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Desk Escapes: The Quest for Quiet

Desk Escapes: The Quest for Quiet
    A sign like this at your desk just doesn't cut it.

    While distractions come at us every day, the moments of silence get fewer and fewer. Noise is everywhere, while quiet is almost nowhere. Fittingly, quiet moments have gotten really quiet in promoting themselves, while the noisiest places seem to blast their locations out louder than ever.

    If there’s one thing you most certainly need when you’re trying to get stuff done, it’s quiet. And since there’s so little room for quiet in the world these days (or so it seems, with 24 hour news cycles and a firehose of information optimized for anytime access known as the Internet), it’s no wonder that productivity can slow to a crawl.

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    There are several ways to take back those moments of quiet – some can be done from the realtive comfort of your desk, while others require an escape from the everyday. You may only need to step back from the barrage of noise for a moment to see marked improvement in your productivity or you may need to remove yourself from the environment altogether.

    But what if you need some quiet while working? Here are three ways that can get you closer to the sound of silence – and much closer to getting what you want to get done…done.

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    Use Headphones

    I used to work with a colleague who placed headphones on his ears for a great deal of the day, especially when he needed to focus. But he never played any music in them. He put them on his head to get the quiet he needed (and craved) and unless you knew his work habits, you assumed he was listening to music all the while. It was a clever tactic and it kept external noise – and people – at bay.

    Another strategy would be to actually play music through the headphones. Music can be a great motivator for some, so using it to keep you on track and singularly focused is a great way to get the quiet you need and deserve. Classical music or soft jazz can be a form of “quiet” for people, as it keeps distractions away. Sometimes quiet is just less noise. Headphones gives you the chance to get as little noise – and as much quiet – as you want.

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    Use the Door

    If you’ve got one, use it when you feel the need. A closed door is the universal sign of “don’t disturb me”, and you can further that meaning by explaining to your co-workers that when your door is shut that they shouldn’t even bother knocking.

    Now…if you keep your door closed much of the workday, then this tactic won’t exactly cut it. Pulling off this kind of escape from noise usually requires you to have an “open door policy” for much of the time. It’s hard to tell your colleagues to refrain from knocking on your door when you have it shut so often. You may want to try opening your door more often in this case – you may find that you can get work done with an open door that doesn’t require a lack of noise. And when you close your door you (and your colleagues) will know that it’s time for you to get down to some really focused work.

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    Kill Alerts

    Turn off every single notification you’ve got. Mute the phone. Turn off the visual notifications. Silence your computer. Don’t let anything detract you from the quiet atmosphere you’ve created. Get rid of the audible clutter (removing the visual clutter isn’t a bad idea, either) and you’ll find that the noise you’ve got in your workday may be bearable going forward. Bearable enough that it seems quiet by comparison.

    How do you grab a much-needed break from the noise while at your desk? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on September 17, 2019

    How to Delegate Work Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide)

    How to Delegate Work Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide)

    All managers and leaders must master the art of delegation. Understanding how and when to allocate responsibility to others is essential in maintaining a high level of productivity, both on a personal and organizational level. Knowing how to delegate is also essential for an effective leadership.

    To learn how to delegate is to build a cohesive and effective team who can meet deadlines. Moreover, knowing when and how to delegate work will reduce your workload, thus improving your wellbeing at work and boosting your job satisfaction. Unfortunately, many leaders are unsure how to delegate properly or are hesitant to do so.

    In this guide, you will discover what delegation really entails, how it benefits your team, and how to delegate work effectively.

    The Importance of Delegation

    An effective leader knows how to delegate. When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more on a daily basis. Effective delegation also promotes productivity within a team by drawing on the existing skill set of its members and allowing them to develop new knowledge and competencies along the way. The result is a more flexible team that can share roles when the need arises.[1]

    When you are willing to delegate, you are promoting an atmosphere of confidence and trust. Your actions send a clear signal: as a leader, you trust your subordinates to achieve desired outcomes. As a result, they will come to think of you as a likeable and efficient leader who respects their skills and needs.

    Delegation isn’t about barking orders and hoping that your staff falls in line. A manager’s job is to get the very best from those under their supervision and in doing so, maximizing productivity and profit.[2]

    Here’s an example of bad delegation:

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      Careful delegation helps to identify and capitalize on the unique strengths and weaknesses of the team members. Delegation also boosts employees’ engagement as it proves that the managers are interested in drawing on their talents.[3]

      The Fear of Delegating Tasks

      Delegation boosts productivity, but not all managers are willing or able to delegate.[4] Why? Here’re some common reasons:[5]

      • They may resent the idea that someone else may get the credit for a project.
      • They may be willing to delegate in principle but are afraid their team won’t be able to handle an increased degree of responsibility.
      • They may suspect that their staff is already overworked, and feel reluctant to increase their burden.
      • They may suspect that it’s simpler and quicker just to do a task themselves.
      • They dislike the idea of letting go of tasks they enjoy doing.
      • They fear that if they delegate responsibility, their own manager will conclude that they can’t handle their workload.

      Delegation vs Allocation

      Most people think that delegation and allocation are synonymous, but there is an important distinction to be made between the two.[6]

      When you allocate a task, you are merely instructing a subordinate to carry out a specific action. You tell them what to do, and they do it–it’s that simple. On the other hand, delegation involves transferring some of your own work to another person. They do not just receive a set of instructions. Rather, they are placed in a role that requires that they make decisions and are held accountable for outcomes.[7]

      How to Delegate Work Effectively (A Step-By-Step Guide)

      So what’s the best way to delegate work so you can fight the fear of delegation, build an efficient team and work faster? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

      1. Know When to Delegate

      By understanding how much control you need to maintain over a situation, you can determine the best strategy for empowering workers. There are 7 levels of delegation that offer workers different degrees of responsibility.

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      This brief video explains these levels and offers examples of when it’s appropriate to use each one:

      Delegation occurs along a spectrum. The lowest level of delegation happens when you tell other people what to do. It offers little opportunity for employees to try new approaches. The most empowering form of delegation occurs when you are able to give up most of your control over the project to the employee.

      Knowing how to delegate work helps you understand how to connect people with tasks that make the best use of their talents. When done properly, it ensures that you will get the best end-result.[8]

      When you’re deciding how to delegate work, ask the following questions:

      • Do you have to be in charge of this task, or can someone else pull it off?
      • Does this require your attention to be successful?
      • Will this work help an employee develop their skills?
      • Do you have time to teach someone how to do this job?
      • Do you expect tasks of this nature to recur in the future?

      2. Identify the Best Person for the Job

      You have to pass the torch to the right team member for delegation to work. Your goal is to create a situation in which you, your company, and the employee have a positive experience.

      Think about team members’ skills, willingness to learn, and their working styles and interests. They’ll be able to carry out the work more effectively if they’re capable, coachable, and interested. When possible, give an employee a chance to play to their strengths.

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      Inexperienced workers may need more guidance than seasoned veterans. If you don’t have the time to set the newer employee up for success, it’s not fair to delegate to them.

      You also have to consider how busy your employees are. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm someone by giving them too many responsibilities.

      3. Tell and Sell to Get the Member Buy-In

      After you’ve found the perfect person for the job, you still have to get them to take on the new responsibility. Let them know why you chose them for the job. [9] When you show others that you support their growth, it builds a culture of trust. Employees who see delegated tasks as opportunities are more likely to be invested in the outcome.

      When you’re working with newer employees, express your willingness to provide ongoing support and feedback. For seasoned employees, take their thoughts and experiences into account.

      4. Be Clear and Specific About the Work

      It’s critical to explain to employees why the project is necessary, what you expect of them, and when it’s due.[10] If they know what you expect, they’ll be more likely to deliver.

      By setting clear expectations, you help them plan how to carry out the task. Set up project milestones so that you can check progress without micromanaging. If your employee has trouble meeting a milestone, they still have time to course correct before the final product is due.

      This type of accountability is commonly used in universities. If students only know the due date and basic requirements for completing major research papers, they might put off the work until the eleventh hour. Many programs require students to meet with advisers weekly to get guidance, address structure, and work out kinks in their methods in advance of deadlines. These measures set students up to succeed while giving them the space to produce great work.

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      5. Support Your Employees

      To see the best possible outcomes of delegating, your subordinates need resources and support from you. Connect them with training and materials to develop skillsets they don’t already have.[11] It may take more time up front to make resources available, but you’ll save time by having the work done correctly. For recurring tasks, this training pays off repeatedly.

      Sometimes employees need a help to see what they’re doing well and how they can improve. Giving and receiving feedback is an essential part of delegation. This is also a good way to monitor the delegated tasks as a leader. While you can keep track of the progress of the tasks, you are not micro-managing the employees.

      Throughout the project, periodically ask your employees if they need support or clarification. Make it clear that you trust them to do the work, and you want to create a space for them to ask questions and offer feedback. This feedback will help you refine the way you delegate work.

      6. Show Your Appreciation

      During periodic check-ins, recognize any wins that you’ve seen on the project so far. Acknowledge that your employees are making progress toward the objective. The Progress Principle lays out how important it is to celebrate small wins to keep employees motivated.[12] Workers will be more effective and dedicated if they know that you notice their efforts.

      Recognizing employees when they do well helps them understand the quality of work you expect. It makes them more likely to want to work with you again on future projects.

      Bottom Line

      Now that you know exactly what delegation means and the techniques to delegate work efficiently, you are in a great position to streamline your tasks and drive productivity in your team.

      To delegate is to grant autonomy and authority to someone else, thus lightening your own workload and building a well-rounded, well-utilized team.

      Delegation might seem complicated or scary, but it gets much easier with time. Start small by delegating a couple of decisions to members of your team over the next week or two.

      More About Delegation

      Featured photo credit: Freepik via freepik.com

      Reference

      [1] BOS Staffing: 5 Benefits Of Delegation – Empower Your Team
      [2] Brian Tracy International: How to Delegate The Right Tasks To The Right People: Effective Management Skills For Leadership Success
      [3] MindTools: Successful Delegation: Using The Power Of Other People’s Help
      [4] Fast Company: The Three Most Common Fears About Delegation: Debunked
      [5] Leadership Skills Training: Delegation
      [6] Abhinav Jain: Delegation of work vs Allocation of work
      [7] Anthony Donovan: Management Training: Delegating Effectively
      [8] Management 3.0: Practice: Delegation Board
      [9] Focus: The Creativity and Productivity Blog: A Guide to Delegating Tasks Effectively
      [10] Inc.: 6 Ways to Delegate More Effectively
      [11] The Muse: The 10 Rules of Successful Delegation
      [12] Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer: The Progress Principle

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