Once upon a time, in an office not so far away, worked a bunch of people who bragged pridefully about their abilities to multi-task – even comparing themselves to one another constantly trying to “out multitask” each other. Hour after hour of multi-tasking slipped past and so did the productivity.
When the fairy godmother finally showed up on the scene and broke the spell, the people woke from their trance and realized that their multi-tasking had spawned monsters called Disruptions that fought the hero, Productivity.
“I’m working on three different things, which means I’m working on nothing.” exclaimed Francisco Garcia.
“Multitasking is the enemy of focus” said the fairy godmother, “and focus is the father of productivity.” This may be just a fairy tale but science now shows that the brain can multi-task for small rapid-fire situations, but projects and longer tasks benefit exponentially from focused time. The bad news for me is that I can be my biggest distraction!
Have you ever gotten to the end of a day and asked yourself (maybe aloud), “What do I have to show for today?!” How demoralizing! Let’s defeat the disruption enemy!
Here are 7 tips to help you defeat the disruption enemy:
1. Take 5!
Take 5-10 minutes at the beginning of the day to plan and write down your plan based on the following 6 tips. When I take that time, my day is always more productive. Even when I get sidetracked, it gives me a plan to refer back to and get myself back on track. Whatever doesn’t get done today will be a starting point for tomorrow’s plan.
2. Plan your Schedule.
Use your calendar to block out not only appointments but also chunks of time to knock out projects. During those chunks of time, refer to #5 and #6 below.
3. Layout and prioritize your Tasks.
What are your top 3-5 goals for today? Put them on your To Do list. Depending on the type of task (send thank you card, make follow up calls, etc.), your goal list may be longer. Crossing them off the list when you complete them gives your brain an endorphin reward!
4. Set incremental Benchmarks and Rewards.
Speaking of rewards, why not? For example, when I’m done writing this article, I will reward myself by getting a cup of coffee. That also helps me avoid another disruption of stopping to get my coffee during this chunk of time. And it motivates me to keep focused!
5. Hit “Off”.
Yes…you heard me right. Take advantage of the “X” in the right corner of email, Instant Messenger, Facebook (OUCH), and other electronic distractions. It’s too tempting to check them “just in case”, when you’re trying to focus. There’s a high likelihood that the world will NOT come to an end if you don’t answer that email in the next 5 minutes.
6. Discipline your thoughts.
I find that the very moment I try to focus on a project, is the very moment that my mind thinks of 100 things that have to be done RIGHT now. My solution is a lined pad of paper. As things come to mind, I jot them down and go right back to my project.
7. Employ an Assistant.
If you have an Assistant (human or virtual) that can make you more organized and productive, by all means take advantage of it/them! We use the Advantage system to be our assistant, lay out our tasks, reminders and even queue up our follow up emails and letters for us to personalize, approve and send out. There is no humanly way I could ever keep up with all the contacts, prospects, clients and partners that I do without Advantage (that’s my shameless plug).
BONUS: Be merciful to yourself.
The best laid plans are sure to be interrupted. If a client, prospect, co-worker, may-day or other disruptions interrupt your plan, you don’t need to fire yourself. After all, disruptions by people are part of our job! Manage them as best you can and pick up where you left off tomorrow.
Remember that the goal is improvement – not perfection! Success is a game of 1%. You’ve heard the 1% Productivity Rule: If you increase your productivity one percent per day, you will double your productivity in 70 days. (You may recognize this as same formula used for compounded interested.)
You’ve heard these tips to defeat disruptions presented in different ways before, but I’d like to offer you a challenge. I’d like to challenge you to commit to following these rules (religiously, but to the best of your ability) for a full 30 days. Start today, tomorrow or the first of the month. I’m doing it along with you.
Imagine the accomplishment, the pride and the endorphin rush! Keep it up and based on the 1% Productivity Rule, you’ll double your productivity in just 70 short days!
Let’s take this challenge together and we’ll confidently end our fairy tale with “and they all lived happily ever after.”