As I sit here writing this blog post, I fight the urge to check my email, Facebook, Instagram, text messages, and then go check the cupboards to see what snacks I can munch on. It can be very challenging.
However, if I can stay focused for just an hour straight, boy can I crank work out. These periods of strong focus are where we get the most done but so many of us don’t give ourselves enough of these chunks of time. It’s where the magic happens.
A decade ago when I had a desk job at a law firm, all these distractions were not there. Gosh I wish they were because there were so many hours of boredom, but I also think the free time gave my mind the ability to be creative and come up with business ideas like CertifiKID! So my advice is based on my experience personally managing my daily routine now as an employer, while also watching my employees and seeing their different levels of productivity. We work in a virtual workspace so it can be even harder to stay focused (and keep your hands out of the cookie jar!).
Here are my 5 personal tips to think about and hopefully give you more focus so you can be a more productive worker, whether at home or in the office:
1) Sunday Night is Goal Setting Time
Sunday nights are when I come up with my task list and set my goals for the week. I actually write my team an email as well to outline what the priorities are for the week, what is due from them, and what they should expect from me. This forces me to get my stuff done as I am now accountable for doing what I promised.
The other thing I make sure to do on Sunday nights is to set my times for exercise for the week. Exercise is key for me and helps my overall focus and productivity. I look at the weather to determine what days I can run and look at my yoga schedule and see when I can make it to a class. I put it all on my calendar so that it is set in stone and I don’t schedule anything in those spots.
Each AM throughout the week I also start the day with my lovely morning coffee routine, followed by looking at my calendar for that full day and the following day, so I get a sense of what I am up against. If I don’t have time for exercise that day, I might look at when I have a call scheduled where I don’t need to be in front of my screen so that I can take it while walking or running. I also visualize the day and figure out when I will be able to fit in any pauses or have any down time. Obviously, there are always daily fires that come up, but I like to feel somewhat in control of my time.
2) Spend One Day Writing Down Everything You Did That Day
I think you all will be shocked by this exercise! My husband, Brian, jokes with me as this is not such an original idea given lawyers (and other professionals) have to do this EVERY day in order to get paid! But I want you to take one day to write down everything you do in your work day. This exercise will be eye opening and really help you to look objectively at my advice for #3 and #4. I could not believe how many times I walked back and forth between the office and the kitchen for a snack. How many home tasks I was dealing with between loading and unloading the dishwasher, running the laundry, and separating and folding it (okay, okay, not folding it so often!). It was all being done at the same time as conference calls so I was truly multitasking but I am sure many of you may be overwhelmed by these other tasks because you can’t work at the same time. Because of that, it’s very important to think through how you can make all of this time more productive.
3) Stop Checking Social Media, Texts and Personal Calls
How many of you are checking these at least once an hour? How many of you are checking these every five minutes? I know many of you may be embarrassed when you look at how often you are distracted by these outlets.
When you are working from home or working at an office with no real friends, it can feel lonely and you want to feel more connected, but I cannot tell you how distracted you can become on these outlets. You need to set specific times for yourself to engage. Put the devices away – like in your bag or in a drawer. If you are checking constantly, it obviously means you are not being as productive as you could be.
4) Email is the Devil
Like #3, email can be addicting. I personally find it to be my biggest enemy. I can have spurts of nonstop emails flooding my inbox. My instinct is to always knock them out when they come. For example, right now I can see I have received 15 new emails since I started writing this blog post, and I am fighting hard not to check what they are. Maybe the business is falling apart? Maybe my website is down? Maybe my kids are being released early? STOP IT! You can handle it. Once I finish this post, I will go knock them out and it will probably be more efficient than if I had done them individually as they were coming in in real time. Also, why do I ALWAYS need to be the first to respond? If I wait a bit, issues often get resolved before I have to deal with them. So take a breath with your emails.
5) Fridays are For Reflection
Sunday Nights are the day I set my goals and Friday mornings are when I reflect back on what has happened during the week. It gives me the rest of that day to make sure I accomplish all I need to do. I also write an end-of-week report to my team to remind them of these goals and tasks and acknowledge what has been completed. I actually have these emails going back years and years. Once in awhile, I go back to them to see where we were at these times each year and what our priorities were.
UNBELIEVABLE! I made it through this entire blog post without being distracted by any other outlet or getting a snack. I was focused. Now I’m done and feel like it’s Christmas going to check on all those emails, texts and social posts!