A new study has revealed that the average office worker spends a whopping 122 minutes procrastinating during their working day. We look at what distracts us – and how to break the cycle.
Think about your day so far: what have you achieved? Maybe you’ve sent some emails, or made a phone call? Chased an invoice, or finally ticked off that urgent task on your to do list – the one you’ve avoided for days?
Chances are, you have also checked your social media two or three times, attended to some life admin (that dentist appointment won’t book itself, right?) and spent five more minutes than strictly necessary chatting at the coffee machine.
Hey, where did those two hours go?
A recent poll of 865 office workers conducted by marketing company Reboot Online has found that most of us spend 122 minutes of our working day not working. That’s a jaw slackening two hours of faffing around.
Of this, 37 minutes is spent on social media, totalling 3 hours and 5 minutes every week.
It’s little wonder: social media is designed to distract us, emitting a tantalising notification for every tag, like, message and add. We are compelled to down tools and check in then coerced further down the digital rabbit hole by calls to action and click bait headlines.
And it is not only extra-curricular ephemera that disrupts productivity at work. The same study reveals that workers spend 15 minutes making coffee and 12 minutes using the toilet daily. Hardly sack-able offences – except 62% admit to undertaking these office rituals out of boredom.
Use your boredom to be more productive.
In her TED talk ‘How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas’, author Manoush Zomorodi explains: “A decade ago, we shifted our attention at work every three minutes. Now we do it every 45 seconds, and we do it all day long. The average person checks email 74 times a day, and switches tasks on their computer 566 times a day.”
Though we are technically ‘working’, most of us struggle to complete tasks in full; at the very least, they rarely get our full attention.
Zomorodi goes on to decribe how the brain moves into a different mode of functioning when we are bored; one that can improve creativity, motivation and ultimately, productivity.
Could those two hours lost to procrastination be better spent doing nothing at all?
How to stop procrastinating at work
We all have our own office rituals to stay focused at work and every business will have its own approach to keeping staff motivated and productive but if you do find your mind wandering off more than it should, here are some tried and tested techniques to keep calm and carry on.
Turn off notifications.
Notifications are designed to distract, and they are very efficient. You may not actually open the email or respond to a text, but every notification takes attention away from the task at hand – so turn them off entirely.
Things are rarely so important they need attention that very minute, especially things on Facebook.
Check your email three times a day.
A recent Instagram post from Step Up Club founders Alice Olins and Phanella Mayall Fine extolled the benefits of checking emails just three times a day.
It isn’t easy. But furtive email checks waste time as you end up reading messages that aren’t relevant or priority. Triage your email every time you open your inbox: reply immediately to what is urgent, note down issues to attend to for later and delete the extraneous.
Set three mandatory tasks in the morning.
The first two hours of the working day are arguably the most important: this is when we set our intentions and agendas, and they can make or break your productivity over the next eight hours.
Choose three tasks that must be completed by the end of play, regardless of what else happens in the day. You will always leave the office feeling like you have achieved something.
Complete one minute tasks immediately.
Undertake immediately anything on your list that takes a minute or under to finish. One-sentence emails, updating a calendar, cleaning your laptop screen – they all fall under this speedy umbrella.
The idea is that little things get easily lost in the midst of bigger projects – then build up until they seem impenetrable. This one won’t work for everyone but those who live by this rule swear by it.
Limit meeting time.
Meetings are one of the biggest time-sappers of all. Limit your meetings to 15 minutes, set strict agendas (and stick to them) and don’t leave the room until everyone has a clear course of action to follow up.
Sounds drastic, but a new study has found that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can have a significant impact on serial procrastinators.
Participants who received group therapy saw a steady improvement in their behaviour that was maintained six moths after the treatment had finished.
Whilst all of the above are effective, there is no quick-fix to upping productivity. Bad working practises take time to let go and new routines require just as much time to imbed.
So start with this: imagine what you could do with those extra two hours. Learn a new language? Train for a marathon? Spend more time with your family?
Have more fun?
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