I'm often asked how I'm able to get so much done. The assumption is I don't sleep or have a staff of people supporting my every move. While I do have support in my business, and get plenty of sleep, the truth is I've just figured out how to be as efficiently productive as I can possible be.
Part of being productive is knowing the difference between busy work (like searching social media or going through emails) and profit generating or career building work (like reaching out to potential clients or mentors and serving existing clients at a high level). It really looks different for everyone. But in the end, the feeling of accomplishment is universal. And it feels absolutely fabulous to check things off a list and to see progress toward a long-term goal.
Productivity also creates momentum and encourages a true sense of purpose. It gives you the freedom to spend more time with the ones you love and less time worrying about the things that are left unfinished (because you have a plan to get to it later).
In an effort to help you have a sense of purpose and happiness that can come from being productive, I'm sharing some tips and tools over a three-part series.
Today I want to talk about distractions.
You know the feeling. You’ve prepped yourself to buckle down and start crossing things off your to-do list. It’s a mile long, and it just keeps growing. You’re finally in the right mindset and you’re ready to fly.
You’re completely geared up to knock out your list, and you’re 100% ready for that feeling of relief and satisfaction you’ll have at the end of a full productive day.
The phone buzzes -- it’s a text message.
Your laptop dings with a new email.
Your phone lights up with a new Slack message.
An employee walks into your office with an important question.
Your phone rings -- it’s a non-work-related call.
You need a cup of coffee.
You have to use the bathroom.
You’re starting to get hungry.
Before you know it, the whole morning is blown, and you don’t really have anything to show for it.
Unfortunately, distractions are one of the main killers of productivity. You have a lot of things coming at you, and many of them are keeping you from focusing on what truly matters.
While you’re busy with these distractions, you’re not actually accomplishing anything.
So how can you eliminate these distractions and get to the most important stuff?
Here are five (5) things I do to get rid of the distractions and get back on track.
Making plans the day before can be a really helpful trick to help you stay focused on the following day.
You don’t have to plan out every decision but make choices about simple things that might be distractions during the day.
Lay out what you’re going wear for the day.
Prepare and pack your lunch.
Put your gym bag by the door or better yet, in the car.
Prep your desk so you have everything you need to get started on what's on the top of your to-do list.
You can even map out a new route to the office.
Trust me! When you’re tired in the morning, you just want to run on autopilot and not make a bunch of little unnecessary decisions. You can use that time productively, like doing your morning meditation, journaling or exercise.
It's also a great idea to set a time when you'll start checking your e-mail or answer text messages. For example, I don't look touch my phone until 9:00am. Between 7:30am and 9:00am is my time.
It’s now estimated that people are spending 2 hours and 22 minutes a day on social media. Unless you're conversing with potential clients or creating a marketing strategy on social media, 2 hours a day is nothing more than lost productivity.
Doing things like...
Constantly checking your personal notifications
Taking the time to respond to various rants
Endlessly scrolling through pictures on Instagram
Participating in all of those random quizzes
...Isn’t going to help your business.
Social media can easily become a black hole that can become a major time suck, not to mention incredibly addictive.
Here are a few strategies you can incorporate to manage your social media time:
Schedule your posts. You can schedule directly on Facebook and Instagram or use a program like Buffer or Planoly.
Set a schedule for when you’ll go on social media – for example, between 10 - 11 a.m. and 4 - 5 p.m. for the purposes of responding to comments or checking your messages.
Use built-in tools like “iOS Screen Time” and “Android Digital Wellbeing” to monitor or restrict social media use on your phone.
Turn off all non-business-related notifications so you’re not feeling the constant pull of “dings” distracting you.
Use your business social media accounts to engage with real customers, tweet about your newest products, and post beautiful pictures. After that, put your phone away and focus on your other tasks.
This is a big one. You have to learn to resist the idea that you have to available to everyone at any time everyday!
In any given workday you’ll have to field important calls. There may be some lines of communication that are necessary to your work day, but there are others that can wait.
When I'm working on a project, task or assignment, that's all I work on for the time I've allotted. That's the beauty of voicemail, instant messenger, text and Slack. Give yourself periods during your day to check and respond to any messages.
I schedule time in the morning, right after lunch and before I close down for the day to return emails and engage with clients on other social channels.
Choose a rhythm that works best for you but ensure that you stick to it. Don't let others prioritize YOUR calendar and schedule!
You also don't want to fill everyday with meetings. Clear some time or days for you to focus on necessary administrative tasks or completing any outstanding tasks.
Whether you're working from home or in an office, it’s imperative to create a space where you can feel productive.
Productivity produces productivity.
I work from home and have a room that is entirely dedicated as an office. That means when it's time to go to work, that's where my work is down. Not in my bedroom, on the kitchen table or lounging on the family room sofa.
When I step into that space, my brain knows it's time to go to work. And it feels amazing when I get in there and crush it for the day. That send positive reinforcement to my brain and that makes me want more.
Keep your fun places and your workplaces separate!
You also want to keep your workplace tidy to promote productive work. I admittedly fall short on that end, but I do have a practice of going through and organizing my files and office at the end of every week if I failed to keep up with it each day.
A cluttered or messy space will distract you, particularly when you're struggling to find things.
Keep your workplace simple and easy to maintain and ensure that it has a door so you can shut out distractions when necessary.
While there are a few successful individuals who are truly all work and no play, most human beings aren’t geared that way. In fact, we’re not really meant to be. I know I'm not!
Psychiatrist Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Play Institute, understands the importance of taking time to play.
In his book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, he wrote,
“The truth is that play seems to be one of the most advanced methods nature has invented to allow a complex brain to create itself.”
Play opens up a person for creativity and relieves us of our heavy workloads. Some workplaces like Google have even built in areas at work for play. These spaces are meant to foster creativity and relieve stress in the workplace.
Dr. Brown further noted:
“...there is a kind of magic in play. What might seem like a frivolous or even childish pursuit is ultimately beneficial. It’s paradoxical that a little bit of “nonproductive” activity can make one enormously more productive and invigorated in other aspects of life.”
Most human beings grow frustrated and unproductive when they force themselves to work constantly and enjoy very little. This is a system that's a health risk and ultimately unsustainable.
A key way to combat this is to make sure you're loving what you do!
I teach my clients the importance of having work/life alignment not balance in order to have a more fulfilling life. What you do should be an extension of who you are and what you're meant to do in the world.
Also, just as you plan your tasks for the day, plan your breaks. Go for a walk, go out for lunch instead of eating at your desk, if you can, schedule a mid-day massage once a month or once a week.
Taking periodic breaks will also help you to avoid job burnout, which is a diagnosable disease that can cause some serious health issues.
Set a time when you are finished. It’s extremely important to have time set aside to stop working, particularly if you work from home, in order to give your attention to your family and friends.
And don't forget what Dr. Brown said about setting aside time for having fun!
Actually take vacation days. I know there are some people who stockpile their vacation days like it's a savings account. Listen, you only have ONE life.....go LIVE IT! When you give yourself the time and space to unplug, you'll come back refreshed and renewed and more productive then ever.
In Part 2, I'm going to talk about how to Slay Your Dragons, or in other words, how to prioritize your work day.
Remember, you may never be able to cut out all distractions, but limiting them can greatly enhance your chances of being more productive. Reduce social media, limit communication, and make time for play. In time you'll see that your productivity has increased exponentially.
See you next time!
Live, laugh and unapologetically shine!