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What’s Robbing Your Productivity at Work?

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All of us could be more productive at the office. But what are the culprits leading to poor performance? And can we do anything about them?

In an op-ed piece, Sylvia Hepler notes there are productivity robbers we must constrain. She writes:

Handling the same item over and over produces anxiety. As the pressure builds, physical and mental health issues may develop. Here’s a fact: If you don’t feel well, can’t find things, and fail to deliver, your professional relationships suffer. For most people, that’s a serious problem.

That’s all stuff that still likely sound familiar. We know that stress leads to health concerns. Consider the amount of time we waste searching for misplaced items. If we can’t deal with what’s in front of us, the consequences are significant.

Productivity Robbers

© Flickr user Ian Sane

Hepler points out several issues that prevent us from being effective at our job. One in particular relates to power dynamics:

Making yourself accessible to staff 24/7? Acquiescing to countless interruptions? Putting your own needs on hold? These are choices that steal your power. Adjust your open door policy.

There’s plenty there we find familiar. Here on The Methodology Blog, we have noted that interruptions are a cause of overwork. When people or systems get in the way of what you are doing needlessly, it’s hard to be productive.

Interruptions, however, are usually a sign of a much deeper problem. When people want your attention right now, it often means that they aren’t thinking about what else you have to do. If I feel I have the right to knock on your door and ask you a question, it means I think my request is more urgent than anything you could possibly be doing.

That’s not just someone being insensitive. That’s a cultural problem. The opinion piece continues:

A culture makeover may be in order. If you’re the boss, ask your employees what they need most to do their best work with less stress. If you’re caught in the middle and have no authority, do your part to improve conversations, meeting content, and strategies wherever you are. Even a tiny pebble tossed into a stream alters the current.

This is advice in two parts:

  • If you have authority, use that authority to ask questions – The worst thing you can do in any environment is use the power you have to force other people to change. Instead, with that capacity comes the responsibility to include others in the process.
  • If you don’t have authority, act as if you are respected. You may not be able to make decisions, but you can certainly express opinions. Step up, speak out, and make sure that progress happens.

Or, as Hepler concludes:

As your value at work increases, you feel happier and more in control. You get to shine. It starts with a choice.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


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