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My latest article for Harvard Business Review is based on something that happens to me a lot as a productivity trainer: Executives want me to teach their team time management tips and techniques to help them be more productive. But, in talking to them, it becomes clear that their staff doesn’t need time management tips at all.

What they do need is an environment where they can focus and do their best work. If you’re a leader who’s looking to raise productivity and lower stress for your team, build a work culture that minimizes distractions and teach your staff how to manage their attention.

In my HBR article, I give some tips on how to do this.


How to Support Focused Work

Reduce interruptions. Time management tips don’t do a lot of good when your team members have to jump from task to task. One common reason for interruptions is that staffers feel that they have to respond to customers immediately. When they’re constantly on alert like this, they never have a chance to give undivided attention to their other tasks.

Clarify communication practices. As I wrote in the HBR article: “When every communication tool is used in every circumstance, there’s no way to vet incoming communication except to check everything as it arrives. This, too, ensures constant distraction.”

Treat monitoring work as real work. Do you have team members such as IT managers who can never totally unplug from work because they monitor an important system? Employees who must constantly check in never truly get downtime. Without breaks to recharge, they’re not doing their best work, and they’re at risk for burnout. That’s why it’s essential to make sure everyone on your team has trusted backup.

Check out my latest HBR article for more details about these issues, plus how to solve them.

Truly productive work cultures don’t just happen. They take intention. The strategies in my HBR article can be a great starting point. For more ideas and insights about building your team’s success, pick up my new book, Work Without Walls. You can even read the first chapter for free.

Read: Work Without Walls!