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Four ‘Silent’ Productivity Killers

Meetings that run on, a computer bug that takes half a day to resolve or organisational red tape.  We can all recognise snags that sap our productivity at work. Yet do we identify less obvious sources of wasted time and energy as easily?  ‘Silent’ productivity killers such as email spam and even a disorganised desk may only cause you to lose a couple of minutes each day.  Like a leaky faucet left unaddressed, ignoring them can cost you dearly in the long run. Following are some common problems and what you can do to reclaim the time you’re likely spending on each:


Whether you receive dozens or just a few spam emails each day, reading and deleting these messages takes a toll on your time.  Avoid using your professional email address for non-work purposes, such as buying products online or signing up for competitions. Instead, set up a private email account to prevent your work address from ending up on spam distribution lists. And check the spam settings on your work email, too.


Many people postpone what they fear will be the most difficult tasks.  Take the opposite approach and resist the impulse to take care of less important duties, such as answering your non urgent emails, just to ‘get them out of the way.’  Instead, tackle the most critical and therefore stress inducing activities first.  For example, focus immediately on the month end report that is due in a few days. If you need help juggling your responsibilities, speak to your manager about the possibility of temporarily reassigning some of your tasks or bringing in project support during busy periods.


As surprising at it sounds, your productivity may be hindered by the things that are meant to improve it, like your computer, filing cabinet or address book.  A lack of organisation and clutter throughout your workspace can cause you to spend valuable time and energy locating resources that should be easy to find.  Take 15 minutes at the end of each day to do organise your inbox, computer files, desk drawers and briefcase.


Because of personality differences in the office, colleague conflicts are inevitable.  If you and a colleague are at odds, attempt to resolve the situation quickly by suggesting a meeting to clear the air. Often conflicts are the result of misunderstandings, so try to be as open-minded and conciliatory as possible.  In some instances, the source of the conflict may even be your fault so be prepared to make amends.  If despite these talks, differences still can’t be worked out ask your supervisor or human resources representative for help resolving the dispute.

No matter how hard you try, it will never be possible to spend 100 per cent of your time working on your most important priorities. Unforeseen issues and unpreventable problems will always demand your energy and attention, thereby dragging down your productivity.  But identifying the silent productivity killers that affect you most and minimising their impact will allow you to maximise the hours you spend at work.

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy with a global network of more than 360 offices worldwide.  For more information about our Robert Half please visit

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