How to Increase Your Productivity at Work
We are very fortunate to have a guest blog this week from another one of our summer interns. Tom Petri has been assisting our sales and marketing department for the last month or so and has helped us in various ways. Last week he requested to write an article for our blog about a topic that has been of interest to him during his time as a student at Drexel University. So without further ado, I’m going to let Tom take over our blog soapbox and talk to us about multitasking, distractions, and productivity in the workplace…
“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.”
-Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773)
“When was the last time you felt like you had a really productive day at work? That long ago? Really? Wow.
But don’t worry, you’re in good company. Offices are a hotbed of distractions, and it’s not likely to change anytime soon. Everyone has a computer with emails streaming in constantly, phone calls to be returned, and co-workers and bosses to talk to and collaborate with. None of this is bad generally, but when you need to get a project done or do something creative, it’s lethal. Being interrupted kills productivity.
In American offices, it has been found that workers spend approximately 11 minutes on a single project before switching to something else, and they switch tasks within a project every 3 minutes. Research shows that it takes anywhere from 15-25 minutes to fully shift your focus back to a task after being distracted. It is easy to spend a good portion of the day with your mind in limbo, in the middle of rearranging all of the cognitive resources that have been usurped by the distraction.
It’s not just distractions that are so problematic. Multitasking, seemingly mastered by teenagers and day traders, is a complete myth. We can’t multitask. It’s just not something that our brains can handle. When confronted with two tasks that need the same processing power, the brain switches the work from the hippocampus to the striatum, from the area for the formation of long-term memory to the area for mundane tasks that you quite possibly never remember.
The consequence and fatal flaw of multitasking is that once you stop trying to process both sources, you rarely remember either one. When you try to do two things, you never actually do them both adequately; you just switch between them every couple of seconds, so rudely interrupting yourself over and over again, all the while losing effectiveness.
The implications of these findings are huge. Understanding the best way to keep your brain focused and thinking will give you a productivity boost, and can free up your time so you can do what you want, not just what you have to do.
The solution, and it’s not anywhere as easy as it sounds (I’m having an incredibly hard time with it right now), is to do one thing at a time. If you’re working on a project, focus solely on that. Don’t check your email, your phone, or your Facebook page. Put everything else on the back burner until you are truly ready to stop. Even when it seems tough, keep pushing through until the end, until there is literally nothing else you can do.
When we are faced with a particularly tough assignment, it is so tempting to distract yourself with the immense number of options the internet and the world provide us. But that is the exact way to drag the whole process out longer and make it harder to finish. Devoting all of your resources for 30 minutes is way more effective than messing around with a project for 2 hours. You’ll get way more done and still have an hour and a half left.”
Tom is currently a sophomore, enrolled at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. He is triple majoring in Management Information Systems, Finance and Accounting. His grasp of business and his multi-headed approach to a business degree has given him a unique perspective of business dynamics and processes even at an early stage in his collegiate career. He has been an asset to Precision Automation over the last few weeks and for that we thank him and wish him luck in the continuance of his studies.