‘Ding!’ – another email! That inevitably means yet more time lost to reading, replying, forwarding and then doing the same again as the inbox continually fills up.
But, we do it, don’t we? Every single time that message klaxon sounds.
Technology is, undoubtedly, an incredibly exciting part of modern day life. We’ve become so accustomed to devices and apps that help us do everything from remembering where we parked the car to finding a suitably-located restaurant for the night that their benefit is easily overlooked.
Unfortunately, this reliance on the digital realm brings with it one or two problems, too.
For all its brilliance, modern technology can be incredibly time-consuming and highly distracting. A case in point: if our smartphone speaker emits a notification sound, few of us can stop ourselves from immediately retrieving the device in order to find out what it’s signalling.
A lottery win, perhaps? An email from a long-lost friend? Confirmation of that sale for which you’ve spent the last three months pitching?
No – just a note to say that Aunt Sally liked your holiday photos on Facebook.
Such interruptions may seem minor and relatively few in number, but add up every notification, email check and browse of a social feed across the course of a week and it’s clear technology is doing its level best to prevent you from being productive.
In this post, we’ve picked out some classic examples of technology hindering productivity.
We’ll start with the most obvious. Email remains an absolutely brilliant way to communicate. It replaced letter writing some time ago and still beats instant messaging platforms hands-down when it comes to offering considered responses to questions and complaints.
Unfortunately, email is also grossly misused, and we’ve all been guilty of it. Email isn’t – and never has been – a method by which to reach people quickly. Think about the form of communication it replaced – letter writing; if the postman entered your office every five minutes and demanded that you open and respond to every single letter, would you?
If the answer to that is an inevitable “no”, consider how many times you check and interact with your email inbox every day. If you have notifications turned on, it’s likely you’ll do so every time a new message arrives.
Over the course of a day, the time spent dealing with email can be colossal and will prevent you from getting the serious stuff done. Thankfully, we can all prevent ourselves from falling into this particular trap.
Email should never be considered a method by which people can grab your attention. If something is urgent, there’s the phone (or a face-to-face chat), but if the topic in question doesn’t require an immediate response, email reigns king of the communication jungle.
If you turn off email notifications and force yourself to only check your inbox two or three times per day, this form of communication will no longer rule your working life and will give you back vital time that could be spent being productive.
A relatively new distraction, the rise of social media and its prevalence among generations of all kinds has turned it into a productivity killer. This is principally down to the ease with which it can be accessed on virtually any device.
It’s also fair to assume that the majority of smartphone notifications pertain to social media interaction, be it sharing, ‘liking’ or the addition of new friends and connections.
This makes social media a tricky distraction to overcome. For many people, it’s an intrinsic part of every day life and a digital realm within which they spend vast swathes of their time. Dropping the social media habit in the workplace is therefore harder than you may think.
Banning social media entirely from the office isn’t the best of strategies and is only likely to anger a significant percentage of employees, but treating it as you would email can have surprisingly positive results.
Again – turn off notifications and allot specific times for social media interaction (sometimes, it’s a nice distraction, after all).
Poor IT systems
This digital distraction is less obvious, and is certainly more of a silent productivity killer than social media and email.
If a business is operating a failing or poorly-managed IT system, it can relentlessly steal time from the workforce. Waiting for applications to load, continually rebooting after system freezes and cursing the inability to conduct modern tasks are all tell-tale signs that the tech within an organisation needs to be addressed.
Consider the sales person who works remotely from home, but who must connect via screen sharing software in order to access their email and company document store. The time it takes to connect (and re-connect when communication fails) and the inherent lag induced by such a system will have a tangible, negative effect on their productivity.
Thankfully, solutions to poor IT systems no longer require deep pockets and weeks of implementation. Cloud services and light-weight apps are replacing cumbersome enterprise-level software and for good reason. They enable workforces to be dynamic and operate without continually navigating roadblocks and ensure those working remotely can do so unhindered. Whichever way you look at it, that equals increase productivity.
Apple, Microsoft and numerous other manufacturers of hardware and software products adopt consistent release schedules. This usually results in a new device or significant operating system update arriving every twelve months, if not sooner, and the desire to upgrade can be too tempting to ignore for many.
Unfortunately, adopting new technology at launch is a risky affair in business. With manufacturers pushing new boundaries and – let’s be honest – often using public launches as sneaky beta tests for new features, its inevitable something is going to go wrong at some stage.
Always follow the golden rule: if it works and enables you to get your work done in a timely fashion – stick with it (no matter how much you want ‘the new thing’).
If someone stripped technology out of our working lives entirely, business would falter – quickly. We therefore can’t live without it, but becoming too dependent on tech is very risky, as we hope we’ve demonstrated in this post.
If you can avoid jumping on the latest bandwagon and force yourself to only check the elements of your digital world periodically, technology won’t hinder your productivity.
We’re not suggesting any of this is easy, but if you follow the tips contained within this post, you’ll be amazed by how much time you can reclaim.