We’ve hit an all-time low in levels of productivity in the UK and are all the more stressed because of it. But what’s holding us back and how do we escape it?

1) Over communicating

In a recent survey conducted by PageGroup, respondents said that they spend a third of their working day either answering emails or phone calls. In an 8 hour day, that’s over 2.5 hours. Whilst emailing and answering the phone is necessary to an extent, and an important part of professional communication, a vast amount of the emails and calls we receive on a daily basis are either complete rubbish, unimportant or non-urgent. Every time the phone rings or a new unopened envelope appears on your desktop, you’re distracted from the task at hand and then require a “recovery period” to refocus on what you were doing before, losing even more precious minutes. The most effective way to handle the problem of “over communication” is to hand over to a personal assistant who can introduce a filter system that deletes, orders and files, according to your personal and professional priorities.

2) Pointless meetings

On average employees attend up to 62 meetings a week. Considering that the majority of meetings last a minimum of 20 minutes, that’s a huge chunk taken from your day particularly when the meeting is off-site and you have to factor in travel time, traffic and all the usual unexpected delays that inevitably strike. Meetings can be excellent creative and collaborative opportunities, but they can also be tedious and pointless when there’s no real agenda, focus or objective. Lots of CEOs turn up at meetings not even knowing who they’re going to meet. This is one of the most important jobs of a PA who can take charge of your schedule to not only work out if you can actually spare the time, but to make the decision as to whether the meeting is beneficial or urgent, or whether a phone call would do the job.

3) Ineffective research

Trawling through the internet for relevant, focused information can take up hours of your day, especially when you’re led constantly astray by the seductive headlines and false articles that fill the web, and then forget what it was you were actually supposed to be researching. What’s more, it’s exhausting, but it has to be done. Naturally, all business leaders are expected to be and should be well informed on their industry, the surrounding industries and what’s going on in the world more generally, but no CEO has spare hours to spend reading the most recently published statistics. Thankfully, this is where an assistant steps in to pull out only the most relevant pieces for you to read. Even better, outsourcing to a virtual PA can often result in more rounded and unique research, as the assistant can easily tap into a wider pool of global knowledge, using varying sources and a different cultural perspective on the topic.

4) Spring cleaning

Efficiently filing documents is one of the most time consuming office jobs for all employees, but also the task you most regret not doing when you’re trying to recall where you put the tax note from 2013. Staying organised is particularly difficult for CEOs who are constantly travelling and being handed business cards and documents to shove into the depths of their briefcase. Box files are outdated and to find the piece of paper you’re looking for, even if you’re using labels and dividers, still requires a fair amount of searching. Again, virtual PAs are best equipped to handle the job as they can organise online, using a highly efficient digital filing system that delivers exactly the document you’re looking for at the click of a button. Welcome to the wonderful world of technology.

5) Multi-tasking

This is the biggest killer to productivity and your mind. A recent study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced significant IQ score declines that were similar to what you’d expect if the individuals had been smoking marijuana or not sleeping. Normally the issue is that we have too much to do and too little time so we attempt do everything at once, but that results in bad quality work and superficial results. By delegating all the niggly administration based jobs to a virtual assistant, you can allow yourself the indulgence of concentrating on one task whilst knowing everything else is being quietly taken care of.

 

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