Reduce triviality at work - Business Works
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Reduce triviality at work

Kyle OíBrien, Community Manager, ej4 Think back to the last time something meaningless at work ended up dominating everyoneís time. How long did it take? Was it during a meeting, or was your time being pulled away from something else?

But before you answer those questions, letís talk about a man named, C Northcote Parkinson. He was a British naval historian responsible for Parkinsonís Law of Triviality (PLOT). The theory broached a number of themes, but none more important than the one demonstrating how much time is really wasted on the most irrelevant topics. He uses the story of a team of builders and executives overseeing the installation of an atomic reactor. All the important elements of construction (the infrastructure, piping, electrical, etc.) didnít take much time to debate and map out. What did take up most of their time, however, were discussions of where a simple bike shed should be built.

And from there, the term bikeshedding became a reality. Itís a reference point for individual employees or entire teams who have spent too long wavering back and forth through trivial matters - matters that do nothing but pinch productivity and harm the companyís bottom line when allís said and done.

So rather than have yourself or your employees bikeshed their way through the day, here are three ways to reduce triviality at work.

Cap your meetings - One of the biggest roadblocks between you and time management lies in long meetings. Partly because of how long meetings are scheduled out and partly because there are too many opinions on things just for the sake of being opinionated. Next time, practice on setting time limits to meetings and most of all, sticking with them. The faster you commit to shorter schedules, the easier it should be for everyone to make their points and continue onward.

Steer clear of negativity - Youíll find that negative employees who go out of their way to complain about the littlest of things, or just constantly talk down their job or the company are doing so for two reasons:

  • They arenít happy (obviously) and are venting out of pure frustration with their role.
  • They complain about their job in hopes of getting a rise out of you and any employee within earshot. The feeling being that if you participate, it validates.

"Iím not paid enough to do this"

Not surprisingly, most negative comments cover inconsequential topics. A complaint about how the coffee doesnít taste good in the break room. A complaint about "Iím not paid enough to do this". A complaint about how long they worked last night. The list goes on.

Through it all, youíve got to stand tall, remain focused, and tell them you donít have time for it right now. It sounds simple enough, but some might fear offending someone (even though theyíre not in this instance) over getting back to being productive.

Make a digital wall for your productivity - Sometimes all it takes is an e-mail on where to go for happy hour to turn into a 30-minute back-and-forth. Or what your opinion is about the latest YouTube video someone just sent. Or you commit the easiest faux pas and engage with Facebook, Twitter or some other social media site and get lost in one trivial topic after another.

digital distractions are the worst holes to get trapped in

Digital distractions are easy and they are one of the worst holes to get trapped in at work.

So, instead of anticipating these trivial triggers, build a digital wall around the times youíre most productive. Delay inbox alerts. Limit IMs to 'emergencies only'. If you have an office, close your door so no co-worker can come in to talk about last nightís game. And if your company doesnít have a social media restriction, it would be wise to severely limit or outright ignore Facebook or Twitter or whatever else until you get home. Whatever you feel comfortable changing to, do it. Youíll be amazed at just how much time you can hack.

In the end, better productivity levels will always be the de facto reason against bikeshedding at work. Moreover, triviality is just a bad habit altogether and will always keep you from developing a solid routine to be the best you can be at work every day.

Kyle OíBrien is the Community Manager for ej4. You can contact him on Twitter at @ej4video and for more, visit:

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