- Maintaining focus in today’s fast-paced world.
- The team maintains a comprehensive list of commitments and projects.
- Creating team norms for protected work time can boost productivity.
- Meet Kevin, Manager
- Inventory tasks and projects
- Clarify and curate communication channels
- Normalize saying no
- Boosting Meeting Productivity
- Promote Purposeful Productivity with 1:1 Check-Ins
- Formalize Focus with Team Norms
- Respect Boundaries and Lead by Example
- Building a Culture of Focus
Many people struggle with maintaining focus in today’s fast-paced world. Distractions, unrealistic expectations, and an influx of requests can decrease productivity. We surveyed 1,600 employees and managers.
The survey reveals that a staggering 60.6% of employees rarely engage in deep and focused work for even an hour a day. This statistic should be a concern for leaders, as it raises the question: Where is all the time, and money, going?
The data also showed that two out of three respondents struggle to concentrate on a single task at a time. Even when they manage to achieve some level of focus, one in three said they can only maintain it for 10 minutes or less.
The consequences of such unfocused behavior are far-reaching and severe. The respondents seem to be overwhelmed with stress which decreases their efficiency. Further leads to less fulfillment and disappointment as the greatest costs.
Meet Kevin, Manager
To illustrate this, let’s consider the example of Kevin, a high-performing product manager. Kevin’s day starts with checking his email on his phone as soon as he wakes up. That leaves him feeling overwhelmed as he can’t immediately address the emails.
Once he gets to the office, he’s immediately interrupted by Rajiv. The one who needs Kevin’s input on Q3 projections.
Despite being a quick task, it takes 45 minutes of his time. Kevin then tries to catch up on his emails. He responds to some quick ones for the dopamine hits they provide. But he puts off a large request for later, which creates a more hectic task.
Finally, Kevin gets to work on his project proposal, but 15 minutes later, he’s interrupted by Rita. And before he knows it, it’s already lunchtime. After lunch, he tries to return to his proposal, but his manager calls him into a working session with a client.
By the time he gets back to his proposal, it’s already 3 P.M, and he’s feeling drained and tired. He checks his emails again, responding to the morning and afternoon backlog. Then it’s time to head to his son’s soccer game.
Kevin realizes being busy all day, he hasn’t made much progress on his project proposal. Even during his son’s game, he’s distracted by thoughts of incomplete work. He is unable to be completely present with his family.
Unfortunately, Kevin’s experience is not an exception from the norm for many employees. The constant incoming distractions may be significant but still disrupt focus. It leads to burnout and disengagement in high-priority tasks. At the end of the day, employees may have been but have they been productive?
Inventory tasks and projects:
Ensure that your team maintains a comprehensive list of commitments and projects. Hold them accountable for keeping it up to date. Provide time for a weekly review to help them stay organized.
Clarify and curate communication channels:
Internal communication channels can become overwhelming. Define the purpose of each channel and set expectations for response times.
Normalize saying no:
Encourage psychological safety for employees to express their burnout in the workplace. Follow Leader Rich Sheridan, who rewards employees for speaking up about their bandwidth constraints. How cool it is to hear, right? Say no to low-priority work and dedicate their time to the most important tasks and projects.
Boosting Meeting Productivity:
Meetings often take up most of an employee’s workday, leaving little time for focused work. To improvise client meetings, allow employees to decline meetings lacking a clear agenda. Encourage employees to avoid not efficient meetings. Put the responsibility on the meeting creator to respect others’ time.
Promote Purposeful Productivity with 1:1 Check-Ins:
During weekly one-on-one check-ins with employees, avoid asking if they are “keeping busy.” Instead, inquire if they have the time and space to do the work they need or want to be doing. If the answer is no, work with them to address any gaps. These could involve helping them
- Rank their tasks
- Removing them from fringe projects
- Supporting them in blocking out calendar time for focused work.
- Identify and close any gaps that hinder employees from being productive.
Formalize Focus with Team Norms:
Creating team norms for protected work time can boost productivity. For example, consider Tuesday and Thursday afternoons as dedicated time for focused work. During these hours, allow no meetings and make aware of the team’s unavailability. Yet, it’s crucial to honor these norms and not schedule over them. It creates trust among team members and sets a positive example for others to follow.
Respect Boundaries and Lead by Example:
As a leader, it’s essential to respect your team’s boundaries. If employees are in focused work mode through their status on team chat tools or calendar, honor it. Avoid interrupting them unless it’s necessary. By respecting their protected time, you set the norm for others to do the same. Creating a culture that values focused work and productivity.
Building a Culture of Focus:
These practices build a culture where your team can focus on the work that matters. In a world full of distractions, leaders must understand. And support their team’s ability to focus on high-priority tasks. , and respecting boundaries. You can create a work environment fostering efficient engagement and productivity for everyone.
- Prioritize meaningful meetings
- Promoting purposeful productivity
- Formalizing focus through team norms
By implementing these strategies, leaders can create a work environment without distractions.