Are you busy, or are you productive?
Aug 25, 2020
There are many people who feel incredibly busy day after day, however, if asked what they actually accomplish, they are not sure. This can be true for any of us at any point if we are not intentional about our time. I try to schedule my work and other tasks each day so that I make sure that I am getting results ongoing. I also try to pay attention to the things that interrupt me or distract me from doing the things that are most important and do what I can to filter them out.
Here are some strategies that have helped me be productive, rather than just busy.
- Have goals. Have both big and small goals and then, depending on their size, break them down into yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily goals. Have a plan for each day about what you need to accomplish in order to feel productive and schedule the time needed to accomplish each item. Knowing what goals are most important and why will help. For example, do you need to focus on earning money or excelling at work or is it more important to spend time with your children today? Decide what it is that you want to accomplish today and then schedule your day based on what is most important.
- Batch your time. If you are constantly shifting your attention from one thing to another, you lose lots of time throughout the day. Our mind needs time to refocus once we move our attention to something else and this can result in lots of unproductive time. It is estimated that it takes us 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus on a task if we are interrupted. This means that a quick 1-minute check of your email or social media really costs you about 25 minutes of time. If you batch your time, you are focusing on doing one thing for a set block of time so that you can focus your mind and your energy on that one thing. You likely have a planner, app or digital calendar that you use for schedule, but if you are interested, you can check out an easy to use daily scheduler HERE.
- Don’t try to mix work with personal tasks. This one is especially important with so many people working from home. I used to try to take quick breaks to mange dishes, laundry, to prep food or to clean a little. Per strategy #2, this did nothing but distract me and cause me to not get as much work done during the day. I learned that I am better off grouping household chores into a time block and focusing on just getting them done at one time. I often use this time to listen to podcasts as well which makes the time more enjoyable and more productive.
- Manage distractions from children. I know that this can be especially challenging with so many children not able to return to school full time. If you have children and they are your main distraction, think about how to minimize this. Are there times when you know they need less attention? If so, use that time to get your most important things done. Are they old enough to understand that if you have a sign on the door, they cannot interrupt unless there is an emergency? Would they respond to you setting a timer and letting them know that when the timer goes off, you will have a check in with them? Even if it is not a perfect scenario, try to create the structure and undistracted time you need to get your most important tasks accomplished.
- Social media, email, and internet distractions. Who has not fallen victim to these distractions? This is my biggest challenge ongoing. I have been able to reduce all three of these distractions significantly, despite having an online business. Here is what is working for me. I have scheduled time during the day when I check my email and that is it. I go in in the morning and then mid-afternoon. I can respond and meet everyone’s needs without feeling like I need to be checking it constantly. I also have a scheduled time when I go in and post on social media and engage with others. I set a timer so that I make sure I stay within my allotted time and when it goes off, I am done. This was the most challenging thing for me, however doing this has resulted in a significant increase in my productivity. In terms of surfing the internet, I just don’t do it. If I need to research something, I schedule that time into my calendar and stick to it. Similar to social media, it can be the black hole of time if I am not intentional about it. Unless I am using my phone for social medial posting and engaging during schedule times, it is not on my desk when I am working. I also limit the number of windows I have open on my computer to what I need to do the task I am working on at the moment.
- Managing other environmental distractions. If you have a daily schedule, it becomes easier to see where you become distracted. Once you are very clear about this, you are able to put things in place to avoid the distractions. For example, do you get up from your desk often to grab water and then find that you get distracted with something else along that way? If so, perhaps you get a larger water bottle to have on your desk so that you eliminate the back and forth and the distractions that come with it. Does your desk face and area that is distracting for you and if so, can you move it? Is the noise around you distracting? If so, can you get headphones to cancel some of it out? There are lots of solutions to the small things that can result in big distractions. It is worth spending a little time to try to solve for them since each distraction results in 25 minutes of lost time.
- Have an organized space. Having piles of papers, unorganized drawers, an unorganized inbox, or an unclean space to work is challenging. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to organize your desk so that you are ready to roll the next morning. I am a huge fan of filing any papers away so that my desk remains clean and I am able to access them quickly when needed. I am also a huge fan of managing my email inbox. Because I schedule time to check my email, I am able to go in and respond to those needing response, delete those not needing any action and flagging / saving those I need to go back to. For anything I need to go back to, I am sure to do it within a week or to file it in a folder for a future project. Having a clean inbox allows me to be much more efficient when managing my email. It also eliminates those feeling of overwhelm we can experience when seeing so many unread or old messages.
- Schedule in your down time. I maintain a daily schedule seven days per week. I do this because it is a habit and doing it every day further ingrains that habit. This does not mean I am working seven days per week. On a Saturday, I might schedule in time for reading, gardening, or for a date night with my husband. On Sunday, I might schedule a block of two hours that has nothing in it so that I can use the time how in the moment. Doing this, even on non-workdays, ensures that anything productive that needs to get done, gets done.
- Evaluate your day. At the end of the day, review the plan you had for the day and evaluate how things went. Did you stay on track? Did you accomplish what you had hoped to accomplish? If not, look at why and adjust for it. The more you do this, the better you get at setting your daily plan and sticking to it. It is a great feeling at the end of the day when you evaluate your plan and feel like you had a productive day.
In summary, it really helps to have a clear plan for what you want to accomplish and to know why you want to accomplish those tasks. You can use my sample daily schedule by downloading it HERE. Being present in the moment, is also helpful to being productive. When you are focused on just one thing with little to no distractions, you will get more done in a shorter amount of time. Give some of these strategies a try and see if you can increase your overall productivity.
Click here for my Sample Daily Tracker.
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