Chapter 3
Take practical steps towards productivity
Take practical steps towards productivity
On a day-to-day level, there are practical steps that can be taken to keep your team engaged and increase its effectiveness.

Overcoming immediate challenges by breaking them down into achievable tasks can help you maintain momentum.

Whether working from home, or in the office, reducing the number of small distractions that upset our working patterns can make a big difference. Distractions tend to fall into two categories:

  • Self-imposed
  • Environmentally imposed

Self-imposed distractions are of our own making and within our control. For example, we might receive social-media notifications from our devices, which we can turn off. Environmentally imposed distractions are more difficult to control. For example, while working at home, your children need attention, or a package is delivered and needs signing for. Alternatively, if in the office, a colleague comes over to your desk and starts a conversation.

Distractions in the workplace – wherever that is – are no small problem, and one of the largest is email.

According to Adobe’s 2019 annual Email Usage Study, we claim to spend an average of 209 minutes checking work email and 143 minutes checking personal email every working day. That amounts to around five hours and 52 minutes. Just 46% of respondents to the survey said they were able to clear their inbox. Is this really a productive way to work?

Research cited in Forbes adds some qualitative insight here. Of an average of 200 emails the average office worker spends reading and responding to each day, approximately 144 (72%) aren’t relevant to their job; many are unwanted CCs and BCCs.

Add to this messages received from apps such as Slack, Microsoft’s Modern Workplace or WhatsApp groups, and your team’s precious working hours are at risk of being wasted. Far from freeing us to work productively, these digital tools might be holding us back. Indeed, in 2019, RescueTime reported that 40% of our day at work is spent multitasking with communication tools.

Neither are we immune to the temptations of non-work related distractions. RescueTime also noted that 21% of our working hours are spent looking at entertainment, news and social media updates on our devices.

How can we take practical steps towards minimising distraction and increasing team productivity? The answer is surprisingly simple, as most effective answers are. Start thinking about the following:

  1. Make sure each team communication is necessary and has a specific, actionable purpose.
  2. Limit the amount of CCs and BCCs you add to an email.
  3. Stop email and messaging threads becoming unmanageable by terminating them, then refocusing with a new topic.
  4. Set specific times for team catch-ups. Stick to them, so they don’t spill across the day.

These four simple behaviours have the potential to completely transform your day to day productivity.

Next: Developing task-based team management