Most people, regardless of their career path, have an incentive to increase productivity. It may be that you're in a performance-based business or a business owner whose survival is based on maximum efficiency. Even if you are in an industry where your compensation isn't based on performance, your climb up the corporate ladder depends on maximizing your value to your company, and that comes with a high degree of productivity. (For related reading, also check out Dealing With 10 Coworker Personality Conflicts.)
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If you're looking to gain the maximum amount of efficiency in your work life, there are certain behaviors that you must avoid, and these habits are often masked as behaviors that are found in the best employees.

Every employee has e-mail now. This is largely because, for nearly 20 years, e-mail was seen as the best thing to happen to business since the computer. Only now are studies showing this not to be true; they show that those who spend the bulk of their day at a desk lose 2.1 hours of productivity each day because of e-mail. Intel has estimated that e-mail overload can cost large companies as much as $1 billion a year in lost employee productivity and the average employee checks their e-mail 55 times every day.

But e-mail can be a tool for the productive, highly efficient employee, right? Yes, but only when used correctly. One study showed that e-mail doesn't just sidetrack employees from their primary duties, it also undermines their attention spans, increases stress and annoyance and decreases job satisfaction and creativity.

Brian Scudamore, CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK, believes that waving off e-mail has made him a better manager, freeing him to encourage and inspire his team. "It's given me time to walk around and talk to people," he says. (To learn more about productivity, see Making The Most Out Of Your Day.)

Psychologists at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis say, "Neuroscientists tell us that the human brain is incapable of doing two things at once. What we do when we multitask is switch back and forth between tasks." What we are really doing is rapidly switching between tasks and this, according to psychologies, decreases our productivity by taking more time to complete tasks and allowing the quality to suffer.

Do this experiment: Pick two similar tasks and do one using your normal multi-tasking style. Do the other task with your e-mail and cell phone turned off and free of distractions. Then, ask yourself how much time each of these projects took to complete and how satisfied were you with the results on each. Now, look at the bottom of your computer screen? How many websites do you have open right now?

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Non-Essential Tasks
One rule of thumb argues that 20% of your activities will account for 80% of your success. In other words, email, Twitter, Facebook and meetings may seem like important tasks, but they are actually robbing you of time to perform the duties that show your true value.

Covey's urgent/important quadrants graph separates all of your everyday tasks into four quadrants:

  • QI - Important and Urgent
  • QII - Important but Not Urgent
  • QIII - Not Important but Urgent
  • QIV - Not Important and Not Urgent

Dr. Covey writes that highly effective people make time for the QII activities and these activities are the measurable activities that make your business grow or add value to you as an employee to your employer. Place each of your daily activities (including Facebook) in to each of the quadrants and see how many QI and QII activities you truly have and how many QIII and QIV activities need to be eliminated. (For related reading, take a look at Time Management Tips For Financial Professionals.)

The Bottom Line
It's your business and your career and although time seems like something that is in abundance, not making efficient use of time is robbing you of money that may be rightfully yours.

Find out what happened in financial news this week. Read Water Cooler Finance: Steady Stocks, Big G's And Madoff News.

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