Everywhere we turn, from experts on the workplace to the person in the next cubicle, everyone is talking about how to be more efficient at work. We turn to apps to help us increase productivity, we install meditation and nap rooms in our offices, and we rearrange our workspaces to try to help people work their best, all to boost productivity and prevent burnout. But can we really hack our way to wasting less time?
Not according to the research. Every one of us, despite our best efforts, is still wasting far too much time during the workday, pushing our working hours later and later and forcing us to be “always on” even when we’re supposed to be taking time off.
In fact, recent studies show that two thirds of employees spend time on social media at work, and one in five waste an hour or more on Facebook alone each day! But the issue of wasted time at work isn’t just about social media use, chatting with coworkers, or completing personal tasks during the workday. We lose productivity and waste time when people spend more time managing their work than actually doing it.
A McKinsey report revealed that today’s workforce spends 61 percent of their time managing their work. Not completing important tasks or billing hours, but simply trying to keep their workload from spiraling out of control.
According to the report, “the average interaction worker spends an estimated 28 percent of the workweek managing email and nearly 20 percent looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.” That’s almost half of the workday just trying to figure out what needs to be done!
That’s just crazy. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
Our workday is a relic of the industrial age, the era from which we inherited our “9-to-5” mentality. Clocking in and out doesn’t guarantee you’ve gotten anything done, served your clients, or found creative solutions to important problems–the things we’re supposed to be spending our working hours doing. And longer days don’t help, either: the National Bureau of Economic Research found that shorter workdays actually help us get more done, because the more time we spend at work, the more we goof off.
If we’re wasting half or more of our time at work and still feeling overworked and burnt out [link to past blogs], we’re doing it wrong. And here at MatchPace, we’re working on how to do work right. While we don’t have all the answers (yet!), here are a few ideas to ponder as we strive to waste less time at work:
Learn how to really prioritize. How often do we waste time at work simply because we’re not sure where to start? We have overflowing inboxes to tackle, endless meetings to attend, and an unclear priority for the day. You read that right: priority, not priorities. By definition, priority is a singular concept, not plural. As one writer puts it, “Here is one way you can define priority: If you had access to all the tools, opportunities, time, and energy you needed, what’s the most important or time-sensitive thing you could do right now?” Try asking yourself this question each morning and see how determining your priority for the day can keep you focused.
Work less. It’s true - cutting back work hours actually makes the hours we do spend working much more productive. Studies show that when we gain back a few hours of our day to spend how we want, we are that much more focused while we’re at work, giving us the motivation we need to stop wasting time.
Our world needs us to work hard to solve the biggest problems facing us today. And our health, relationships and communities need us to work smarter so we can live well, too. Join us as we discover a new way to work, together.