When you get to the end of a workday and realize you just didn’t accomplish what you needed to, there are a few typical culprits: Text messaging, Facebook, cookies in the break room — the usual suspects.
A survey from CareerBuilder.com rounds up the top ways America wastes time at work. Unsurprisingly, digital distractions play a large role, but old-school goofing off hasn’t vanished entirely. More than half of workers surveyed say their cell phones or texting are a shortcut to slacking off. While 44% blame the Internet for killing their productivity, 36% say social media torches their to-do list. That’s higher than the number of workers who said these things were black holes for productivity last year.
It also seems we might be getting overwhelmed by the deluge of email we get every day (which one study estimates could cost American businesses more than half a billion dollars a year in needless busywork). While 23% of workers last year said this was a top workplace distraction, 31% blamed their inboxes this year.
When it comes to actual face-to-face interaction, about a quarter of respondents each say that meetings, snack or smoke breaks and co-workers stopping by to chat contribute to wasting time.
But career experts say it’s not inevitable that the siren song of the vending machine or a recap of Orange Is the New Black will throw a wrench into your plans for productivity. Here are their best tips for staying on track.
Don’t check everything that chimes. “Set aside specific times of the day to check things like social media,” says Peter Hirst, executive director of MIT Sloan Executive Education. Likewise, plan to check your email at regular intervals but not in between so you don’t get sidetracked and lose the momentum of what you were working on.
Associate with go-getters. “Group norms and values are very important in influencing individual behavior,” says James Craft, a professor of business administration at the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. In plain English, if you surround yourself with slackers, you’ll be more likely to slack off, but if your colleagues all do what it takes to get the job done, their drive can rub off on you. “These expectations… can be key in keeping the members of the group focused,” Craft says.
Take breaks, but make them deliberate. Build breaks into your day, CareerBuilder suggests, and make sure they have both a start and an end time. “Not only will you have something to look forward to after you’ve worked hard, you will also know when it’s time to get back to work,” the site advises.
Give yourself some breathing room — literally. Hirst suggests getting into a regular practice of yoga or meditation, since both can help improve productivity. “Even just five minutes of meditation a day can have a significant impact on your concentration and focus,” he says. It’s also a good way to clear your head during a hectic day when your mind is going in eight different directions.