6 simple steps to help you work more efficiently

‘The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which seventy percent have nothing to do with work.’ – ZW. Edwards Deming

“The average desk worker loses 2.1 hours a day to interruptions and distractions, one study shows. And it can take several minutes to get back to work afterward.”

“If each interruption took 10 minutes, you’d spend 50% of your time on them. If you can’t work for more than 10 minutes without being interrupted, a small project might end up taking all day.”

It is truly an awesome world we live in where we can contact someone on the other side of the planet and get a response within 1 day. We are connected with email, instant messaging, Skype video calls, SMS, facebook, twitter, foursquare and the list goes on..

Is this having a negative effect on our lives?

What you may not realise is that every time you hear a ‘notification sound’ (new email alert from Outlook, SMS sound from your phone, etc) your brain stops focussing on what it was focussing on. We want to know what that message says and just like Pavlov‘s dog, we have trained ourselves to react to the sounds that these ‘instant communication’ mediums make!

If you’re like most people, that simple moment of switching focus from what you were doing to reading that new email or SMS is enough to set you 5 or 10 minutes back with what you WERE doing.

Are you feeling a little overwhelmed with your workload? Can you admit to reacting to these notification sounds? Do you check your email inbox a few times each hour? If so, we’ve put together a few quick things you can do to help you keep your focus and limit unnecessary interruptions.

  • Emails
    1. Turn off the new email notification popup and sound in Outlook.
    2. Minimize Outlook and work on checking your emails every 2 hours.
  • Instant Messaging
    1. Turn off the new message notification popup in MSN, iChat, Skype, Trillian, etc
    2. Turn off the new message notification sound in MSN, iChat, Skype, Trillian, etc
  • Personal Mobile Phones
    1. Turn personal mobile phones on silent when you are at work and make sure they are out of sight. Even if you see your mobile flash, or hear it vibrate, you will still get distracted.
    2. Advise your family to call you at your place of work if it’s an emergency.
  • Quiet Time
    1. If you are busy, put your phones on silent or DND (Do Not Disturb) and let your the receptionist know.
    2. If necessary, find a way to signal your quiet time. Put up a sign on your door or your cubicle and let others know that if they see that sign (or object) that you are “in the zone” and should only be disturbed if it’s an absolute emergency.
  • Keep the common areas of your office free of distractions
    1. If you need to have a conversation with someone about a work related issue, organise a suitable block of time to discuss the issue with them and go to a meeting room. Resist the urge to break their concentration until a time you are both ready to talk.
    2. If you are interrupted, don’t be afraid to tell the person that you are busy, but can you get back to them? If you must talk, take them AWAY from everyone else (if possible) and talk.
  • Learn to say NO to distractions
    1. If someone calls you, emails you, instant messages you, walks up to you and asks you a question, or yells across the room to you – resist the urge to answer them straight away. It’s ok to say “Can I answer you later?” – I doubt they’ll say no.
    2. If someone around you is talking about something, resist the urge to join in the conversation.
    3. If you need to, wear headphones to avoid getting caught wanting to participate in a conversation.
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