: Only respond to urgent messages or set aside a couple of minutes at the end of every hour to reply. You can also indicate your availability on your online status.
- Smart phones: Mobile devices, and the many apps they support, can undermine your productivity. Ask yourself: How often do I miss what’s being said in meetings because I’m checking emails on my smart phone or distracted by a pop-up on the screen? The answer might surprise you.
The solution: Take a more disciplined approach to how and when you use mobile devices on the job, and you’ll be able to reclaim wasted time in your work day and bring even more energy and enthusiasm to the job. The quality of your workplace interactions will probably improve as well.
Technology is important in getting work done, especially in today’s fast-paced working environments. But technology should help, not be a source of digital distractions. Keeping your productivity high requires managing the multitude of digital distractions well and utilizing good time management skills to keep on top of work tasks.
Make your days count when you love what you do.