When we curl up to watch a binge-worthy Netflix series, we have focus aplenty. So, where does focus go when we have work to do? Focus comes under assault from looming distractions of the times.
It’s hard to be good at our job if we’re bad at prioritizing our responses.
Maybe you’ve made attempts to ignore tireless phone ring tones while you work but something inside feels a searing need to peek at caller ID and that leads to…answering. At some point it becomes customary to plunge into interruptions whenever a call, text or message arrive. After all, what if it’s your child’s teacher? Your boss? A friend wanting to meet for lunch?
Being on-call without boundaries around your work will cost you.
Not staying on task taunts us, our inner critic jumps for joy. The inner voice berates our feeble will. You missed deadline, again. You can’t ever do anything right. You know better than to be fooled by yet another bright shiny object.
Not staying on task costs us revenue. When we are open for interruptions, we fumble. Fall behind. What suffers? Important things like reaching out for new business, following up with customers and friends, paying bills, completing a work or creative project, making good on a promise.
Now I’m not telling you something you don’t know. And that’s the thing. You know you could do better safeguarding high priorities from distraction. It’s what you choose to do that counts.
Where it all falls apart is the gap between getting from what you know into intentional action.
It’s not your fault. Distractions are the norm, not the exception. There are more glittery objects and rabbit holes to fall through than ever. Outsmarting distraction is not unsolvable. In fact, it is figure-out-able.
Trite clichés and generalized advice do not help most of us who are already frazzled and not eager to change habits in ways that require more from us.
My job is helping clients move, with ease, beyond the myriad of distractions, obstacles and hard-wired resistance, to experience purposeful work and become better leaders.
So, I present to you 7 highly effective productivity tips that don’t ask much of you or add on a thing. In fact, they ask less.
You bet these tips are an integral part of how we set up a solid foundation to become better leaders. Choose the ones that appear easiest to implement and I promise you will get more essential things done faster and with much less stress.
1. Clear your workspace.
Without going all Marie Kondo, the best work gets done in uncluttered space. It promotes calm focus. Survey your workspace. If you are performing work on top or in between piles of dishes, newspapers, books, papers…move them.
2. Put your phone in another room during designated work times.
I know this feels scary. It did to me. It does get easier with practice, I promise. You will feel freedom when you let go of the perceived need to respond at all times. The world will not end. Others will wait for you. Your productivity will exponentially improve.
3. Turn all phone notifications off. Check and answer email, social media and calls at set times.
I hear you. I know you want to bail here. Please, hear me out. You may not think so, but every time your cell bings, pings or sings its notification, research shows you are losing precious bandwidths of attention. Consider time it takes to break away, tend to the outside stimulation. Even if you don’t respond right away, your mind lingers on it. It steals precious engagement with what you were doing before. It’s empowering to put boundaries in place, to be the one who initiates and decides when to respond.
4. Set a timer when you work.
Not a phone alarm (see #2 above, move phone to another room). I use an inexpensive kitchen timer. Its job is to keep time, so you won’t have to. It will never tempt you off-task.
5. Take breaks.
Yes, breaks. For those who can sit at a computer for hours on end – and buy into a belief that it is required – this is not medal worthy behavior. It is a recipe for back pain and burnout. You have a to-do list. Daniel Pink, New York Times best-selling author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, suggests creating a “break list.” He recommends starting with three breaks per day and to schedule them. Do not treat breaks as a luxury or trick yourself into thinking they are undeserved. The opposite is true: Making time for breaks is an integral part of doing good work.
6. Stick to it.
The temptation is to try something once or twice and stop. Not enough. Research shows it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Find a method of accountability to help you stay with the new behavior–until it feels natural, even desirable. Maybe you record and check off each time you engage in a behavior that helps you move forward. Or get an accountability partner. Do what works for you–and it’s different for each of us– to stick with it until the outcome you want moves from wishful to go-to behavior.
7. Recognize your wins and celebrate.
Our fast-paced society encourages moving on to the next thing without pausing to acknowledge a job well done. It’s not arrogant to recognize and reward yourself upon completion of set priorities and the manner in which you’ve achieved that. It’s quite the opposite. It signals to your brain: Do This Again.
Distractions are a fact of life. The pain is real.
Now you have 7 solutions for improved productivity, and sanity, within reach. These tips are game changers.
So, choose to experiment with a few and start doing them.
Imagine 21 days from now, the time it takes to forge a new habit, how consistent practice of a few new behaviors will set you up to enjoy more focused time on priorities and more free time.
How successful do you feel about staying with meaningful work? What interruptions are most challenging for you to say no to? Tell me what tips and practices are working for you.
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