In today’s 24/7, non-stop, ‘constantly-connected’ world, it’s not surprising that many employees are easily distracted and struggle to stay focused at work. We’re all ‘guilty’ of checking our Facebook account, sending WhatsApp messages or keeping up-to-date on the latest news. To eliminate these distractions (and more) and help employees improve their time management skills, it’s important to encourage a healthy work-life balance, a supportive environment, and task-driven work.
According to the Harvard Business Review, super productive individuals share similar traits, which includes setting stretch goals, problem-solving, working well with others, and being driven to achieve results quickly (and efficiently).
So how can your employees achieve quick results? How can they actively avoid distractions and stay focused on the tasks at hand? We offer five ways to improve workplace productivity.
1. Keep track of how much time you allocate to each task
One of the best ways to determine how you’re spending your time (and to adjust what you’re spending it on) is to keep track of it.
Your employees should have a schedule that they are constantly adjusting and adding to. If one project is expected to take approximately three hours, it’s important to set aside three hours of the day to do that specific project, and at the end of the three hours, move on to something else, or take a break.
The Harvard Business Review conducted a study on entrepreneurs and found that one of the top three skills that they lacked was managing themselves and their time. This isn’t specific to just entrepreneurs. With more and more employees working from home or working flexibly on their own timeframe with their own agenda, it’s important to promote scheduling.
2. Step away from the smartphone (and social media)
Time and time again, you’re told that being active on social media is important for your business, but what does that mean for your employees?
Of course, social media is an integral part of some jobs (marketing, social media, PR, publicity, etc.), so you should expect that some of your employees will be scrolling Facebook to figure out the latest hashtags or commenting on new Instagram posts to increase the company’s social media presence.
But for everyone else, social media can be addictive and distracting, especially at work. To prevent your employees from checking their phones every time they hear a buzz or see their screen light up, suggest a phone-free space, especially during work meetings.
The best way to be productive—and successful—is to ditch the smartphone as soon as you enter the workplace.
That could mean turning it off or stowing it in the bottom of a bag. If employees want to check their texts while waiting for their coffee to brew or while going for a walk outside, they can, but when employees are at work, they should be working, not checking their DMs or watching the latest movie trailer.
3. Task building with purpose will change the way you work
To improve time management skills, employees need to know how to manage their time and their tasks. Let’s say an employee is given fifteen tasks to be completed by the end of the day. It’s nearing five o’clock and they have only completed nine of the tasks, but the six they set aside were the most important ones.
To avoid this dilemma, employees should prioritize their tasks and do the most important ones first. If possible, managers should specify which tasks are urgent and which ones aren’t.
One way that HR and L&D professionals can help, is to break up a job description into designated areas and assign a percentage to each area.
A sales professional, for instance, may be asked to spend 35% of their time on attracting new clients, 20% of their time managing current clients, 30% of their time doing paperwork and contract work, and 15% of their time collaborating with the sales team.
Another way to manage tasks is to make lists. Crossing things off a to-do list actually frees up your brain, allowing you to focus on other things (like the next task at hand).
The worst thing an employee can do is multi-task so make sure your employees utilize their calendars and keep an evolving to-do list. If they struggle to complete the tasks, set up a midday or mid-week check-in to see where they’re at and/or what they’re working on.
4. Motivation can be fostered
Every employee works differently. Some require more collaboration before completing a task. Others require time and distance to figure out what needs to be done. Some prefer to do less over longer periods of time.
Setting up meetings to discuss an employee’s preferences is important. You want to make sure each employee is given the right support needed to be their best, most productive selves. You also want to make sure you’re motivating each employee.
Advise employees to take lunch breaks. Support a healthy work-life balance. And encourage individuals to go for a walk, to switch tasks, or to try something new, if you feel they are becoming unmotivated or unfulfilled in their day-to-day work.
5. Purpose-driven work makes the work more desirable
This is our last tip to helping employees improve their time management skills, but arguably the most important. There are only 24 hours in a day, so you want to make the most of that time and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of each workday.
Determining your purpose as a company, a department, and an individual isn’t always easy, but it is extremely important. If you want your team to be more productive, you should encourage purpose-driven work.
According to Ben Renshaw, author of Purpose: The Extraordinary Benefits of Focusing on What Matters Most, “Once you are clear about your purpose, you will be clear about the meaning of every aspect of your world,” and that’s especially true for achieving career success.
In Renshaw’s book, he uses Facebook as an example. Facebook’s purpose is to “bring the world closer together.” Therefore, every business decision should be made with that purpose in mind. The same can be said for a department, a team, or an individual employee, who may decide their purpose is “to be more authentic.”
As an HR or L&D professional, schedule time to meet with employees and discuss their purpose. Figuring this out may offer answers to problems your employees didn’t know how to begin solving.