Scary Productivity Killers: Here’s How to Fight Them Off


It’s just another day in the office, other than the ominous sense of dread encircling you and your coworkers.


You jaunt over to your breakroom, hoping for a pick-up to get you out of this ghastly haze. Yet it just doesn’t shake it. An email notification buzzes on your phone. It’s your manager reminding you of your team’s looming deadline. But then you hear it — a shriek in the hallway. What could it be? 


It’s the Efficiency Vampire! (“Wahh, ah, ah, ah”) And he’s come to suck away your — office productivity…!? But he’s not biting anyone he’s… just passing around the latest astrology quiz? And sharing horoscopes with everyone? He’s sucking away all of your coworker’s time on deadline… *gasp*! What do you do?


For the sake of a ridiculous (and spooky) metaphor, the point is every office has productivity vampires, ghouls, beasts, and killers. They are everywhere on the loose. Get this, researchers estimate that distracted workers cost businesses $650 billion per year. Yikes!


Whether it’s time management or neglecting to delegate important tasks, here are some of the worst – plus helpful tips on how to improve efficiency. 


The Marathon Meeting Murderer


You know that feeling of hitting your groove, firing off stellar emails and making slam dunk moves — all to be stopped so you can sit and listen to a supervisor mention something that all could have been in an email? That’s the Meeting Murderer, slashing away at your productivity! 


According to a survey, 47% of participants think that meetings are the biggest time-wasters at the workplace. And get this, in the US alone, 11 million meetings are conducted on a daily basis and USD 37 billion are spent on these meetings every year. That’s a lot of zoning out and acting like you’re listening. 


If you have meeting-setting abilities, conduct a small audit of your idea for a meeting. Does your team really need to meet every week to discuss minutia updates? How much of your team meeting is relevant to each employee? Do you really need a whole 30 minutes? Create an agenda, send it out beforehand, and stick to it. 


Vice versa, if you’re an attendee, suggest a direct conversation instead or phone call to address issues and topics first-hand rather than setting up a one-on-one. 


Phantom Deadlines


What was that? It looked like a hard deadline, but maybe it wasn’t. It was hard to get a clear understanding of when the task was due, and it keeps showing up at random hours. It’s the Phantom Deadline. Unquestionably spooky and eerie, but really just an apparition. 


If deadlines become relaxed or unclear, you can kiss productivity goodbye. If the person you report to is the type to constantly reschedule, change deadlines on the fly or request frequent extensions, not enough is getting done. 


Deadlines need to be expressed cleanly and clearly for every task being assigned, and if they aren’t clear, don’t be afraid to confront the Phantom and ask. Regardless of dynamic goals and information available, it never hurts to have something completed early. 


Also, when setting deadlines for yourself, hone your self-discipline to deliver on the trust that you do as you say you will. Incomplete work can be a real devil on your back. Rather than avoiding difficult tasks, consider breaking up projects into smaller tasks and tackling them one at a time.


Paralyzing Phone Time


Ok, ok, smartphones don’t pose any real threat to us. But clearly, they are a clear time suck when you need to focus. Did you know the average smartphone user receives 46 push notifications on average per day? That’s a lot of distracting buzzing.


Beyond news alerts, promotions and reminders, there’s also a heap of text messages constantly coming in. It can be overwhelming if you don’t institute some control. Turn the group chats on mute when you need to focus or do some house cleaning and manage your notifications in your settings. 


Consider downloading a focus or anti-distraction app, too. They range from soothing and conductive sounds for focus to an app that restricts what you can do on your phone for a set period of time. There’s an app for every kind of distraction issue. 


For especially spooky results, consider looking up what your average phone screen time is. Use that data as a check to see if your screen time is under control and set some personal goals if needed!


Non-Delegating Demons


We all know someone in the office who’s bad about raising the flag and takes on more work than they should. It’s not exactly noble, it’s bad for the team and for the poor soul being overworked. Maybe it’s you!


It’s said that the sign of a true professional is someone who knows how to say “no.” Saying yes is certainly one way to be a team player, but overworking yourself doesn’t do you or your team any favors. 


Next time you feel like you have an especially tall plate, communicate with your team and manager to properly delegate tasks as needed. Consider setting a reminder earlier in the day or process to do a gut check on your workload and assess if any offloading is necessary. 

Does your office suffer from any of these productivity killers? How do you best manage your time? Please share any helpful tips by tweeting at us @SaneBox!