How can I be more productive?

Dear PR Matters,

I work in the communications department of a medium-sized consumer company, and aspire to do the best I can.

Having to cope with deadlines, meetings and assignments can be overwhelming, and it seems to be the same with my colleagues in other companies.  They always complain they are swamped with work, and have difficulty attending to more important things.

How can I increase my productivity on an everyday basis, and go beyond these tasks that seems to weigh down on us?  Maybe you can give us some tips.


Nina C.

Dear Nina,

A friend of mine once told me that “if you want to get things done, get a busy person to do it.”  In my experience, that is so true as the truly busy people I know are so generous they actually get to accomplish much.  That is why they are so successful.

Others whine that they are swamped with work, and seem so overwhelmed with this, that paralysis overtakes them.  In short, they never get things done.

But how can we become more productive?  Geoffrey James has a theory: The Average Worker Spends 51 Percent of Each Workday on These Three Unnecessary Tasks, which he discusses in an article in Inc.com.

 “There are thousands of books on time management, and thousands more on work/life balance, but almost all of them either nibble around the edge of the problems, or pretend they don’t exist,” he says.

So, “here’s the straight skinny: The reason most people are stressed for time is that they are wasting more than half of each day working on time-wasting tasks.”

He lists three culprits and some simple solutions “to recapture the time that you’re otherwise destined to waste.”

Unnecessary commuting (13 percent)

We all have accepted the fact that we must make major adjustments to our commuting time to and from the office. But unnecessary commuting may also mean not planning your daily schedule so you have to go from one end of Metro Manila within a few hours.

Better planning can ease this.

Unnecessary meetings (16 percent)

According to a study in MIT which James described in a previous post, “the average worker spends approximately 22 years of their career in meetings.  An estimated third of that time is spent in meetings where there’s no value added.”

By the time a worker retires, “they’ll have spent at least 7 years in useless meetings which comes out to about 16 percent of the time you’ll spend at work during your lifetime.”

Unnecessary e-mails (23 percent)

According to research cited in Forbes, “the average office worker spends 2.5 hours a day reading and responding to an average of 200 emails, of which approximately 144 [mostly CCs and BCCs] aren’t relevant to their job.”

Since the average office worker spends 2.5 hours a day doing e-mail, that’s about 1.8 hours spent on those irrelevant e-mails, which comes to a whopping 10 years spent on useless e-mails, which would be 23 percent of a 45-year career.

James points out that adding up those three time-wasters “comes out to about 51 percent of your working life.”

He encourages us to “think about that for a second.  How much more would you accomplish if you were twice as productive?  How much better your life would become if you always had plenty of time.”

The numbers are staggering, but James offers us some solutions.

Try living close to your work

James suggested that a company wide work-from-home policy, but, in most cases, this is not possible.  Maybe we could look at cutting our commuting time by staying closer to our workplace.

Create an efficient meeting culture

James urges companies to look into specific policies that reduce or eliminate unproductive meetings:

  • No meeting without an agenda
  • No “status updates” during which you “go around the room.”
  • No meeting longer than 30 minutes
  • Leave a meeting the moment you realize you’re not adding value
  • Replace PowerPoints with a group reading of a briefing document

Throttle your e-mail system

James shares with us some approaches he has seen through the years.

  • Turn off e-mail during peak working hours
  • Limit the number of e-mails you send each day
  • Discourage CC, BCC and Reply All e-mails
  • Discourage Sisyphus-like behaviors like trying to achieve “zero inbox.”

And if you’re shifting to viber groups, just make sure these are updated. In many cases, messages are still sent to those who are no longer part of the company and worse still, have moved on to work with competitors. These can be dangerous for company privacy matters.

PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the United Kingdom-based International Public Relations Association (Ipra), the world’s premier association for senior professionals around the world. Millie F. Dizon, the senior vice president for Marketing and Communications of SM, is the former local chairman.

We are devoting a special column each month to answer the reader’s questions about public relations.  Please send your comments and questions to askipraphil@gmail.com.

Image credits: Wavebreakmedia Ltd | Dreamstime.com


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