Focusing on efficiency at Women in Business
Everyone multi-tasks these days. It's a requirement of life with email, text messaging, Internet, cell phones, etc. But how many people - in particular, women - handle those tasks efficiently?
Last week's Women in Business luncheon gave a few tips into how to move from "multitasking to efficiency expert."
Dena Thomas, CEO of Advanced Services, was the guest speaker at the luncheon, held at the North Augusta Community Center and sponsored by the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce.
Thomas first explained that studies have shown that workers who are distracted by email and phone calls "suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers," according to the Institute of Psychiatry in London. She cited another article that said "Attention Deficit" is now "rampant in the business world," mainly as a response to the "hyperkinetic" environment in which workers live.
And another study suggests that certain levels of multitasking leads to information overload, costing the economy $650 million a year.
Thomas said moving from one task to another causes a 20 percent reduction in productivity. "It takes 5 to 7 minutes to re-engage," said Thomas of switching between tasks.
She listed typical tasks at home and at work, then suggested some ways to improve efficiency in dealing with the various tasks.
At home, Thomas recommended using a preprinted grocery list on which all family members can mark items that are needed. She also suggested assigning jobs to children - folding laundry, for example reminding oneself to think efficiently and to not waste steps.
"I have a checklist of things I need to have with me when I'm off to work," she said, listing keys, phone, laptop, reports, etc.
She offered the need for a cleaning schedule, and mentioned that she keeps cleaning supplies in each room where they'll be needed, not just in a central location.
"Keep up with your to-dos," said Thomas, who indicated each person needs to find a system that works - whether it's Outlook, a running list, sticky notes, etc. "Review it daily," she said, adding that putting things to do on a calendar helps - no matter how trivial the task may seem.
On managing emails, Thomas said, "You're the boss, not your inbox." She contended a person should only touch each email one or two times. She offered the D.D.D. approach - Do it (if it takes 20 minutes or less), Delete it or Delegate it. She noted she created A to Z folders for filing emails, so that she can find things quickly whether she's looking for an email from a particular person or on a particular topic.
In the area of work space management, she said sometimes getting out of the office helps. "Crash the conference room," she suggested.
"Use technology efficiently," said Thomas, who included efforts to save keystrokes. "Learn your software," she said, adding "use Outlook or another scheduling program."
Recognizing that all workers have differences in styles and productivity, Thomas said, "Know your body rhythms." She noted that a person needs to schedule repetitive tasks (e.g., going through emails) for low-energy times, and important or detailed tasks for a person's high energy times.
And all of Thomas' comments came down to being disciplined with time. "Make a schedule and stick to it," she said, pointing out it takes 21 days to create a habit. "Don't waste steps or keystrokes."
The Women in Business luncheon included a time for networking.
Sponsors for the event included Bridgestone, SRP Federal Credit Union, WNRR-1380, The Star and Fox 54.