What’s Your Biggest Time Waster at Work (And How to Increase Productivity)

Content was originally published on Inc.com on February 16, 2017.

How to Increase Productivity

What’s Your Biggest Time Waster at Work?

What is your biggest productivity killer at work? Is it:
A. Phone calls?
B. Meetings?
C. Email?
D. Staff interruptions?

If you are anything like the 353 U.S. business owners my company Maui Mastermind surveyed you’re likely answer is “email” (57%), followed by either “phone calls” or “staff interruptions” (tied at 17% each).

Regardless of which of these four workplace productivity killers currently costs you the most, all of them can be minimized by using a powerful time tactic. This time tactic is simple to apply and will dramatically reduce these costly interruptions and keep yourself focused on the task at hand and on your most valuable activities.

How to Increase Productivity & Improve Focus

Create a Focus Day
A “Focus Day” is a specific day of the week where you carve out a 3-4 hour block of time in which to work on your highest value activities without interruption.

This could be sitting down to write up that key proposal you’ve been procrastinating on; or scheduling a top customer visit; or meeting with your leadership team to create your coming quarter’s 90-day action plan.

The key is that during your Focus Day you schedule out, far in advance, a definite appointment with yourself, blocked out on your calendar, and that you don’t stand yourself up.

For example, one of my business coaching clients Brian sets aside Tuesday’s as his Focus Day, blocking out 8-11am for his high value producing work.

I personally set aside Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays as my Focus Days (yes I feel taking three Focus Days each week best serves my company and helps me create the most value I can for my organization.) If you were to look at my Outlook calendar you’d see a recurring appointment I’ve set up called “Focus Day” from 8-12 on each of these days through the year 2020.

When you have a Focus Day, every non-Focus Day becomes a “Push Day”. Your Push Days are all the other days of the week that you use to just “push” your normal projects another step forward. Focus Days help you create long-term impact on your business; Push Days help you keep your day-to-day operations rolling forward.

Your Focus Day gives you a large block of time that you can rely on to be interruption free in the workplace.

Here are a few more suggestions to make this technique work for you learned by watching several hundred business coaching clients over the past decade apply this strategy in their business lives:

• Avoid the first or last day of your work week for your Focus Day. Too many urgencies need your attention on those days. So if you work Monday through Friday, avoid using Monday or Friday’s as your Focus Day to get an important task done. As a general rule you’ll find it easier to honor your Focus Day commitment if it comes midweek.

• Enlist your team’s help. Communicate your need for help to your staff so they understand both what you are doing and how it will help the business succeed. When your team understands how important Focus Days are to the company’s ability to achieve its goals, they will rally to support that effort.

With employee engagement in mind, consider suggesting your key team members to take their own Focus Day too. You’ll quickly see the positive increase in production this will bring.

• Control your work environment. Get out of your office (or remote work environment) and away from distractions. Interestingly enough, productivity expert Gloria Marks, a professor at the University of Irvine, California, shared in an interview with Fast Company that one of her keys to getting focus time was to stay out of the office. “I stay home,” she shared, explaining that it is the best way for her to avoid a steady stream of interruptions. Maybe you can’t stay home, but during your focus time could you work from a quiet conference room? How about a local café? I often head to the lobby of a nice hotel here where I live in Jackson Hole Wyoming. The remote work environment can offer many benefits and offer productivity increase, but be sure to continue employee engagement!

Bring only the key project(s) you want to work on for your Focus Day. One component of willpower is controlling your environment to best support you. Leave the other work and distractions behind. That way, you couldn’t work on them even if you wanted to.

• Focus on creating value. Remember that Focus Days aren’t about being off by yourself—they are about focusing on your top value producing activities that truly create results for your company. For many people this can mean meetings, phone calls, or critical e-mail. It’s not time off or time away from the hard work; the key distinction is that on your Focus Day you are primarily doing your value producing activities.

More Ways to Boost Your Overall Productivity

Productivity tips

Limit your social media activity in the work environment. Social media can be a major positive for your business and marketing efforts, but you must use it effectively or it can become a distraction and productivity killer.

If you enjoyed the ideas I shared on productivity, then I encourage you to download a free copy of my newest book, Build a Business, Not a Job. Click here for full details and to get your complimentary copy.

Productivity tools

Download a productivity app like Pomodoro, which will boost your productivity level significantly. Many productive people use this method to focus on a single task for a 25 minute timeframe. This productivity hack eliminates distractions during working hours and helps boost overall productivity.

Business David is a Wall Street Journal and Business Week bestselling author of 11 business and financial books. A syndicated columnist for Inc.com and HuffingtonPost.com, David’s articles have appeared in over 6,500 publications. As the founder and CEO of Maui Mastermind®, David has worked with 100,000+ business coaching clients and community members to buy, build, and sell over $5 billion of businesses.