The Unconventional Guide to Fighting Time Killers
Some days, the pile of tasks on your desk doesn’t seem to shrink, even a tiny bit. And you may start to wonder, “Why is that? That draft for the new campaign should have been done 2 days ago. And I still haven’t gotten around to finishing that email I wanted to send yesterday.”
The answer may be found in a lack of productivity. I will present you with the biggest killers of time and concentration in ad agencies (or at almost any office, for that matter). And of course, I’ll offer some tips and tricks (e.g., proper feedback tools) to get past them.
Let’s start with the obvious. Very easily during your work day, your coworkers can turn from helping hands into time killers. In that sense, that annoying colleague who always bothers you with the simplest questions is just as bad as the clown on your team who keeps cracking one joke after the other.
Of course, asking questions is an important part of keeping the business workflow on pace, and humor mustn’t be banned from the office. But sometimes, you must stay focused to get actual work done. A good way to keep your productivity in check is to save unnecessary chitter-chatter and banter for your regular breaks.
The Office Itself
Sometimes, your office’s interior design can create problems. Both extremes—cubicle mazes and super-spacious open-plan offices—bring a lot of issues to the table.
The “working cube” is a nice way to protect yourself from noisy coworkers and prevent unnecessary chatter. However, a cubicle’s silencing walls hinder work-related conversations. No more quickly asking a short question, which could have been answered in less than 3 sentences. Instead, you probably start looking for an answer yourself or ask via email. Both options are highly inefficient, compared to a quick verbal question, such as: “Hey Maggy, can you help me out here?”
On the other hand, a too-spacious open room can decisively disrupt your workflow. There is constant chitter-chatter from your coworkers, and distractions are everywhere. Even your colleague at the other end of the room leaving to go to the lavatory can break your concentration. Losing track of what you are doing every couple of seconds consumes a lot of time, so make sure that you have a refuge of silence. If there are no separate rooms you can retreat to, consider talking with your boss about this issue. Maybe you can figure out a solution together.
Another thing to note is the availability of beverages and restrooms. If your way from your workplace to the break room or lavatory takes too long, you might forget what you have been doing by the time you get back.
Lots of papers?
The way your office organizes working processes is the defining basis for productivity. Putting obvious problems like too little organization aside, there are still a lot of problems to face. One such thing is something best-described as over-organizing.
You and your coworkers need space to breathe and assess your work. When constrained by an overly strict schedule, rushed projects can make you anxious. Creativity needs space to evolve and grow.
Multitasking is another silent time killer. You’ve probably already heard this more than once, but please don’t multitask! Studies show that multitasking actually slows your overall progress on tasks and kills your productivity (e.g., see this study of the APA).
The last problem I want to present in this section is the menacing gloom of your email inbox. Ping. New mail. Of course, you check it. You gotta check it. In the chaos of the everyday workflow, the potential lies for an infinite amount of emails So checking your email every couple of minutes will distract you and slow you down.
Rather, you should learn to schedule time blocks exclusively for emailing. That way, you can focus on your tasks at hand and not get cluttered by ever-new inquiries.
Actually, this tip is very suited for every part of your daily workflow. Maintaining set times for activities will help you both free your mind and keep your priorities in focus. That’s fertile soil for creative ideas to grow and bloom.
Although both are part of your workflow, I want to separately mention feedback and review processes. Changing your in-house workflow process is rather easy. Setting up new rules and courtesies can do a lot here, and the same goes for reviews in your office.
However, one tough issue is remote interaction with coworkers in another office or country, as well as with customers. How do you manage to get feedback on creative projects when you and the reviewer are not in the same room?
The constant back-and-forth of emails is the most common way to tackle this problem. Sadly, it’s probably also the most inefficient, frustrating way. How can you express feedback about a picture without pointing with the finger? Do you really have to write down an exact time-mark in a video to communicate which scene you find troubling?
This kind of practice is prone to misunderstandings, and honestly, it’s not reasonable. So much of your productivity and time just run down the drain when you have to keep changing your project, as well as focusing on understanding exactly what you have to change.
Luckily, there are many software solutions to help you out: feedback tools, video review tools, PDF annotation tools… You name it. Finding the right one is not easy, so consider using this handy guide we’ve compiled.
The best way to find a tool that suits your special needs is to try it out. So keep an eye out for software with free trials! For example, Filestage is a sleek tool that lets you manage reviews on pictures, videos, music, and PDFs with ease. Reviewers can just mark a part of your picture or a detail in a video clip, a spike in your sound data, or a passage in your text—then leave a comment. You can try it out here.
There’s no doubt that puppy pictures and cat videos are nice. But is your office really the right place to admire them? You have to face it: Sometimes, you only have yourself to blame for low productivity.
Regarding bad office habits, the prime suspects are smoking, snacking, texting, and web-surfing.
It’s important to maintain your concentration while working. Keep your private web sessions at home. The same goes for texting and social media. You don’t have to pull out your smartphone every minute, do you? Do you really need that cookie or cigarette right now?
I know it’s hard, but staying focused on your work (instead of getting up every couple of minutes) will help you stay productive, which is much more satisfying at the end of the day.
On the other hand, staying in front of your screen for the entire day is just as bad as strolling around constantly.
To keep your spirits fresh, it’s important to leave your desk and take a walk. Be sensible about it, though. Don’t interrupt yourself when you’re in a state of flow.
As you can see, there are a lot of tricks to help you get your work done on time. It’s important to find your personal time killers. So monitor your time-effectiveness, and keep an eye on your day-to-day work.
Then, to find the ones that help you the best, try out some of the tips I showed you. In the end, you have nothing to lose, and so much productivity to gain!