Avoid the Productivity Suckers: 5 Tips for Workplace Efficiency

Productivity suckers—every company has them. These are the workers that always seem busy but never really seem to get any actual work done.

Elliot Markowitz

February 26, 2014

3 Min Read
time waste

Productivity suckers—every company has them. These are the workers that always seem busy but never really seem to get any actual work done. Instead, they create fire drills, call for unnecessary and often last-minute meetings, bombard everyone with emails and are usually agitated all the time.

It’s easy to fall into their trap and before you know it the day is gone and you never got any of your planned work done. However, there are ways to avoid getting caught up in the other people’s productivity-draining habits simply by following some best practices of your own.

Fewer meetings/more actual work: There are far too many unnecessary meetings in every company. While bringing departments together to make sure workflow, processes and responsibilities are ironed out, many times mangers put in place standard weekly meetings to get status updates. In many cases, these meetings get nothing accomplished because nothing has really changed from the last get-together. Avoid weekly meetings unless your department is working on projects that are in constant flux and need input from other members of the organizations. Also, avoid feeling compelled to be in on every meeting. Unless it is pertinent to your specific business or department, sometimes it’s better to skip the meeting and read the memo instead.

Create action items: Perhaps even more annoying than unnecessary meetings are those that don’t resolve anything. Every meeting should have a purpose that results in action items at the end. The meeting organizer should not end the meeting with open-ended issues. Everyone who attended the meeting should know what is expected of them when it is over. Develop a list of action items at the end of every meeting. If there aren’t any, than you probably didn’t need the meeting to begin with.

Use email etiquette: Email is by far the biggest waste of time in the workforce. Don’t contribute to the problem. Use the “to” line for those that email is intended for and need to act. Use the “cc” line for those that just need to be acutely aware of what is going on. Once the email chain begins and develops into a conversation, take everyone but the “to” people off. Also, use the “subject” field to be as specific as possible. If the conversation changes over email, which it often does, change the subject line.

Pick up the phone: it’s easy to hide behind a desk and computer and avoid actually talking to anyone anymore. Far too many people go back and forth on email hashing out a problem. Here's a good rule of thumb: If the situation is not resolved after three emails, pick up the phone. In most cases issues can be solved with a simple five-minute phone call. Waiting for responses and continuing a dialogue after three email communications becomes a waste of everyone’s time.

Set aside quiet time: Even if you do all of the four things above, the time-suckers in your company will find you—thanks in large part to “calendar sharing.” If you have certain tasks that you need get accomplished, block out time in your calendar to do so. That way when someone looks at your availability without directly contacting you first, they see you are busy. Also, turn off your cell phone and put your office phone on “do not disturb” if possible. Setting aside quiet time without interruption in today’s always on digital age is a challenge. If you don’t put up boundaries, there won’t be any.

Productivity suckers won't ruin your productivity if you don't let them. Follow these five simple best practices and you'll find yourself immune to their actions.

About the Author(s)

Elliot Markowitz

Elliot Markowitz is a veteran in channel publishing. He served as an editor at CRN for 11 years, was editorial director of webcasts and events at Ziff Davis, and also built the webcast group as editorial director at Nielsen Business Media. He's served in senior leadership roles across several channel brands.

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