Un-productivity Bingo: How to win at a losing game

by | Sep 15, 2017 | Analysis, Public Relations

Chances are you see yourself as a productivity rock star—you’re just being held back by old-fashioned working practices and too many distractions.

It’s not you—it’s everything else! There’s too much noise on email, messenger apps, phone calls and way, way too many meetings in your daily schedule.

Our research suggests that 92 percent of employees “somewhat or strongly” agree with the notion they are personally productive.

But they also say only 39 percent of their time is being spent on their primary duties.

In other words, we all believe we can get the job done.  It’s just the job we’re doing 61 percent of the time isn’t what we’re meant to be doing.

We’re all playing Un-Productivity Bingo—the game you lose every time you win!

Unproductivity Bingo

So, what are the top four productivity killers in our game?

Unnecessary meetings

You’ll find four types of meetings in most businesses. There are communication meetings where you get to hear about or discuss a change of direction or strategy; and idea meetings where you are part of a team coming up with new concepts. Those two types are valuable. On average, they may account for about 20 percent of your total “meeting load”. Then there are collaborative meetings where you put heads together to bring different pieces of work into sync. Let’s call that about 30 percent of time allocated to meetings. That leaves 50 percent. That time gets eaten up by status meetings. You know the type: everyone reads out their laundry list of blocked projects, gripes, and grumbles. Some of that is necessary—but how much of it can you cut out to get on with your day?


We’re addicted. The average worker is on email six hours per day—that means checking work emails at home, and personal emails at work. Do the math: six hours per day, 30 hours per week. If the average American worker clocks up a 34-hour working week; a high proportion of that time is staring at an ever-growing inbox. I can still remember taking my son to the office for “take your child to work day” and when we got home and his mother asked what he learned, his response was, “Dad just does email all day.”

Inefficient process

Two of out three marketers have told us they have the right tools for the job. But more than eight out of 10 say content production is moving too slow to keep pace with demand. Those numbers don’t add up. In other words, even if you think you’ve got the kit, if you’re falling behind, maybe it’s time to review what you’re using to get the job done. Maybe it’s not quite the toolkit you think it is.

How you feel

Ah, the urge for a siesta after lunch … admit it, you’ve felt it. Or you’ve got wound up tight by that message from the kids or spouse; or the nonsense a friend as shared on Facebook. Productivity dips because of how you’re feeling. You’re just not in the zone for work.

So how do you win at this losing game?

The answer lies in boundaries, flexibility and automation.

  • Boundaries. You need to set limits on distractions: cut down the time you’re looking at your phone or social media. Limit the opportunities for the emotional and psychological drain. Tune in to what you need to do, when you need to do it. Tune out of everything else.
  • Flexibility. There’s growing evidence that if you can set your own schedule, you’ll get more done—particularly if that means you can set yourself a rhythm for relaxation and sleep! Maybe that also means being ruthless with your schedule. You can’t be flexible if your diary is congested. So that 50% of the time on questionable meetings? That’s where you start to cut. And do you really need to keep your email inbox open all day? Can you hit a rhythm of checking and replying in intervals that best suit your working day?
  • Automation. We’re back to using the wrong tools for the job. Take a minute to step back and think about how you do what you do? If you can automate an hour-long daily task, you’re saving yourself from something tedious, sure. But you’re also reclaiming five hours a week. Most of the killer features of Un-Productivity Bingo are simply antiquated, manual ways of doing things. Again, one great place to start is to think about how you use email. Sure, it’s faster than snail mail, but is it really the right tool to gather feedback from stakeholders or manage projects? Think about it.

You see, you’ll always be stuck playing the Un-Productivity game until you ask yourself one simple question: “How can I do things differently?” Bingo!

Joe Staples
Joe Staples is a senior B2B executive at Workfront, Inc., with primary emphasis in SaaS, MarTech, and customer experience sectors.


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