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Productivity Tips (from an Easily Distracted Person)

I have no qualms telling you I’m incredibly selfish about the one commodity we can give but can never get back: time. When I hear a coworker say “they wish they had more time in the day to work,” I wince. If I had more time in the day, I’d spend it with my wife, my dog, or on my bike; certainly not in front of my computer. With this in mind, I’m guessing 99 percent of the population would say they want to get more things done in the time they’ve already allotted to work, rather than extend the work day. Employers, too, would love an increase in productivity without having to allocate overtime.

How can we make this happen? Reduce the number of distractions, focus on adding value, and recalibrate what we deem urgent in our work culture. Here are some ideas to begin making these changes.

You Should Make a To Do List

Wow. Enlightening, I know. But there’s a caveat to this advice. First, make your To Do list at the end of your workday and highlight the things you want to get done the next workday. This ensures that the important stuff is top of mind when you get cracking the next day, rather than spending time thinking about what should be your priorities for the day ahead.

And what goes on your To Do list matters. The tasks that go on your list should add value to you and to the company. “Call 10 potential clients” adds value. “Delete old emails from inbox” does not. Focus on adding value, not the mundane and easily accomplished.

Put Your Phone Away

Turn your ringer on and put your phone in a drawer. That way you’ll know when people are trying to get in touch with you, but you’re not tempted to impulsively reach for it to check Instagram or Twitter every three minutes all day long. The time you spend on social media and other time-killing sites? There’s your “extra” time in the day, wasted on looking at pictures of other peoples’ lunches and/or their cats. Or both. Probably both.

The Five-Minute Rule

This is one I learned from total productivity nerd Chris Bailey at a conference this summer. We all have a task we hate doing and put off by any means necessary – checking Facebook or Instagram, refreshing our inbox, or jumping off cliffs. Instead of putting it off, dive in for five minutes. Use a timer if you want. Work for five minutes and see what happens. Usually, you’ll be absorbed in the task and work through the five minutes easily. The first step is getting started, and that’s often the hardest part of any task.

Sign Out of Messaging Applications

This is the one people feel most uncomfortable about for two reasons. First, we live in a culture where the sense of urgency is pervasive. If you’re not on Skype or Slack, your coworkers could be trying to reach you about something really important. But most of the time of the time, they’re asking you if you’ve finished season two of Stranger Things. Communications through messaging apps are rarely urgent and extremely likely to be no more than a distraction.

We also live in a culture where coworkers may assume since you’re logged out of Skype that you’re not working. Sadly, the fear that your coworkers will think you’re a slacker because you’re not online, with your attention and focus at their mercy with a few keystrokes, keeps a lot of people from logging out and getting some real work done with zero distractions. My advice? Get over this fear. Productivity is judged by effectiveness and results, not how long you’ve been logged in on Slack. Your coworkers can send an email, which you can check when your task is completed. The world will keep turning, even if you have a few unread emails. And if it’s truly important, they can call you or you will hear the fire alarm in the office for yourself without their prompting with an Emoji with fire on its head.

If you want to learn more about minimizing distractions, I highly recommend Deep Work by Cal Newport. You should also listen to this episode of an excellent podcast, The Art of Manliness, featuring aforementioned productivity nerd Chris Bailey. Chris also has a great book, aptly named The Productivity Project, for sale on Amazon. But you’ll buy it from your local bookstore instead, I hope.

Article written by:

Wes Sovis

Business Development Manager

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