5 better ways to protect your time from distractions

Ever come to the end of a week and ask “Where has all the time gone?” Well, it turns out you’re not alone.

Building a platform to help busy professionals manage their schedules more efficiently, my startup recently published a trend report of more than 2,000 professionals to analyze how they prioritize and free up time for focused work. We found that only 12.4% of individual contributors spend more than 6 hours a day on their task, and only about half of that time is actually spent on “productive” work.

Today, managers struggle to improve productivity and protect time for their teams: on average, they rated their ability to minimize distractions and interruptions for their teams as just 5.3 out of 10.

As the founder of a company that has been frantically tackling the problem of how we intelligently manage and defend our time for the past three years, I have some strong opinions about what employers should be doing to improve this.

Here are my top five tips for giving your teams superpowers for their workweeks to make your people happier, more productive and more focused.

1. Reduce the noise

One of the most shocking findings in our report was the sheer number of times knowledge workers reported being disturbed on a daily basis. On average, employees reported being interrupted 31.6 times a day. This means that on an 8-hour working day, your employees are interrupted from their core work about four times an hour.

It’s not just about the interruptions themselves. Switching context comes at a fair price, and it prevents your team from getting into a productive flow.

Two ways to reduce that notification fatigue:

Be smart about status. With tools like Slack, your status is a signal to your colleagues that invites interruption. Being smart about setting Do Not Disturb at strategic points throughout the day — or better yet, automatically syncing your status to your calendar — is a great way to keep those pings and dings from ruining your focus. Group distraction: Apple engineers have made great strides to reduce notification fatigue by introducing features that let you set time ranges for notifications, and more recently they’ve introduced notification digests that group notifications into a single burst so they don’t break up your day . This act of grouping your notification checks has been shown to be better for your mental well-being.

2. Be realistic about your available time

Estimation is a controversial topic. Ask any tech team how they make estimates, and you’ll probably get about 10 different answers, including “We don’t.” There’s good reason to be skeptical about estimates, as our ability to estimate how long tasks will take is notoriously terrible. That said, there are only so many hours in the week, and with meetings averaging more than half the work week, I guess. I strongly believe that teams need to embrace some form of capacity planning or at least recognize their true ability to fit all things into their schedule to be realistic.

This does not mean that every minute of the day is accounted for. But a coarse-grained gut check — ideally by looking at the team’s actual calendars — can go a long way toward sanity. It also helps to relentlessly prioritize the things that really matter.

3. Set the most important collaboration hours

Every team has too many meetings. Reducing it may feel like a slap, but it doesn’t have to be; an alternative method is to simply limit the capacity on the meeting schedule altogether.

In the new world, this is known as “core collaboration hours”: a window (usually four hours or less a day) where people are expected to be online and where meetings can take place. Outside of those hours, there is no expectation that anyone will attend or schedule meetings.

Using core hours has two major advantages: first, it limits the total space where meetings can be scheduled. Second, it provides greater flexibility across the team, giving people the space they need to find work-life balance.

4. Embrace the benefits of automation

There are many policies we can use to make employees and teams more productive, but there is also a very real technology barrier: the systems we use to manage our time don’t know what’s important to us, that is, those under us without a full time assistant have to do our own stunts.

Giving your team tools to do things like automate their status messages in Zoom or Slack, dynamically block the time for their tasks, or even just sync their personal events to their work calendar so they don’t get overbooked can make a huge difference. It allows them to focus on doing their best work instead of the toil of managing their schedule.

5† Bring balance to your calendar

It is important to recognize that we all work in strange times. There’s a new set of modalities that we’ve all had to embrace when working from home, and a new kind of flexibility that’s needed to give us work-life balance. This is not just me who is sensitive; there is evidence that happy employees are simply more productive.

By reducing notification fatigue, being honest about the time it takes to get the important things done, identifying essential “online” hours, and giving your teams the tools they need to automatically defend and manage their time , you can give them the balance they so desperately need. They will be happier, more focused and more productive, which ultimately means better results for everyone.

Henry Shapiro is the co-founder of reclaim.ai, a smart calendar management tool. Prior to Reclaim, Henry was the VP of product at New Relic, where he worked on acquiring new customers and developing new products.

This post 5 better ways to protect your time from distractions was original published at “https://www.fastcompany.com/90735639/5-clever-hacks-to-better-defend-your-time?partner=rss&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=rss+fastcompany&utm_content=rss”

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