Join the crowd. Many Americans struggle to get things done at work; over half spend less than one-fourth of their time in the office on priority, deadline-driven assignments.
The day gets away from us for a variety of reasons, studies show – everything from emails to meetings, project or customer issues, social media use, conversations and conflicts with co-workers.
It’s important to know what those time and energy drains are that lower productivity and to implement a strategy to minimize distractions and maximize work time, says Cynthia Howard, an executive coach and performance expert.
“There is a vicious cycle of distractions that fill the typical workday and interfere with getting the job done,” says Howard (www.eileadership.org), author of The Resilient Leader, Mindset Makeover: Uncover the Elephant in the Room. “People need to learn to focus in ways that get beyond the distractions and stress. It calls for resilient thinking.”
Howard offers four common workplace energy drains and solutions for them:
- Shortage of time. ”Constant interruptions and the inability to concentrate compel many people to spend their energy and internal resources on the most urgent issues that show up,” Howard says. “This leaves the most important work sidelined. So you need a time strategy to manage interruptions. The best way is sticking with an operational plan that makes clear the time involved to do your job correctly or, if you’re a leader, a plan that details your team’s tasks and how time-sensitive those are. The less-important interruptions won’t be allowed to get in the way.”
- Lack of priorities. Having too much work to do can make it difficult to establish priorities and easy to get sidetracked by everyone else’s issues. The solution, Howard says, begins with having clarity of your long-term goals and letting the priority list flow from there. “Visualize your work,” Howard says. “Use whiteboards to show the workflow. Also, limit your work in progress. Spreading yourself too thin results in errors and burn-out.”
- Status quo. “Most organizations have their sacred cows — the untouchable subjects, protocols, or people who continue to operate within the system without any scrutiny,” Howard says. “This conditioning creates a mental default mode and change is resisted.” But you can get beyond the status quo and the resistance, she says, by asking yourself and/or your team three questions: 1) What if we … ? 2) What would it take … ? 3) How can we … ?
- Office politics – i.e., drama. “Drama drains energy faster than anything else,” Howard says. “It’s what most people in the workplace complain about. Progress toward solutions starts with your own drama self-check. Ask yourself these questions: Do you compromise to avoid conflict and feel resentful? Do you use intimidation to get your way? Are you impatient when things don’t go your way? Do you take feedback as a personal attack? Do you feel your opinions don’t matter? Then what will you do differently to extricate yourself from drama, or to develop boundaries with those who engage in it?”
“Work has become a major stressor for people,” Howard says. “Making progress is a major motivator for most, but chronic distraction dulls momentum and demands a new approach for one to move forward.”
Cynthia Howard (www.eileadership.org) is an executive coach, performance expert and the author of The Resilient Leader, Mindset Makeover: Uncover the Elephant in the Room. She holds a PhD in human development and in the past 20-plus years she has coached thousands of professionals, leaders and executives toward mindset mastery and consistent success.