Distractions can be killer for office efficiency, and the Internet – despite its vast array of perks – has amplified this problem in the workplace. It can be very easy for employees to get sucked in by an enticing article, social media post or online game, which prevents them from completing their work in a timely manner. 

But this does not mean that offices should ban Internet use other than for business-related functions. Rather, supervisors need to educate their team members about various time management techniques in order to get the most out of each worker. This is hardly a novel idea – it predates the concept of being online by decades. 

The best way to improve efficiency is remarkably simple
Communications scholars will recognize the name Ivy Lee – he is, of course, viewed as the father of public relations. Entrepreneur contributor James Clear told an anecdote about Lee's effective methods being instituted by Charles M. Schwab's Bethlehem Steel Corporation almost 100 years ago. Clear reported that Schwab, ever-conscious about his enterprise's standing within its industry, consulted with Lee about the efficiency of his staff. 

Prioritizing is an imperative part of being successful in the workplace. Prioritizing is an imperative part of being successful in the workplace.

Lee asked to spend just 15 minutes with each of Schwab's executives and promised immediate results without asking for any compensation. According to Clear, within three months, Schwab was so impressed with the effects that he wrote Lee a check for $25,000 on the spot – equivalent to $400,000 today. 

So what, exactly, did Lee tell those executives? The message was actually very simple: Be organized. 

Lee's model focused on prioritizing the task at hand, Clear said, rather than worrying about future projects. He advised Schwab's employees to, at the end of each work day, pinpoint the six most important things they needed to complete the following day. Then, rank them in terms of priority. The next day, focus only on the first task until it is finished, and repeat this process. If there are any remaining items at the end of the day, bump them to the top of tomorrow's list. 

This simple model helped one of the biggest manufacturers in the country improve its productivity. Clear asserted that the two most valuable aspects of the strategy are that it forces employees to make tough decisions and it requires single-tasking. By focusing only on one task at a time, workers can be much more effective and efficient. 

Distractions can steal time and money
The Macon Telegraph contributor Cindy Krischer Goodman reported that workplace distractions are everywhere – and they rob the workforce of its time. She lamented that, despite workloads increasing for most workers in the U.S., distractions are at an all-time high. A big part of this, Goodman argued, is self-induced and thus correctable. 

Distractions are stealing your time - and therefore, your money - by compromising your team's efficiency. Distractions are stealing your time – and therefore, your money – by compromising your team's efficiency.

Goodman spoke with Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Rosen posited that the prevalence of electronic media has bred a compulsive desire to constantly check smart devices. He said that people can begin to feel anxious if they are not able to check their phones or tablets for extended periods of time. 

Rosen suggested training oneself to overcome these distractions. For one minute only, indulge in checking out social media or a news site. Then, set a timer for 15 minutes. During that period, Rosen said to focus only on the work at hand – ignore emails, texts, tweets and anything else. This process, when practiced, can improve productivity over time. 

Distractions are eating away at your staff's efficiency. For help improving your team's productivity, enroll in a time management course or training seminar.