I had a long list of things I wanted to accomplish. None of them were difficult, nor very time consuming on their own, but I planned on hunkering down, focusing on getting things DONE.
For nearly two hours I was busy, really busy. I turned to look at the my list and check off all the things I’d completed and there, the truth hit me: I’d accomplished nearly nothing!
How could this be? I’d been so busy! What the hell happened here? I’m pretty sure my jaw just dropped. All this time, and nothing of any substance, to show for it. This won’t do.
My brain went into overdrive:
These tasks are going to take a lot longer than I estimated!
I’ll never get everything done!
I might have to hire another assistant, but most of this stuff is “my stuff” that I need to do!
What am I going to do?
Has this been happening all the time?
Is there a way I can do things more efficiently?
Have I been wasting time and not realizing it?
Okay, slow down and breathe. What really did just happen? What did I really do, during the past two hours? I opened my browsing history and a big portion of my story was told. As I performed some research in order to create some checklists for a client, I got sucked into the web. Can you relate?
This lead me to thinking about all the things that can interrupt my focus and keep me from making real progress.
Here is what I found to be the most common distractions:
- Smartphones (Instant access to social media, photos and all sorts of other apps)
- Social Media
- Instant Messaging
- Internet Browsing
- People: colleagues, employees, family,if you work from home, and pets. (Pets are people too – just ask them!)
So this leads to the real question: What to do about all of them?! The short answers I’ll list here, but all of this is complicated. Every business is different. I may say to limit email access time, but if you are handling a large amount of customer service through an email account, then you would need to access it all the time. Likewise, if you specialize in social media presence for your clients, then working to limit your time spent there is silly, too.
So please take these tips as general best practice, when you may be working on your own business development, or need specific focus time to accomplish some task.
Turn them off or to “Do not disturb” settings when you need to concentrate. Set a personal rule of only using your fun apps when you are not working.
Schedule times during the day to check and take action on your emails. Turn off the alert sound or pop-up announcing a new email. Don’t use your email as your action list.
Yes, we all need to post and keep our businesses in time and relevant, but, and this is huge, when being productive is key, set a timer on your computer or phone to go off after 10 or 15-minutes. It’s a case of get in, post and get out before you are sucked in the fun memes, quotes and dinner pics.
When this is the common means for you and your team to stay in touch, make it a habit of using it for quick questions and information. During times of concerted concentration, you may have to go “off line.”
The sound of your phone ringing elicits an immediate move to answer it. At times, you may need to consider having someone else on your team answer your calls or creating a separate voicemail message stating that you are unavailable until _____ time and will respond to all messages then. Remember that if you were already on a call, many times you don’t switch over to a second incoming call, but rather wait until after you’ve finished the first to respond to the second. It is necessary sometimes to make yourself the priority “first caller” and let voicemail do it’s job.
This is my downfall. I research one site and get led off into another, and another, and another! There are apps which can be downloaded to control your browsing. Freedom To and Stay Focusd are a couple which help by blocking out distracting websites after a specific amount of time.
Last, but certainly far from least are the organic type of interrupters – otherwise known as people! Seriously though, this can be the most difficulty type of distraction to handle. A couple of quick tips are to create boundaries and clearly state specific times when interrupting you is off limits. It may be a certain time each day, or set a limit of one hour or so. Afterward, emerge and make yourself accessible. This will show your colleagues or family that you are not running away from them, just that you have to get stuff done! In an office setting it may be as simple as closing your door and putting a note up, or working in a vacant conference room.
As you can see, there are work arounds to nearly every diversion, but you are the one in control. A few simple changes can help you increase your productivity and make your life much easier in the long run!