If there’s one thing most businesses say they need it’s greater productivity. It makes sense when you think about it: Given more hours in the day, you could accomplish more, boost your billable hours and grow your bottom line.
Change can be hard. With enough determination, however, it’s possible to make positive adjustments that help you get more done. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to streamline the way you work. We review seven ways to be more productive, from outsourcing your record retrieval and cutting back on social media to using lists and integrating mobile capability into your workday.
1. Scale Back on Social Media
For better or worse, social media is an integral part of most people’s daily lives. In 2017, 81 percent of Americans had a social media profile — a figure that has grown consistently every year. From middle school students to grandmothers, it seems that just about everyone connects online.
While many people admit that they spend too much time on social media, research shows that social media can actually provide something of a “reset” in the workplace. As Philip Perry at Big Think explains, “Though we assume that productivity among the workforce has suffered, in fact, a study out of the University of California, Irvine finds that social media use by and large increases productivity. Another study from the University of Melbourne corroborated this. In the UC study, a few minutes of thumbing through one’s feed acted as a “mental palate cleanser,” helping them to recharge, and priming them ready for the next task at hand.”
What’s interesting, however, is that research also shows that social media can be a distraction at work. While 54 percent of the workers surveyed said social media is a reset button during the workday, 56 percent admitted that social media is also a distraction.
So which is it? Is social media a good way to enjoy a break during an otherwise stressful day? Or is it a productivity killer that prevents employees from getting things done?
Workplace productivity experts say it’s something of both. Because social media has both positive and negative aspects, it’s important for employers to adopt a middle ground rather than taking an extreme view of the technology. Carson Tate, a workplace productivity expert, says employers can set up an intranet that allows employees to connect with each other online without getting sucked into social media time-wasters.
2. Make Lists
In today’s digital world, writing an old-fashioned to-do list might seem quaint, but research shows that writing down goals — even short-term ones — can help you achieve more. Art Markman at Fast Company states, “Many studies have shown that note taking helps us distill the information we hear and remember it better than we would if we’d just heard or read it.”
In fact, simply the act of writing down a list of goals can be beneficial — even if you don’t manage to accomplish them in the allotted or ideal timeframe. This is because making lists helps your brain prioritize tasks. Markman writes, “Your brain decides which pieces of information to hang onto for later, partly as a result of how much work you do to them up front — so the more you mentally manipulate a piece of information, the better you’ll remember it. That’s why it’s sometimes surprisingly easy to remember what’s on your to-do list even when you aren’t looking at it.”
Lists also help you avoid getting bogged down by distractions. In most offices, it’s easy to get pulled away by a million little tasks — phone calls and “quick meetings” that turn into hour-long events that zap your productivity. When you have a list in front of you, you can clearly see your goals, and it’s easier to rearrange your time to focus on the most important tasks.
3. Go Mobile
According to Daniel Newman at Forbes, “Mobility is no longer a ‘buzzword’ or just the ‘hottest new shiny thing.’ Today, mobility is mainstream, and it’s a business strategy that can’t be overlooking any longer.” Research backs this up. As Newman points out, mobility boosts workplace productivity by 23 percent and improves processes by 30 percent. Simply put, “When employees can work from anywhere, they can do more.”
As it turns out, businesses that incorporate mobile technology can do more, too. “Mobile devices and platforms like the cloud permit heightened mobility and encourage creative innovation without being strapped to a desk. This freedom results in a more efficient worker, and competent workplace, and a better bottom line.”
Newman explains that some organizations will experience growing pains when making the switch to mobile. For example, industries that handle sensitive documents like medical records must take care to ensure they stay compliant with privacy laws. This is why it’s important to partner with a third party experts that has developed appropriate technology. For companies that need heightened security to safeguard personal data, it’s important to work with a provider that uses the most advanced encryption available. As Newman states, “Do away with employee security concerns (67% of employees cited this as the reason for resisting mobility) by investing in a mobility program that directly deals with the security challenges specific to your industry.”
Most industries involve tasks that are necessary but not necessarily the best and highest use of a worker’s time and resources. These tasks take away valuable hours from other types of work, leaving companies wondering if there isn’t a better and more economical way to accomplish them.
Fortunately, there is. No matter what type of task it is, chances are there is an expert out there who is capable of accomplishing it more quickly and more affordably. As Andrea Waltz, an author on productivity, told Huffington Post, “Nothing will slow you down, take you off track, or keep you unproductive more than doing things which you both: do not like to do and are not good at. Anything that falls into that category must be outsourced to someone else (ideally who both likes it and has competence) as soon as possible.”
For law firms and claims offices around the country, record retrieval easily falls into both of these categories. Requesting and organizing medical records and other types of records is a must-do item, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s a time-consuming and tedious task.
As Waltz notes, however, there is a better way. At ABI, our main focus is record retrieval. In fact, we are the largest record retrieval company in the country, and we have devoted over 35 years to perfecting the record retrieval process. Furthermore, we work closely with law firms, claims offices and record custodians to understand what they need and how we can make their jobs easier. Our mission is to provide the support they require to accomplish more.
5. Stop Multitasking
If you have ever eaten a sandwich while driving down the road, you have multitasked, right?
Actually, wrong. Science has proven that humans as a species are incapable of multitasking. Rather than do two or more tasks simultaneously, we actually rapidly switch back and forth between the two. While you may think you’re both eating and driving at the same time, the reality is that your brain simply switches back and forth between the two activities, giving its full concentration to neither.
As Earl Miller, a neuroscientist, told NPR, “People can’t multitask very well, and when people think they can, they’re deluding themselves. The brain is very good at deluding itself.” Furthermore, attempting to multitask can create stress and anxiety, causing you to accomplish less even when you’re trying to do more. And when you attempt to take on two very similar tasks, such as writing or talking, you’re likely to see your anxiety and stress levels increase. As Miller states, “Think about writing an e-mail and talking on the phone at the same time… You cannot focus on one while doing the other. That’s because of what’s called interference between the two tasks. They both involve communicating via speech or the written word, and so there’s a lot of conflict between the two of them.”
Instead of attempting to take on too many tasks at once, experts like Matthew Toren at Entrepreneur say it’s better to devote your full attention to one thing at a time. “Focus on one project or activity at a time, then switch to the next when you’re finished. You’re likely to see an increase in productivity, and you might actually end up saving time, as strange as that might seem.”
6. Try Working in Intervals
Most people are familiar with the Circadian rhythm, which regulates sleep and awake cycles every 24 hours. However, there is a lesser known cycle that is much shorter but just as important. Called ultradian rhythms, these are bursts of high-functioning brain activity that last for about 90 minutes. If you have ever powered through a report at work, only to stop and wonder how you just accomplished so much so quickly, you have most likely experienced an ultradian cycle.
Productivity experts say these power-packed productivity cycles are always followed by 20-minute slumps during which the brain is less active. This is why many people experience so-called “afternoon slumps” when they find themselves easily distracted, bored or even sleepy. If you try to push through this slump, you can confuse your brain. In a worst case scenario, the confusion pushes your brain into a stress response known as a “fight or flight” response. This causes people to lose focus and experience anxiety.
Wanda Thibodeaux at Inc.com notes that 90 percent of workers don’t take breaks during the day — something that can actually hurt productivity. “It might be difficult to fight the cultural constructs that push you and others to ignore the physical signals associated with your ultradian rhythm… But ideally, when you start to feel your focus draining due to your ultradian rhythm, crash and take a nap.” Obviously, it’s not always possible to take a nap during the workday. Thibodeaux says the next best thing is to shift your attention to a less-demanding task. You can take a walk, listen to some relaxing music or use the time to eat a healthy snack.
7. Improve Your Work Environment
If you had to spend your workday inside a gray office with plain walls and poor lighting, chances are you would end up getting far less accomplished than if your workspace was filled with lots of natural light, pleasant paintings and a soothing wall color.
Studies show that even something as basic as lighting has a direct impact on workers’ moods and thus productivity. Sammi Caramela at Business News Daily cites a University of North Carolina Chapel Hill report as noting that “exposure to natural light improves mood and energy, greatly impacting focus and productivity.”
Unfortunately, it’s rarely possible for everyone in the office to have a window and thus exposure to natural light. However, even certain types of bulbs can help reduce stress and promote calm among workers. For example, blue-enriched bulbs have been shown to ease fatigue and boost happiness.
You can also improve your work environment by making sure you have an ergonomic workspace that promotes a healthy posture. It’s also important to take frequent breaks if you work on a computer for most of the day. Even taking a quick walk outside can improve your mood, rest your eyes and help you achieve more when you’re back at your desk.
Learn More about ABI Document Support Services
At ABI Document Support Services, we have more than 35 years of experience in record retrieval. Find out how we can help you be more productive this year by contacting us today at 800-266-0613. You can also use our contact form to get in touch.