It’s becoming increasingly challenging for today’s young professionals to stay productive. Workers from Generation X and Generation Y (a.k.a. Millennials) face a unique scenario where the devices and applications used in their personal lives have had a growing impact on their professional lives, and in some cases, have become double-edged swords when it comes to increasing productivity.
Our omnipresent mobile devices and social networks create a mess of noise and notifications that we rarely (if ever) truly turn off. Young professionals know that even if the person they want to reach isn’t available right now, they can still send a text or message through social media with confidence that it will be seen. This creates a sort of 24/7 personal queue in our smartphones. For example, if I’m in a lids-down meeting for an hour, I can typically expect notifications for SMS, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, email and maybe Instagram when I’m reunited with my smartphone.
This always-on availability is an unavoidable reality for today’s professionals and has an enormous impact on the modern business.
Check out our complimentary “For Dummies” guide on how customer experience can make or break your bottom line.
Unfortunately, it can be tiring, distracting and destructive. After a few years of career building and learning from many professionals I admire, I’ve compiled a list of four tips professionals can use to block out the noise, increase productivity and reduce anxiety.
Hack #1: Start each day with a realistic list of what you can tackle today
Once your workday starts (or the night before, if you prefer), your first task should be to take stock of the following:
What projects are on your plate
Make sure to truly get the full view by consulting any project management systems or calendars where you may have responsibilities and meetings listed.
Which actions are top priority
Know the difference between what’s important and what’s truly critical: all work is likely important, but critical items have upcoming deadlines or need your input before a project can move forward.
How long each action will take
Draw on past experience and avoid underestimating.
It seems obvious, but now you have a basis for the fun part: pick which ones you’re going to do today and forget the others for now. Take a moment to determine what is realistic and achievable for the day ahead. Depending on the nature of your work and the time it takes to complete each action, you could aim to check a certain number off your to-do list each day or have it vary based on how many meetings are in your calendar. Of course, fluctuating workloads and tight deadlines may require some wiggle room, but use this framework to set up your typical day.
Hack #2: Now it’s time to time block
Once you have a clear picture of your projects and priorities, make time for them. Schedule time on your calendar for each task you will complete today and treat these time blocks like important meetings, even when you’re doing solo work.
During each time block, do not multitask. Focus only on the task at hand so you can wrap it up efficiently without getting distracted.
Pro tip: Leave time open for miscellaneous activities (including breaks and breathing) so that you’re not derailed if something unavoidable and high priority pops up.
Hack #3: When time blocking, start with a clean slate
If you work for a global company, you likely have messages from different time zones waiting in your inbox when you wake up. Dedicating your first time block to reading and responding to all new emails, IMs or other communications sets a positive course for your day by clearing clutter and switching on your work mindset.
To make this step even more satisfying, consider an application that consolidates your communications into one place and groups by projects, teams or topics. This way, you can easily catch up on all activity from a single interface and eliminate the frustrations of digging through various inboxes and platforms. Click here for more on that topic.
Hack #4: Tune out the noise
As mentioned in tip number two, leave yourself time in your schedule for personal breathers, checking messages (both personal and professional) and ad hoc tasks so that you can fully focus when you’re working. Stow your personal phone or put it on airplane mode to avoid multitasking or disruptions. Knowing that you have time blocked off to respond to anything urgent makes it easier to avoid getting sidetracked as emails pop up.
Pro tip: Save yourself a step by integrating your calendar with your work applications whenever you can. Communications apps that let you sync your calendar in order to automatically update your presence information can make it clear when you’re not to be disturbed, saving you from potential distractions.
Going Beyond Good Habits
Even the best intentions fall victim to productivity roadblocks—emergency fixes, urgent projects and impromptu meetings are sometimes inevitable. But the most frustrating roadblock is often the most avoidable: technology. Today’s applications have evolved to a point where technology failures or lack of information should rarely, if ever, derail your productivity.
How many of the following productivity roadblocks apply to your organization?
Corporate Roadblock #1: Time wasted trying to connect with the right person
According to McKinsey & Company, the average worker spends 20 percent of their time searching for information and tracking down colleagues.
Why it’s unnecessary: Today’s communications applications offer presence information to completely eliminate this frustration and hours of wasted time. In fact, 60 percent of firms with the proper team collaboration tools in place saved three hours a week per mobile worker, according to network integrator Nexus.
Read What is UCC and Why Should I Care?
Corporate Roadblock #2: Getting bogged down in email
The average office worker now sends or receives 121 emails daily, according to research by the Radicati Group.
Why it’s unnecessary: Applications for real-time communications (i.e., anything live, such as IM, voice, video, conferencing) enable real-time answers and cut down on inbox anxiety. Effective collaboration tools can even reduce emails by 40 percent.
Corporate Roadblock #3: Poor connection when out of the office
Business travel, flexible working options and remote employees are becoming more and more commonplace, meaning work is no longer a place you go—it’s a thing you do.
Why it’s unnecessary: It’s now virtually essential for businesses to ensure employees have all the necessary tools for collaboration and an in-office experience, no matter where they are. The good news is, having a solid mobility strategy can boost employee satisfaction, cut costs and boost profits.
Read Four Ways to Profit from Your Mobility Strategy.
Corporate Roadblock #4: Application overload
Does it feel like every team in your organization uses different platforms for file sharing and communicating? Does it take Sherlock-level skills to navigate your corporate structure for the information you need?
Why it’s unnecessary: Today’s collaboration applications can spare some pain and frustration by consolidating all your communications channels into one experience (with one login) that’s mirrored across your devices.
If any of these sound familiar, it’s time to stop letting dated technology hinder your productivity and team collaboration. If you’re ready, we’re here to help.