aNewDomain.net — If you’re anything like me, your time pulls you in many different directions. Work, family and friends all vie for time in a day that needs more hours. Once you factor sleep into this equation, staying productive can seem impossible. As a business owner, I’ve learned the value of making the most of those precious hours. Technology can be a distraction that saps productivity, but it can also be your best ally. Here are my favorite tips and tools to keep you productive and on task.
Plan Your Day
One of my favorite sayings is “They didn’t plan to fail, they just failed to plan.” Watching my employees over the years has shown me that planning is the easiest and most effective thing you can do to avoid distractions. When you have a plan, you know what needs to get done and when. By budgeting in time for breaks and meals you’ll be less likely to get sucked in to Facebook or “just one more email.” Everyone has their own favorite task planning program, and methods vary wildly. I use Google Calendar and schedule everything I am going to do for the day in 15 minute increments. This allows me to easily rearrange my tasks when the inevitable emergencies arise.
Take Frequent Breaks
Everyone has a limit to their productive time. I need a break every 45-60 minutes else I lose focus. These aren’t lengthy breaks, but even five minutes to stand up and stretch helps keep my mind from wandering. By separating from the glowing array of screens at my desk I also reduce eyestrain as the day moves on. You may even want to use a timer to help you in this endeavor. While you could use a watch or stopwatch, websites like Online-Stopwatch.com are more fun.
Hold Yourself Accountable
It’s no surprise that humans are more focused when someone else is keeping an eye on what they’re doing. What do you do, then, when you’re keeping an eye on yourself? There are software applications that can help keep you accountable, and some of them are quite good. RescueTime is one of those applications. It will help you identify the programs you’re using and for how long. Bonus: it will also give you time breakdowns of the sites you use. But be warned, you’ll no longer be able to deny how much time you spend on Facebook.
Set Expectations with Others
If you work in an office, establish set times that people can come in to see you. These would be similar to the office hours most college professors hold. It needn’t be horribly restrictive–even if you can exclude only two or three hours a day where others leave you alone, you can get far more done. You may want to share your calendar so others know what’s going on, or even print a copy of your schedule for your door. If there are a few key people that you need to communicate with throughout the day, try emailing the schedule to them in the morning. However you do it, honor your “focus time” by setting your phone to Do Not Disturb and disable your email/IM/Chatter notifications. You’ll be surprised to learn how much time and energy others take from you.
Rearrange Your Office
Window offices are great, but if you sit facing the outside world, you’re bound to lose focus. Try positioning your desk so you can roll your chair back and look outside, maybe on one of your short breaks. You should never allow the activity beyond a window to enter your eyesight when you’re working. The same can be said of doors or windows into the rest of the office. Get some blinds and keep them drawn when you’re working. You may not like having your back to the world, but it’s the best way to get things done. Unless you like moving file cabinets, you might want to plan ahead. Try a site like roomle.com to get a feel for how things will look before you move them.
So there you are. Follow these tips and you’ll be distraction-free and more productive than ever. There are far more things you can do, and some of these may not work as well as others. The key is to keep experimenting with your methods until you find a system that works for you. But remember, if it leads to a promotion, I get 10% of your raise.Business,Leadership