A quick check of Facebook and next thing you know, a half-hour’s passed. Start chatting with a co-worker and suddenly 20 minutes is gone and the report you were supposed to finish by lunch is late.
Workplace distractions are everywhere, especially in an age of social media and open-plan offices. In the face of so much temptation, accomplishing what you’re paid to do can be tough.
Tough, but not impossible. To find out more, I asked successful professionals from various walks of life for their secrets to staying productive and getting things done at work. Here’s what they said:
Christopher Kim, an earth and environmental sciences professor at Chapman University, prioritizes his to-do list using efficiency expert Stephen Covey’s time-management system. Kim assigns tasks to one of four quadrants based on how urgent and important they are, from “Urgent and Important” to “Not Urgent and Not Important.” He keeps his quadrant to-do list on a piece of paper in front of his laptop stand at all times.
Vanessa Scarbo, human resources and operations director at Irvine, California-based Burnham Benefits Insurance Services, likes to get a head start on hers. “Before I leave the office for the day, I have started the to-do list for the next, rolling over items that didn’t get completed or require follow-up,” she says.
“Ideally, by the end of the day, I have completed more A and B tasks than C,” Dyer says.
Lana Rushing, founder of Rushing PR in Los Angeles, tackles tough assignments early in the day, “with a coffee in hand if I can.”
At Burnham Benefits, Scarbo keeps Microsoft Outlook open to her task list, not to her email inbox, so she’s not constantly checking for messages.
Ries, the Los Angeles lawyer, sets aside time at lunch and in late afternoon to shop online, check Facebook or email her assistant an errand list. “As anyone who works long hours can attest, attending to personal matters at work is unavoidable, and the mental break is necessary,” she says.
Kim, the Chapman professor, keeps a refillable stainless steel water bottle at his desk and refills it throughout the day. “It gets me out of my office periodically to the filtered water bottle refill station one floor up, keeps me well hydrated, and has me moving around enough to ward off sleepiness during those down times.”
Michelle V. Rafter writes for The Orange County Register.