By Ivan Walsh
How many times a day do you get distracted? Here are some tactics to reduce the number of distractions so you have more time to focus on what matters most. The key is to blend these tactics into your working day as frequently as possible. Then refine what works best for you.
- Relentless Focus – Multi-tasking doesn’t work. Instead, focus on one task and continue with this until completed.
- Block out Chunks of Work – Instead of stopping and starting, work on a specific task (or set of tasks) that are inter-related. Report writing is a good example. Instead of doing reports in fragments throughout the week, schedule an hour and do them in one blast.
- Postpone Email – Instead of checking your email throughout the day, check it AFTER you’ve planned your day. This is very important so I’ll repeat it. Plan your entire day first and THEN check your email.
- Create Templates – If you get the same type of questions rather frequently, create a set of answers and save them in a text file on your desktop. Then cut and paste when needed. Or save them to a folder in your email software and copy/paste from there.
- Setup an Autoresponder – Remind people that you won’t be able to answer all emails immediately. This is to set (i.e. reduce) expectations in others that you’ll respond to every minor question they send over.
- Wear Headphones – People will be more reluctant to interrupt you if you’re wearing headphones as they may assume you’re on a conference call, listening to a webinar, or just need to concentrate.
- Book a Room – Make this recurring. Schedule a room away from your office where you can work in peace. Make this your refuge and go there whenever you need to. Add a Do Not Disturb sign if necessary.
- Learn to Say No – You don’t have to accept every meeting request. Ignore those that do not drive your project forward. Likewise, decline invitations to other time-wasting activities that drain your energy and pull you away from your goals.
- Ignore FYIs – Some folks will send FYIs to cover their own…. Ignore these and do not respond. If possible, setup a filter in your email software and send them all there.
- Create Expectations In Others – When you send out emails to your team, add a tag in the headline. For example, [Status Report] , [Budget] or [Schedule] so they know what’s coming in the email AND when they respond you can identify which email is the most urgent. You can also send them to their respective folders for better organization.
- Deflect Quick Questions – If interrupted by some one who wants to ask a quick question, ask them [immediately] what they want from you. If they ramble on, say you’ve got a call in 2 min. Can they email you the question instead?
- Friendly People – If you have a ‘chatty’ type that likes to drop over and chat, use the same technique as above. One twist is to NOT open the conversion with ‘what’s happening’ but ‘what can I do for you?’ This sets the tone. You’re working, busy, time is scarce. Shouldn’t they be working too?
- Keep your phone in a drawer – You can’t get work done if your phone keeps looking for your attention. Put it in the drawer and get back to work. Check it at breaks. Most messages will be FYIs and other time-wasters. You don’t have to respond to every text!
- Social Media Diets – if you have to, check it in batches of 10 min. Then leave
- Screen Your Desk – if your co-workers (i.e. sitting across the desk) are distracting you, request a screen to divide the tables. Tell your boss this will improve your productivity and pay for itself within a week. It will. Your co-worker won’t like you but your boss will respect your decision.
- Leave Meetings Early – I rarely attend meetings until the end. Instead, I request that I can share my status report first and then go. Unless it is critical that I stay, the meeting notes and action points should be enough. Over the course of the week, this gives me 7-10 extra hours.
- Work in Full Screen – I’m typing this on a MacBook Pro. When I click the Full Screen mode it blocks out all other applications, including the status bar. No Skype calls flashing for my attention. Find software that helps you stay focussed and reduces distractions. You can also get software that kicks you off the web for 30 min (or whatever period of time) so you have to focus.
Time is the only thing you can’t get back. Look for ways to minimize the distractions from others and also to protect yourself from (ironically) yourself.These are some of the tactics I use.
How about you? How do you try to stay focused?
Ivan Walsh is a business writer at Klariti Ltd.
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