Working in an office can sometimes feel like a minefield of productivity killers. Emails constantly popping up, co-workers swinging by to chat, meeting where not enough gets accomplished can all be a drain on your productivity.
It only gets worse when you take into account that most people are pretty terrible at mental accounting (how we add up things, like how long it takes to get tasks done in our heads). Not only do you have an inaccurate picture of how much you’re really getting done, but it can make you feel worse about what you still have to do.
In a recent article on Inc.com, Robin Camarote wrote:
“Patterns of imprecise time estimating are what keep us in that perpetual state of feeling behind and overwhelmed.
If we knew and acknowledged how much time various tasks took, we'd not only get more done, but we'd feel more confident in our ability to finish what we set out to do in the first place.”
One of the piece of advice Camarote gives is to time yourself to see how long your recurring tasks actually take. This can help you get a better understanding of how long it actually takes you to accomplish your tasks.
Of course, you can do this manually. But if you’re an Office 365 user, you may not have to. Using Delve Analytics can help you get a handle on your mental accounting. It gives you insight into how much time you’re actually spending on tasks like emails and meetings – and how much time you actually have to focus on more important tasks.
Delve Analytics (available on Office 365 E5 plans or as an add-on to other plans) automatically tracks your habits to give you better insight into your work day. Some of the numbers it tracks include:
- How long you spent on emails in a week: This includes a breakdown of how long you spent reading emails, how long you spent writing emails and a total comparison versus your company average.
- Percent Read: What percent of emails do you read and what percent of your emails are others reading
- Reply time: How long does it take you to reply to emails and how long does it take other to reply to you
- How long you spent in meetings: This tracks how long you spent in meetings you scheduled and meetings scheduled by others.
- Meeting habits: This breaks down common occurrences in meetings that could be hurting your productivity, like multitasking in meetings, after-hours meetings, recurring meetings, longer (+1 hour) meetings, and conflicting meetings.
It also calculates your focus hours (defined as at least two hours without a meeting), after-hours work (emails and meeting outside of defined working hours) and collaboration (who you’re in meetings with and emailing the most). Microsoft has a nice breakdown of how all of these are calculated here.
Having access to this data can be a wake-up call for how much time you’re actually spending on email and in meetings. Take a look at your numbers and see if there are places where you can improve. Delve Analytics let you set goals, so use this to incrementally cut down on the bad habits eating into your productivity and work on getting your focus hours up.
Of course, the data isn’t perfect. It can only tell you what it can track in Office 365. It isn’t going to track the productivity killers (like checking social media and getting interrupted by co-workers) that creep in outside of email and meetings.
But using Delve Analytics can give you much a better handle on your mental accounting. Getting a clearer idea of where you’re actually spending time working can make it easier to make intelligent decisions about what you need to change to be more productive.