As you change from one activity to another, even the tiniest switch in focus can make a difference to your productivity, according to leadership coach Jesse Sostrin, writing for Strategy+Business.
We all acknowledge the upheaval of major transitions in the workplace, but every day we can experience umpteen momentary changeovers that have the power to cause more disruption and suck up more time than you might imagine.
A journey through your busy morning could look something like this:
- answer emails
- conference-call meeting
- coffee break
- conversation with colleague on the way back to your desk
- write report of meeting
Each time you shift your attention from one activity to another – whether scheduled or impromptu – there is potential to lose concentration and productivity.
But if we choose to be conscious of these transitions we can use them as tools for efficiency instead.
THREE WAYS TO IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY
Sostrin has devised three key strategies to help you:
1) Log shifts in attention. You can’t control what you aren’t aware of. Scrutinise how you spend your time and estimate how many miniscule pivotal changes take place in your average day. “This exercise is about developing more awareness around the scope and impact of each transition. It can be an eye-opening experience.”
Start with the solid content of your diary – for example, pre-arranged meetings and calls, or working sessions. Then examine the blank spaces where nothing is specifically scheduled. These times are ripe for your attention to be distracted.
One of Sostrin’s clients – a global executive handling four major projects across three time zones – was shocked to log between 75 and 100 of these mini transitions in an average day.
“I pivot from planning and reflecting to executing a variety of tasks. And because I’m working with different teams, I have to approach things differently based on diverse expectations,” the executive revealed.
2) Delete excess micro-transitions. On first glance they might appear unavoidable, but a lot of them are attached to the choices you make. For example, the non-urgent 10-minute phone call you choose to make in the middle of writing your report results in an unnecessary switch.
“To make sure your transitions are both efficient and effective, reduce the unnecessary ones and then get the timing right for the ones you need.”
3) Take control through recognition. Once you acknowledge all the micro-transitions you make in a day, you can begin to understand how to manage them better. You will become aware of how you prioritise as well as your typical pitfalls. Hurrying an email reply, for example, because you don’t want to be late for a meeting could result in careless wording or omissions that need fixing later, duplicating your efforts.
SUCCESSFUL ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS
Making a point of not only noticing the multitude of transitions in our daily lives, but actively assessing their worth, will lead to improvement your productivity.
“You can make every nuanced pivot point a successful ending of one task and a promising start to the next,” says Sostrin.