You sit down at your computer to complete a quick task, but what should have taken only a few minutes takes much longer. Sound familiar? If it occurs often, you might be sabotaging your productivity without realizing it. Bad habits, old technology, and not taking advantage of your applications' features can eat away your workday a minute at a time.
Here are seven ways you might be hurting your productivity and what you can do about each of them:
1. Immediately Reading Each Email That Arrives in Your Inbox
Immediately reading each email when it arrives can hurt your productivity, especially if you get a lot of emails. Although it might not take you that long to read an email, it disrupts your concentration. A better approach is to set aside a block of time once or twice a day to go through all your emails.
2. Not Disabling Notifications
To avoid the temptation of reading emails as they come in, you should turn off email notifications. Even if you are able to resist the urge to look at an incoming email, seeing the notification pop up or hearing an audio alert can be distracting in and of itself.
Notifications for social media and newsfeed updates can also divert your attention. Silence your mobile devices and turn off notifications on your work computer to eliminate these distractions.
3. Manually Performing Tasks When There Are Better Alternatives
You might be wasting valuable time if you are not taking advantage of your applications' features. Business applications often have features that handle common tasks for you. For example, most email programs let you set up filters or rules. Rather than manually sorting the emails in your Inbox, you can use filters to automatically sort your emails into folders based on criteria such as who sent them and keywords in the subject lines.
You might also be able to save time by taking advantage of free or inexpensive applications. For instance, if you often create lists or write notes, a free application like Evernote or Microsoft OneNote will make it easier for you to organize and store them for quick retrieval.
4. Not Using Keyboard Shortcuts
Sometimes time drains away a mouse movement at a time. You can gain some of that time back by using keyboard shortcuts for actions you often perform. For example, pressing Ctrl+C to copy items in Microsoft Word documents is quicker than maneuvering your pointer over the Copy button and then clicking it.
There are many online guides that tell you the keyboard shortcuts for Windows and Mac applications. The keyboard shortcuts might look intimidating, but they are straightforward. In Windows applications, they are typically represented with a plus sign. So, for instance, Ctrl+C simply means you need to press the Ctrl and C keys at the same time. In Mac apps, a hyphen is used instead of the plus sign. For example, Command-C means you press the Command and C keys simultaneously to copy items.
5. Putting Up with a Slow Internet Connection
If you regularly use the Internet for work and your Internet connection is slow, you probably waste a good deal of time staring at your computer screen, waiting for a web page to load or a file to transfer. Many issues can cause a slow connection, including an incorrectly configured router, old hardware, or malware that is secretly using your Internet bandwidth. Your IT service provider can help you determine why your connection is slow. If they find that the problem lies with your Internet service provider, you might consider getting a new one.
6. Using a Small Computer Monitor
A small computer monitor can hurt your eyes and your productivity. Having a large computer monitor (or dual monitors) can make you more efficient in two ways. First, you will be able view more on your screen, which means you will have to scroll less. Second, you can have multiple windows open and readable at the same time on the screen. This makes it easier to copy and paste between documents, for example.
7. Working at Your Desk for Hours on End
Although it might seem counterintuitive, working nonstop at your desk for hours at a time is not conducive to high productivity. It is important to periodically get up and walk around for a few minutes. This will reinvigorate you both mentally and physically, which will improve your productivity.