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How to Be Productive and Be Heard in Today’s Workplace

As technology adds distractions and shortens attention spans in the workplace, effective time management and communication skills are at a premium. We asked the experts about the keys to improving and getting the most out of these abilities in today’s office.

Julie Morgenstern

Author, “Organizing from the Inside Out”

What type of organizational products should employees have to ensure they are properly managing their time?

There are many options available for keeping track of to-do lists and organizing your time. So many choices, in fact, it can be overwhelming. 

The key is to find the one that works best for you — one that allows you to set and keep positive habits, and does not further complicate or add more chaos to your day. For some, that is a digital calendar; for some, it may be something you keep on paper. 

A paper option might be best if you tend to remember where on a page you wrote something, find your thinking flows easiest from paper to pen, and find physically writing things down helps you remember them.

You might opt for a digital option if you find your thinking flows easily from fingers to keyboard, you are more likely to do a word search for a name or number than try to remember where you wrote something, and you are digitally inclined and able to look at one screen and imagine the greater context.

The key is to select one system, as scattering to-dos among multiple systems prevents proper prioritization, causes things to fall through the cracks, and wastes time rewriting and searching. 

Once you select your best tool, focusing on an “intelligent to-do list” is critical to smart time management. This means, in addition to using a single, consistent system, making sure that system captures everything you need to do, and that the to-dos included are actionable. 

Another important element of staying productive and organized is to spend a bit of time each day planning for the following day, plus two. This means you look ahead at your to-do list and other calendar items for several days in advance to make sure you are prepared and are truly making the most of your time. 

Using smart tools is another way to improve your time management. My favorite time management tool is the alarm app on your smartphone. You can use it to stay on track for the day – not just for wakeup and bedtime, but also for when to check email, when to leave for meetings, and when to put your head down to focus on high-level thinking work.  

Why is time management so important in the workplace? 

A recent U.K. study found the average office worker is productive for an average of just 2 hours and 54 minutes out of a standard eight-hour work day. This is obviously critical. 

If you’re allowing more than half of the day to clip by due to distractions, interruptions, disorganization, and a variety of other factors, it is inevitable that you will end up stuck at the end of your day, or be up against the weekend, which means work can flow into your leisure time. 

Managing our time well in the workplace is crucial and can, in fact, be life-changing. When we manage our time on the job, we are able to get important tasks accomplished at the optimal time, increasing our focus, creativity, productivity. This, in turn, frees us to also spend time focusing on other areas of our lives, including passions, hobbies, and personal relationships. 

Having a fulfilled life outside of work is extremely beneficial and makes us better at our jobs. And feeling accomplished, successful, and like a true contributor at work has a positive impact on our lives when we leave the office. 

What is the real cost of poor time management?

The modern workplace can be a hotbed of distraction and inefficiencies, many of which go unnoticed and can truly hamper productivity and employee satisfaction. As mentioned before, poor time management during the work day often means work has to bleed into the evening and weekend hours, which can lead to burnout, resentment of the job, reduced creativity, and more. 

On the other hand, good time management is incredibly beneficial. Just three weeks after one of my recent productivity workshops, employees reported a 22 percent increase in time to think and focus on concentrated work, a 14 percent improvement in tracking and completing daily to-dos, a drastic reduction in the number of hours spent procrastinating and checking email, and an improved ability to let go of low-priority items without guilt. 

The overall result: 93 percent of participants felt an increased sense of control and productivity, 80 percent reported feeling more satisfied and happier working in their jobs, and 73 percent felt more confident in their abilities to balance their personal and professional responsibilities. 

Those employees are now taking 28 percent less work home at night and on the weekends, and working an average of 2 hours less per week. This is a win-win-win for the individual employees, their team, and their company.

Brant Pinvidic

Producer, Documentary Filmmaker, “Why I’m Not on Facebook” and “Why I’m Not on Pokemon Go”

Why is clear-cut communication so important in the workplace? 

The workplace is, for the most part, a relationship-based ecosystem. Clear-cut communication in the office is more important now than ever as the attention spans of your coworkers have steadily gotten shorter. 

You are going to need to influence the people in your workplace, and a simplified, clear, and concise message or communication is by far your best chance of success. Today, people in the office that blather on and can’t deliver their ideas in a clear and concise manner will find themselves alienated from their coworkers.  

In a world crowded with marketing and messaging, everyone seems to be yelling louder and louder. You don’t need to try to outshout them. You don’t need to say more or say it bigger. You can work smarter, not harder, speak softer, and get heard. 

In your eyes, what makes an “expert communicator” in the workplace? 

An expert communicator in the workplace is someone who understands their objective and is focused on only what needs to be said, not everything they want to say. Successful communicators get to the point without big, bold statements and promises — they let the value of their proposal or information lead the conversation. 

Expert communicators say less, they convey confidence, and they never try to sell their ideas to others. They don’t need to convince you; their information does the work for them.  

Today, people find clarity incredibly compelling. Someone who can simplify information and get to the point quickly and concisely wields tremendous power and influence in an office or workplace setting.   

A quick method to help you identify, evaluate, and order the most important elements of any pitch or presentation is called the W.H.A.C. method. The acronym consists of four questions:

  1. What is it? – Anything that explains the concept.
  2. How does it work? – The function or how you operate.
  3. Are you sure? – Where you use facts, figures, logic, or reason to validate.
  4. Can you do it? – Who you are and how your audience takes action: things like price, availability, what happens next, etc.

Answering these questions in this order will help you simplify your information into a compelling narrative structure that will help lead your audience to the right conclusion. 

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