Reclaiming Time: How Knowing Your Focus Time at Work Can Restore Your Faith in Humanity

Written by Catherine Pidgeon

Catherine Pidgeon
Catherine Pidgeon

This article was published on

THE HUFFINGTON POST

Catherine Pidgeon is a Principal Program Manager Lead at Microsoft responsible for the creation of the new Microsoft business MyAnalytics for information workers.

In due time

We’ll finally see

There’s barely time

For us to breathe.

- -There’s Never Enough Time by The Postal Service

More time – it’s the one thing that everyone wants but seems virtually impossible to attain. When it comes to being productive at work and in life, time is the one limiting reagent that prevents us from reaching our true potential – you can always make more money, but you can’t create more time. And the many disparate technologies in our digitally-infused lives are creating a flood of information that constantly competes for our attention.

At work, it doesn’t matter how revolutionary the strategies we come up with, the products we conceive or the change management approaches we derive unless we have enough time to plan, test and thoughtfully execute. In business, time usage data coupled with performance reviews have become the industry standard for measuring productivity and while we may not be able to manufacture more time, technologies are helping us reclaim it and redistribute it to more pressing priorities.

Since the release of MyAnalytics, we’ve heard from customers about how critical it is to better understand how knowledge workers can be more productive and it always circles back to helping employees understand how time is being spent. This vital information of calendar and email usage metrics, provided through personalized dashboards help empower employees by creating a continuous feedback loop, much like a fitbit for work.

You may have heard of a personal “magic hour” or time of the day where thoughts seem to flow effortlessly, when you are able to reflect on a series of meetings to analyze what happened and produce quality work. We’ve found that individual contributors average 15.48 hours of focus time per week compared to 10.72 hours per week for managers. During this valuable focus time, your ability to think through complex scenarios is magnified. Anecdotally, you may recall this period as right after you’ve had your morning coffee or right after lunch when your creative juices are flowing – but analytics and intelligent technologies are now able to help you identify your most productive times of the day and each week based on your historical work behaviors.

Focus Time Inspires Workplace Satisfaction

A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review in partnership with consulting firm The Energy Project, surveyed more than 12,000 knowledge workers across several different companies and industries. The same survey was also given to a manufacturing company with 6,000 employees and a financial services company with 2,500 employees and included in the broader data set.

The findings revealed that four core needs need to be met for employees to feel satisfied and productive – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Physical through being given the space to renew and recharge in workplace settings, emotional through feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions, mental through the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done and spiritual, through feeling connected to a higher purpose at work.

Sadly, 70 percent of respondents said they do not have regular time for creative or strategic thinking at work. Also, only 20 percent of respondents said they were able to focus on one task at a time and those within this subset were 50 percent more engaged then the rest. Similarly, only one-third of respondents said they were able to effectively prioritize their tasks, but those who did were 1.6 times better able to focus on one thing at a time.

What does this all mean? People are notoriously poor historians for how they spend their working hours and we all feel stressed running from meeting to meeting amidst constant work disruptions. Intelligent office software like MyAnalytics is helping people identify their most productive hours of work so people can reclaim their time, like maybe every 2-5pm on Tuesdays or it could be from 9am-10am on Fridays. Employees are able to plan activities and meetings around this time, prioritize their lives a little better and reach their full potential.

And for some actionable steps, executive coaching firm Stop Meeting Like This has the following tips to get more focus time – individual contributors should prioritize certain emails and focus on those first and turn off Outlook or email during meetings. Managers can reclaim time by applying email rules to filter by priorities and by blocking off 2-3 chunks of time per day to respond to emails.

Who knows, the additional time saved may empower people to take a breath of fresh air, recharge and produce the best work of their lives.


This article was published on

THE HUFFINGTON POST
Catherine Pidgeon
Catherine Pidgeon

Catherine Pidgeon is a Principal Program Manager Lead at Microsoft responsible for the creation of the new Microsoft business MyAnalytics for information workers.

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