By Sean Blanks, Marketing Director, cartridgesave.co.uk
Phone calls, email notifications, impromptu meetings: the office can be such a hectic environment it can feel like a massive struggle to get anything done.
It’s been proven that every time you’re interrupted, it takes one-to-minutes to regain focus on the original job in hand. If this is happening numerous times an hour, it’s easy to see why some days it feels impossible to meet your deadlines.
Follow our six top tips to help minimise distractions in your workplace and dramatically reduce the stress in your life:
Carry out a daily appraisal.
When there are lots of jobs pulling you in multiple directions take a few minutes to perform a daily appraisal. Stepping back will allow you to identify your top priority for the day.
However, don’t neglect smaller jobs like responding to emails or briefing your colleagues. Instead look at blitzing these jobs in one go, to get them off your to-do list, by setting aside a dedicated ‘power hour’.
Turn off your email.
Don’t email to be a tyrant. It can be easy to fall into the trap of being at email’s constant beck and call, and feel compelled to reply instantly to the endless stream of correspondence.
Only check your emails once an hour and physically close it down for periods when you don’t wish to be interrupted. In other words, only use email when you intend to, not just because it’s always running in the background. Using an out of office for these periods will let clients know that you are unavailable. If it is urgent, they can phone you.
Another thing to consider is ‘office hours’. As a business owner, you’re likely to be inundated with questions from your team. So specify times in the day when you’re available for queries and informal meetings; and advise of set-hours when you have to keep your head down, meaning your desk is a no-go.
The ability to multitask is often seen as the embodiment of productivity. However, juggling multiple complicated jobs at once is in fact almost impossible. Multitasking only really works when we are performing roles that don’t perform much brainpower. When you are trying to accomplish two dissimilar tasks, each one requiring some level of deliberation and attention, multitasking falls apart.
Compartmentalise your day.
Instead, take the time to compartmentalise your day so you can devote yourself to one job fully at a time. Peak attentiveness usually occurs at around 10 o’clock in the morning, so schedule important jobs for around then and allocate tasks that require less concentration, for later in the day.
I work well to deadlines and I find using an alarm to signal when a job should have been completed optimises my productivity. At the start of every task, I forecast how long it should take and set an alert to warn me when I have ten minutes left. I find it really helps motivate, especially if my concentration has begun to wane.
Decide on your music policy.
Listening to the radio can actually help a lot of people to focus and work more productively. Unfortunately, every office is likely to contain many different music tastes and what might help some people tune out can leave others feeling exasperated. Conduct a private vote via email so everyone can express their opinion without feeling they have to follow the crown and make a decision that will reduce their capability to concentrate on their job
Also, if you’re really up against it but working in an open plan office, use headphones. Not only do these help to tune out distracting background noise, but they signal to colleagues ‘do not disturb’.
Take regular breaks.
It’s been proven that humans can only really concentrate on a task for 25-45 minutes at a time. So rather than taking one large break for lunch, take shorter breaks scheduled throughout your day. A five minute ‘reset’ break every 45 minutes, will optimise productivity and ensure you’re not just sitting there for the sake of it. The productivity you gain from regular breaks will more than make up for the time you spend making a cup of tea and refocusing your mind.
Sean Blanks is the Marketing Director of printer cartridge company cartridgesave.co.uk. By taking a systematic trial and improvement approach, Sean and Managing Director Ian Cowley have created a Sunday Times Fast Track100 e-retailer which manages 30,000 orders a month and is among the UK’s fastest growing printer supplies retailer in terms of sales.