Ward off the workday doldrums, improve productivity
In a 2005 online worker productivity survey conducted by Microsoft, American respondents who worked an average of 45 hours per week considered 16 of those hours to be unproductive. While 61 percent of those respondents related their productivity directly to their software, that still leaves 39 percent of workers who consider more than one-third of their work week to be unproductive.
While that no doubt makes a few bosses bristle, to the average worker it likely comes as no great surprise. That's especially true in this day and age, when workers have more distractions than ever before, including instant messaging, the Internet, e-mail, and even cell phones, all of which can work together to erode worker productivity.
However, it's not all the fault of workers, either. In fact, American survey respondents noted they spent an average of 5.5 hours per week in meetings, and 71 percent of those respondents felt those meetings weren't productive. Each of these factors, both the distractions and business practices that might be dated and ineffective, can make it difficult to make it through the workday doldrums as productively as possible. However, there are tricks of the trade that can help workers be more productive and enjoy the day more as a result.
* Write down the day's tasks. It might sound simple, but with a list in front of you, it's easier to get tasks done and avoid distraction. Because of the Internet and personal email, it's easy for workers to forget all the things they need to do in a given day. Before leaving the office each night, write down a list of tasks for the following day. This list can act as a reminder in the morning, and help workers stay focused on the tasks at hand.
* Avoid surfing the Internet. The Internet could be the single greatest contributor to the loss of worker productivity in history. While Internet access can help workers maintain some level of sanity during the work week, spending too much time surfing the Internet doesn't do anyone any good (aside from Web advertisers, of course). If you must surf the Internet each day, do so at established intervals, such as lunch hour or the end of the day. Those who eat breakfast at the office could use the time while they eat to peruse some favorite Web sites, but keep such surfing to a minimum.
* Stay organized. A disorganized desk, desktop or work area is another way in which many of the nation's workers are hurting their own productivity. Keep everything you need within arm's length, and develop a system wherein you can easily find items. For example, keep important documents in monthly or weekly folders to make it easier to find them when you need to. Wasting time looking for documents can zap productivity and add to work-related stress as well.
* Continue to examine what works and what doesn't work. Many companies have listened to surveys such as Microsoft's and adapted their policies in accordance with those survey results. If more than 70 percent of the people in a meeting find it unproductive, consider canceling meetings altogether. It can be far more efficient to simply discuss matters via e-mail or person-to-person. However, if your office never has meetings and inter-departmental communication is problematic or non-existent, then consider weekly meetings. Each company is different and each week, month or year can be different as well. To keep things fresh and productive, it's ideal to continue looking for ways to improve productivity and make the workday more enjoyable for everyone.