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How to Be Less “Busy”—and More Productive

Week after week speeds by in a blur. Your life revolves around meetings. You can’t remember the last time you had half a day of 100% uninterrupted work time.

Every day, workers put up with constant interruptions. Yet, most of us know we need sustained focus to create value. You might not know the exact numbers, but it takes 23 minutes to regain focus after you’re interrupted. In addition, co-workers interrupt you every 20 minutes. Together these numbers mean that, for many people, it’s actually impossible to do any kind of deep work during the workday!

The good news is that managers around the world are starting to see this problem, which has worsened in recent decades. That means it’s now easier to talk to your boss and colleagues about becoming more productive by limiting interruptions.

That said, you need a concrete plan if you want to succeed. With a few simple habits, it is possible to reduce the impact of interruptions and unleash productivity.

Say “no” to meetings that you don’t really need to be at.

In almost every meeting, someone is multi-tasking. You’ve probably done it—but you weren’t trying to be rude. You simply understood that you were in a low-impact meeting, and your time was better spent getting things done. It is not rude to say “no” to a meeting that you don’t really need to be at. What’s rude is pressuring someone to attend a meeting that they don’t need to be at. To ease the fear of missing out (FOMO) associated with missing meetings, meeting recordings are available. This way, someone who didn’t attend the meeting can easily refer back for key points if needed.

Block off at least one half-day per week for uninterrupted work.

Treat this like a scheduled meeting—in fact, book this time on your calendar!  You are “unavailable” during this time. As we saw above, you probably don’t have more than 20 minutes of uninterrupted time during any given week right now. Raising that to four hours per week will make a noticable and productive difference.

Take 15 minutes on Friday to schedule out your top 3 priorities for next week.

When you’re getting into the office on Monday morning and racing to answer emails and write your to-do lists, you might already feel like you are falling behind. You can save yourself a lot of stress by identifying next week’s top three priorities on Friday and putting those tasks on the calendar before the weekend.

There’s no time like the present.

Now is the time to start getting more. If you’re a manager or CEO, consider doing a company-wide webcast on this topic to help create a culture that encourages these simple, but productive habits.

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