Posted August 02, 2013 by

6 Reasons You Can’t Get Anything Done at Work

Harrison Monarth

Harrison Monarth, Salary.com contributing writer

You know the feeling when you look at the clock and suddenly it’s 5 p.m. and your to-do list is barely touched. Thanks to multiple meetings, an email inbox with an endless supply of new requests and information, and shifting project deadlines that demand juggling, it’s no wonder that many of us reach the end of the day the way an exhausted runner approaches the finish line: spent.

Even when you think you’re buckling down, chances are you’re not as productive as you could be. Taking a quick break for coffee or fresh air is one thing. However, a mental shift to scouring the Web for those cute cat videos or funny memes and keeping up with personal social networks cuts into productivity, costing businesses about $1.1 billion a week according to business liability insurance company BOLT.

There’s a mental cost to distractions, too. Although taking on more than one thing at a time may appear to be the most productive way to tackle a packed workload, studies show multitasking may not be the most effective way to get everything done. For instance, that glance at your phone is enough to send your train of thought off the rails, according to new research showing that a three-second distraction can double the number of mistakes people make.

6. Your Head Isn’t in the Game

You’ve heard this in sports, where athletes have a single-minded focus to score. The clock is ticking as they are hunkered down, shifting from foot to foot, fingers itching to make the next play that will clinch a victory. To start being more productive, you need to adopt that stance: head down.

Need some inspiration to assume the position? In his now-famous Last Lecture, Carnegie Mellon professor and alumnus Randy Pausch delivers a one-two punch that’s certainly a life lesson, but good advice for your career as well: “You can always make more money, but you’ll never get your time back.”

Chewing on this statement may help when distractions abound. And finishing projects promptly and well may also increase the chances that your career will advance when others take notice of your accomplishments.

5. You’re Not Maintaining Dedicated Focus

To be most productive (and less stressed at work), dedicated focus is required. That means starting with a clean slate and a blank schedule. Taking a page from Warren Buffett’s playbook may not net you cool $53 billion but in a recent interview, the octogenarian CEO stated that he’s cultivated a mindset of comfort around saying no –especially to productivity-draining meetings. “You’ve got to keep control of your time,” Buffett said, “and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.”

Saying no shouldn’t be haphazard, though. It’s important to take stock of your commitments and the goals you have for the coming days and weeks. Still at a loss (and squirming to check your phone)? It helps to look back at your calendar and analyze where you’ve invested your time in the previous week to see where you’ve spent the majority of it. Start a log of how you spend your time. Like a food diary, it needs to include snacks –on email, texting, and social media, too. Then, schedule a sit-down with yourself at least once a week to give it all a once-over and make adjustments accordingly.

4. You Don’t Have Distraction-free Zones

Finding a distraction-free zone is tantamount to keeping focus as you work. This may involve taking a few laps around the office to locate a space that allows you to tuck yourself away for an hour, out of the sights of supervisors and co-workers who can’t resist leaning over to ask a question, pull you into an impromptu brainstorming session or simply to shoot the breeze about the latest episode of Big Bang Theory.

If you work from home, designate your lair off-limits to roommates, partners, and children. The kids may squawk loudly, but they’ll eventually understand that a closed door is a boundary that’s not to be crossed while Daddy or Mommy is working. Should the din be too distracting, consider a local cafe or co-working space that removes you from the fray.  Continue reading . . .

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