Guest Post by Vanessa James, Technology Consultant at Confio.com (learn more about Vanessa at the end of this article):
In a busy office environment, it often becomes important to be able to complete several duties simultaneously. This leads to increased multitasking in the workplace. Women are often both praised and ridiculed for their ability to multitask. While it is not a specifically female trait, it does seem to be less common in men. There is an ongoing debate about the quality of work done while multitasking, but one thing is clear. Some tasks can be combined to improve efficiency.
In today’s technology-ridden world, our electronic devices seem to be able to multitask for us. There isn’t a cell phone in the world anymore without a calculator, calendar, and other useful tools. Most are mini-computers as well. We can perform almost any business function imaginable on a computer, making streamlining processes that much simpler. What’s more, when our machines multitask for us, no quality of productivity is lost. Here are some effective ways that you can combine tasks to maximize productivity and efficiency.
Keep Everything in One Place
One of the biggest time-consumers in a business is just looking for things. Whether it is files, information, or office supplies, being organized will save a ton of time. That’s right, if time could be weighed, you would save 2000 pounds of time just by being organized. Isn’t that a load off your shoulders? You should be walking much easier now, maybe even with a spring in your step.
There are many ways to become organized. First, make sure all of the programs you need are on one computer. You don’t want to have to search for the one computer in the building with Photoshop just so you can change the resolution of a photo. Making sure that all computers have network access is important as well. This way, everything is in one location, but can be accessed from any work computer. Once people get into the habit of saving things to the network, it will be much easier to locate documents.
Find a Program that Does Everything You Need
Today there are numerous databases and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that will keep track of anything your company needs. Accounts Payable, Orders, Payroll, and Project Management: you can store all of that information in one easily searchable database. Find a software program or storage system that does exactly what you need. Customization is the key to efficiency. Tailor your office management to your office; don’t use someone’s recycled system- it won’t take into account the quirks of your environment.
Combine Little Tasks
While multitasking is arguably counterproductive, you can organize your tasks in the order that is most efficient. Instead of interrupting larger tasks with little ones, bunch all of your little tasks into a group. Maybe you check your email every morning and then remember later to check your bank account. If you do these similar tasks one right after another instead of leaving your “internet browsing” mode, you will save time. Make sure that when you go to the office supplies closet, you grab anything you’ll need throughout the day so that you don’t have to make multiple trips.
Do Important Tasks First
We all have a little bit of a procrastinator inside us. Once you complete more difficult or important tasks, you lose the pressure of having that large task looming over you. It then becomes easier to do smaller jobs. This also forces you to prioritize, which will give you a new perspective and motivation to get what you need to do done.
These are just a few time management and organization strategies that will be useful for your company. Be sure to get feedback from employees about what is working and what needs to be refined. If everyone has a stake in how things run, they are likely to run more smoothly.
Guest Author: Vanessa James is a business technology consultant specializing in database management. She has a passion for sharing her knowledge with individuals and companies alike. She currently writes for a database performance company confio.com.
Paul H. Burton says
Venessa has made some excellent suggestions for getting more productivity out of each day. Before I take issue with one particular observation she made, let me offer these:
a. Keep Your Door Mostly (not totally) Closed: Open doors invite visitors. Closed doors invite nosy people. Mostly closed doors communication that (a) you’re in your office and (b) interruptions are only welcome if necessary.
b. Turn New Message Alerts (e-mail, text, etc.) Off and Check Inboxes Regularly. The distraction of the alert points your focus away from what you were doing. The recovery path can take as long as four seconds. If you’re getting even just 100 e-mails per day, that’s 400 seconds of “lost” productivity. Extrapolated out over a year, that’s 24 hours of lost work! Check your inboxes as regularly as necessary – 15, 30, 60 minutes – to stay on top of your inbound messages while gaining those 24 hours back of productivity in between.
c. Similar to “Do Important Tasks First” and Brian Tracy’s Eat The Frog notions, try Do Today’s One Thing. Nothing feels quite like crossing something off the list. Every morning, pick just one thing that WILL get done today. Not only will productivity go up, so will your sense of satisfaction.
Now, here’s my exception: multi-tasking is impossible. Whether you point to the January 2010 Stanford University study, read John Medina’s (a nationally recognized neuroscientist) brilliant book titled “Brain Rules,” or do the exercise in David Crenshaw’s book titled “The Myth of Multi-tasking,” the evidence is overwhelming that all human beings, regardless of gender, cannot multi-task. We’re just not wired for it. The true answer is to look for ways to quiet down your internal and external worlds to increase your focus. The more focused we are, the more productive we are. Simple math.
For more tips and tricks on how to achieve greater focus, check out my book titled “Focus Pocus – 24 Tricks for Regaining Command of Your Day” on Amazon at http://amzn.to/RhTRaF.