The advent of the knowledge economy has revolutionised the manufacturing industry but the sheer volume of information we receive daily brings its own set of problems.
From waking in the morning to retiring at night, our phones ring with incoming calls, and buzz and ping to alert us of messages, news, texts, and social media mentions.
Meanwhile the screens of our computer, laptops and tablets light up to advise us of arriving emails, reminders, and inputs from ERP software and other sources.
Such is the volume of this data that we're forced to multitask as we constantly strive to deal with all the information demanding our attention.
Unfortunately, studies have proved that juggling several tasks at the same time leads to a serious drop in productivity and work quality.
The Perils of Multi-tasking
A recent study that compared participants carrying out the same task in tandem and in sequence, revealed that the multitaskers not only spent up to 30% more time to complete the task, they also made double the number of errors. Other studies point at diminished job satisfaction and increased stress.
So how should the modern manager on an endless quest to improve productivity deal with a daily barrage of information, much of it actionable?
Recently, McKinsey & Company, an American multinational management consulting firm, came up with a system of refreshing simplicity - Focus, Filter and Forget or the 3 Fs.
How to Improve Productivity with the 3 Fs
Let's look at each of the 3 Fs in turn....
Focus involves just doing one thing at a time and devoting all ones energy, attention and drive to that one job. Ideally you want to reserve blocks of time to work uninterruptedly on one task or project, while ignoring distractions.
Another application of focus is to concentrate on the key message of a piece of information such as a financial report or email. Drilling down to the actionable essential data amid the inevitable filler helps you glean the core actionable message.
Filtering is essentially delegating - ensuring that actionable information is handled by the right person in the organisation. If you tend to try and handle everything yourself, it's time to stop. Delegating work is far more efficient. It allows other qualified staff members to apply their expertise to important jobs, and frees you up to focus on your own responsibilities.
Forgetting refers to completely getting away from your business responsibilities for a while. It's a way of switching off from the always-on world and recharging. This could involve taking breaks or power naps, going for walks, playing sports or games, exercising, listening to music and so on. The result is that you return to your duties refreshed, clear headed, and primed to take care of business.
Forgetting also means resisting the urge to search for new information once you've started on one task. If more research is necessary, you should schedule a separate time to do it and not multitask.
Implementing the 3Fs to Improve Productivity
The focus, filter and forget approach seems an ideal way to improve productivity. The only problem is that it requires self-discipline and the ability to systemise and optimise incoming information.
One solution is to make it part of corporate culture by establishing standards specifically designed for the 3F process. This could involve establishing workflows designed to avoid multitasking and procedures to enhance delegation of responsibilities. Such a system is best established in alignment with your ERP software.
To regain your sanity and build the kind of focused productivity needed for corporate success, try the 3Fs. Just make sure your ERP software is supporting you.