How mindfulness and a little analytical insight can boost your productivity

“Keep me in the loop” is a common phrase that easily rolls off the tongue, and yet, many of us, including myself, struggles with information overload. What I really mean to say is, “what do I need to know now?”

This bit of extra information or need to be in the know about everything, is what I call “living in the loop,” where everything is surface-level and effective engagement and collaboration are derailed.

I recall one of my early discussions in management with a senior leader who said the key to success was how many plates you could keep spinning at one time. Over the years, I’ve dismissed this to be ineffective and candidly, detrimental to the overall success of today’s workforce.

Our world is too complex for this behavior to be sustainable. There’s a mountain of evidence proving that multitasking doesn’t work, but we all do it. With the increase in automation, people tend to be left with tasks that require judgment, thought, and creativity. Having the most data doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s the person who can execute on the data in the most efficient and seamless way who wins – and I have found that this requires real focus and true mindfulness.

For me, mindfulness means living in the moment and focusing on my current experience. To be really impactful, you need to find time to focus, prioritize and filter out the unimportant, (even if that means to forget about work every now and then).

It helps if you understand your work patterns and can action them towards collaborating more effectively. At Hitachi Consulting, we use Microsoft Workplace Analytics (MyAnalytics) to see these patterns of collaboration so that we can make better use of our time, and collaborate smarter.

What I love about the Workplace Analytics app is how it visually tracks my work patterns - from how often I’m in meetings, sending or responding to email during those meetings, who I collaborate with and how often, and much more – including time I work away from the office. It can be a real eye-opener. And when you begin to see these patterns, you make the necessary changes to reduce the behaviors that can have a negative impact on your productivity.

I quickly saw that I was multitasking in meetings. I’ve learned to close any distracting applications so that I could stay focused in the conversation. I’ve also learned to block hours on my calendar for just focus time – to concentrate on my priorities and what I need to accomplish. Moreover, it’s important to be mindful of how you spend your off-hours – like sending email over the weekend. If I do send any, I respect others’ downtime by putting a delay on the email so that they don’t receive it until Monday.

When we acknowledge and re-evaluate the mindset that attaches us to our current patterns of behavior, we are in a position to change them for better outcomes. We are finding these analytics so useful at Hitachi Consulting, that we are building it into our Hitachi Organization Effectiveness solutions. This concept of smart collaboration in the framework of your workplace is powerful, and two-fold: your focus on your own internal mechanism of mindfulness and the use of technologies that help you do so.

Technology doesn’t have to be a distraction, but a tool that makes ‘living in the loop’ smarter. Use it.