Struggling With Productivity? Maybe Start by Looking At What’s Controlling Your Attention

Spike Team
By Spike Team, Updated on March 26, 2022, 7 min read

Work is the sum of what you do. Whether you’re a developer, a content creator, a landscaper, or a welder – work is our output. We’re all in situations where we’re trying to provide value to our organizations and customers to generate a return higher than the cost of our labor and capital.


Work in 2022 moves at a blistering pace. We’re all carrying around devices that allow us to work from anywhere, get everyone’s attention, and get things done no matter where we are. The problem with getting things done from anywhere is that it has somehow created situations where it’s hard to get things done. Why is that? Let’s look at the 5 Whys Technique to give you the tools to determine what’s limiting your productivity.



The 5 Whys Technique



The 5 Whys Technique originated at the Toyota Motor Company by Sakichi Toyoda. The system was implemented in Toyota’s manufacturing facilities as part of their overall improvement strategy. It was the basis of their ‘scientific approach’ to problem-solving. Since the initial implementation, the 5 Whys Technique has expanded throughout just about every type of industry around the world and is a major aspect of Kaizen, Six Sigma, and lean manufacturing.


The 5 Whys Technique is a problem-solving process where you ask “why” five times to understand the root cause of a problem. The process starts out with an identified problem and then you keep asking why it is happening until the true root of the issue has been discovered. Here we look at some examples of the 5 Whys to help to better understand this process.

  • Why were you late to work?

    I left late

  • Why were you late to work?

    I overslept

  • Why were you late to work?

    I went to bed late

  • Why were you late to work?

    I got home late

  • Why were you late to work?

    I was out at the bar

Looking at our example, this person was late for work because they were out at the bar, which led to a string of challenges that built upon each other.



Implement the 5 Whys Technique to Increase Your Productivity

As we turn back to the original problem mentioned above, lets explore why productivity may be decreasing as the pace of work increases due to an increasing reliance on digital tools. We identified the initial problem, so now we can use the 5 Whys to determine what’s causing reduced productivity.



1. Identify the Problem

The problem we identified initially is that adding new software and digital communication tools has reduced productivity. The strange thing with this problem is that digital transformation was designed to help increase productivity. However, what it’s done in practice is to increase distractions in tandem with productivity. So let’s run through the 5 Whys problem-solving method to determine the actual cause of productivity decrease.



2. Ask Yourself ‘Why’ 5 Times

  • Why is productivity going down as digital transformation happens?

    I have a lot of work

  • Why is productivity going down as digital transformation happens?

    People keep sending me more work that interrupts me

  • Why is productivity going down as digital transformation happens?

    I can’t focus on creative work during the day so I have to work at night to catch up

  • Why is productivity going down as digital transformation happens?

    I am distracted during the day

  • Why is productivity going down as digital transformation happens?

    Synchronous work doesn’t let me get important work done during the day

We’ve used the 5 Whys method to look at root cause of why productivity is going down as we’ve expanded the digital tools that we use. We started with email, then layered on team chat tools like Slack and Teams. We then require people to sit on Zoom meetings for hours upon hours. All we’ve really done is create more distractions.



3. Address the Problem Foundation

The root cause of the current problem (that the 5 Whys revealed) is that digital tools are causing distractions in the lives of employees. Think about these aspects of your work life:

  • How many hours a week are you in video meetings?

  • How many team chat messages interrupt deep work?

  • How much time do you spend regaining focus after changing work contexts?

Digital productivity is hindered by digital distractions, and the 5 Whys exercise has shown us that. Instead of just assuming the reason, we’ve identified the reason, so we can now look to solve the problem.


The problem is distractions, interruptions, and context switching.



4. Address the Problem Ripple

The ripple of the problem identified by the 5 Whys exercise is also something we must consider. What is a problem ripple? A problem ripple is when one problem ripples down through your life to cause other problems as well. When you’re staying up late working because of digital distractions, you’re neglecting other aspects of your life such as family, health, and leisure.


By addressing the root problem, you can prevent it from rippling down into other aspects of your life. In the next section, we’ll look at how to identify and deal with what’s causing your digital distractions.



Identify and Deal With Time Wasters

We’ve identified the problem that digital distractions have caused, so we must now identify what causes them and deal with them.


Many organizations rely on apps such as Slack and Zoom for a bulk of their communications. The problem with these tools is that they require continual context switching in order to be used. Video meetings are useful when implemented correctly, but they shouldn’t be your first step to communicating with someone.  Spending an hour on a video meeting shouldn’t be the first step, but rather the fallback when other communication tools are taking too long.




Team chat apps don’t replace email, they simply add to the noise. Many people think that email is too slow to be useful in today’s world, but they are talking about legacy email solutions. Email is based on open standards, so it’s possible that new apps can innovate on the experience. Spike is one such example of an app that has evolved email into something brand new. Spike lets you chat just like you do in a team chat app. It clears the clutter. Its Conversational Email puts real conversation at the heart of your communications. It removes clunky threads and repetitive email signatures.


It also combines all the essential collaboration and communication tools needed to work. Spike does everything:

  • Email (but as fast as chat)

  • Document collaboration

  • Notes

  • Calendar

  • Advanced Search

  • File sharing

  • Video meetings

  • Audio calls

  • Voice messages

It creates a unified digital workspace that eliminates the need to swap apps every time you need to move from email, to chat, to video.



How Does Spike Eliminate Digital Distractions?

Spike includes some incredible superpowers for turning off distractions:

  • Snoozing emails for later

  • Schedule send your messages for better delivery time

  • Priority Inbox for keeping important messages front and center

Let’s look at each of these in-depth to see how to help with distractions.


Snoozing emails for later lets you build a triage system to remind yourself of a message at a time that works best for you. Instead of letting important messages pile up, schedule a time on your calendar to process them all at the same time.


Scheduling emails can be beneficial to control when you get a response from someone. Let’s say that you have a response ready from an inquiry, but you don’t want to clog up their inbox as you know they’re doing deep work. By scheduling a message for a later time, you can cross responding off your task list without interrupting someone else.


Priority Inbox in Spike automatically organizes your Inbox. We don’t mean delete a bunch of emails, create some folders, tag your messages, or any other of those old-school email management tips. Just switch to Priority Inbox to automatically remove less important messages like newsletters, coupons, random social media alerts, and shopping receipts to an Other Inbox so you can deal with it later (or never). Your main inbox will stay focused on only the important messages.




We used the 5 Whys problem-solving method to determine what digital distractions are at the root of the problem of falling productivity. By implementing a better software solution (vs adding more tools), we’ve eliminated some distractions and created a more streamlined way to work.


Download Spike to eliminate distractions while increasing productivity.

Spike Team
Spike Team The Spike team posts about productivity, time management, and the future of email, messaging and collaboration.

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