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The Silent Killers of Productivity: Social Media and Mobile

In a recent article written in partnership with Microsoft, I discussed a number of ways technology can help improve productivity for your business. But what happens when technology actually becomes a hindrance to keeping things moving? Enter the silent killers of productivity: social media and mobile.

In the most recent Office Small Business Academy Webcast, “Work Smarter: Productivity Tools for Your Business,” guest Robert Sher of CEO to CEO shared his insights on the biggest challenges to keeping employees focused and productive in the modern workplace. As he so rightly said, time is our most important resource today. And with so many options for where to go and how to get there, it can be difficult to stay on track. Although Sher noted email and everyday distractions as one of the biggest productivity killers, I’d say the biggest—in my book—are social media and mobile.

I know it’s ironic. Mobile is one of the most important tools for helping small businesses improve productivity, because it allows employees to work 24/7 from almost anywhere. And social media is one of the easiest and fastest ways to interact with our customer base. But both also present numerous opportunities to railroad effective use of time.

We already know social media creates distractions in our personal life. Just go out to dinner—or to your child’s soccer game—and see how many people have their faces in their phone, rather than looking at their friends or at the game. But social media is a huge distraction on the professional side, too. A recent study showed 90 percent of respondents check personal social media accounts during the work day. What’s more, 60 percent said they check it between one and five times per day. Nearly 20 percent check it more than 10 times per day! That’s a lot of time focused on non-work related communication.

Still, lost time may not even be the worst of it. In his book, “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World,” Dr. Cal Newport discusses the fact that the skill of “deep work”—one of the most highly valued skills in our knowledge economy—is becoming increasingly rare due to the incessant and frantic steam of information, emails, social media posts we consume on a daily basis. As workers, we’re losing our ability to focus, to see big picture, and to latch on to anything besides the next big, shiny thing.

What we need to do, as Sher noted in the webcast, is step back and take a moment to define our goals, and to reconnect and lead from those goals whenever possible. In doing so, we’ll keep ourselves on track, while also serving as motivators for our teams. For instance:

Create a Plan. There are so many different forces coming at your employees on a daily basis, outside of workplace “fires” and email barrages. To help them stay on track, create a clear plan and vision for where the company is going, and revisit it often to reinforce your goals. When you have clear stepping stones, it’s far more difficult to get thrown off by outside distractions.

Leading with Clarity. Horizontal work structures may be all the rage with the rise of millennials in the workforce, but leadership is still important, and it can come at all levels of our organization. Inspire your employees to stay focused by walking the walk—setting clear goals and rewarding the roles they are playing in keeping the company moving forward.

Be Selective. Leaders can get just as distracted as employees. There are endless amounts of options in today’s connected world. Be selective in adopting new technology, projects, and ideas, and always make sure that your path aligns with the vision you set out to unfold.

Social media and mobility are not going anywhere. More and more people will be working in their pajamas over coffee in the next five years—away from their boss’ watchful eyes—than ever before. Rather than fighting against that shift, create a culture that acknowledges the risk, but creates such a compelling vision and culture for growth employees can’t help but put down their phones.

This article has been brought to you in partnership with Microsoft Office. The content and ideas belong to the author. For more information and productivity advice, please take a look at the Office Small Business Academy webcast that took place on March 28th at 9am PST | 11am CST | 12 pm EST  and follow @OfficeSmallBiz on Twitter.

Additional Resources on This Topic

Tackling Collaborative Overload in Your Organization
Intelligent Tech Adoption Key to Saving Time and Increasing Productivity

Photo Credit: Suarezparker Flickr via Compfight cc

Daniel Newman

After 12 years of running technology companies including a CEO appointment at the age of 28, I traded the corner office for a chance to drive the discussion on how the digital economy is going to forever change how business is done. I'm an MBA, adjunct business professor and 5x author of best-selling business books including "The Millennial CEO" and "The New Rules of Customer Engagement." Pianist, soccer fan, husband and father, not in that order. Oh and for work...I'm the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group and President of V3 Broadsuite, a family of marketing and media agencies that help companies be found, seen and heard in a cluttered digital world. I also give keynote speeches around the world on the topics such as digital transformation, technology and marketing.