In today’s world of blurred personal and professional boundaries, it has become harder for employees to remain focused and productive – especially during the holidays. Many employees report feeling overwhelmed at work, with a whopping 55% of their workday being spent on personal tasks.
In this exclusive interview for Examiner readers, Laura Stack, The Productivity Pro®, provides essential and timely tips on office/personal productivity and time management during the holiday season. Laura is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and 25-year authority on workplace performance. Her newest book, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time, will be released in January 2016.
Maisha Cannon: What have you found are primary distractions for employees around the holidays?
Laura Stack: The holidays are abundant with distractions. Many businesses are attempting to wrap up programs by year’s end while also thinking ahead to the New Year.
On top of that, many people are distracted with personal to-do lists including holiday shopping, travel plans, and more. It’s often tempting to handle personal business at work instead of working – also known as homing from work.
MC: What are some simple steps you’d recommend to help stay focused and productive in the office?
LS: First, hit pause on email.Rethink the urge to check email constantly at the office. It can take up to 25 minutes to refocus on a task after being distracted by email according to a study by the University of California, Irvine. Turn off notifications/alerts and set designated times to check email throughout the day.
Second, designate a place for distractions.It can be tempting to reach for your phone throughout the day, but it’s a serious productivity-killer! Tuck your personal phone and other devices out of sight and turn off notifications. If you need to handle something personal, allow yourself time to step away from your desk to make doctor’s appointments and playdates for the kids.
Third, clear the clutter. Year-end is an excellent time to purge. Clear out old documents – mail, files, or unneeded/outdated paperwork. Shred papers, especially if they’ve already been digitized. For even more efficiency, use an automatic shredder like the Fellowes AutoMax 200C, which has a handy Auto-Reverse feature that stops and reverses paper if a jam occurs.
MC: How can employees or budding entrepreneurs stay productive during the busy holiday season?
LS: I recommend using up-to-date office equipment and the latest software. These items are worth the investment in the long-run. Take advantage of free productivity apps. I love using Evernote in conjunction with my Livescribe Smartpen. You can sync content from the cloud to your desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone.
MC: What other free or low-cost resources are helpful for managing work/life schedules?
LS: Keep track of your holiday plans, including plane, hotel, directions, and ground transportation using TripIt as your personal organization system. Access the details of your trips from your phone while you’re walking through the airport.
Using TouchDown by Symantec in conjunction with Microsoft Outlook, I can access my email, calendar, contacts, and tasks with one click.
Yelp makes holiday travel much more fun. I feel much more comfortable knowing I’m eating somewhere that locals and other visitors have enjoyed. Candid reviews help you decide where to eat/shop in unfamiliar cities. Simply enable GPS, and Yelp will tell you what’s nearby and allow you to preview menus, rankings, prices, photos and more.
MC: What is your background and why are you so passionate about productivity?
LS: I grew up in Colorado Springs, CO, with my father who is now a retired Air Force Colonel. He taught me so many things, among them – discipline, order, structure, and preparation. I still use those principles as a foundation for my work today. With the right tools your holiday season can be highly productive and stress-free. Visit TheProductivityPro.com and Fellowes.com for more information.
FREE GIFT: Sign up for Laura’s Six-Day Productivity eCourse at no cost. Happy Holidays!