If you've been following along this month with my series on productivity and goal-setting, you have tracked your time, set SMART goals, and planned your hours for the entire week. Now comes the hard part - putting all that planning into practice! Life is filled with more distractions than ever, so how do you shut them out to actually get stuff done? Here are a few tips that work for me:
1. Use the Pomodoro method - Francesco Cirillo developed this simple productivity technique in the late 1980s, and all you need to practice it is a timer. Cirillo originally used one shaped like a tomato, giving the method its name. Here are the steps:
Work uninterrupted on a task for 25 minutes
Take a 5-minute break
Repeat 4 times
Take a longer break (20-30 minutes)
This technique works so well because it requires only short bursts of productivity and it recognizes the importance of regular breaks. How often have you worked on a project nonstop for several hours, and then found yourself exhausted and unable to concentrate? Giving your brain a rest allows you to stay fresh and energized throughout your day.
I use this method often during my workdays and use an app on my phone called BeFocused, but there are a number of options available. I would recommend one that ticks like an analog timer: the sound quickly fades into the background but serves as a constant reminder that I'm working toward my next break.
2. Turn off all notifications - Interruptions can ave a huge impact on productivity. One study found it takes about 25 minutes to get back on task after an interruption! If you work in an office, distractions by other people are somewhat unavoidable. But we are usually our own worst enemies when it comes to mucking up our workflow.
One easy way to avoid distractions is to turn off all notifications on your phone and computer. When you are constantly being reminded of every email, text, and status update it can be near impossible to not check to see what is going on. If you're utilizing the Pomodoro technique, use your breaks throughout the day to see what's come up in your news feed. Keep that timer running, however, so you don't end up down the rabbit hole!
3. Batch process emails - I recently had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Deb Cabral, the DeClutter Coach, and she described email as other people's priorities, not our own. We should not let email derail our most important tasks for the day, and one way to do that is to limit the number of times we check it.
Try to avoid making email the first thing you do at the start of your workday, otherwise you run the risk of getting so buy addressing everyone else's priorities you don't make any progress on your own. Instead, set aside time to process and respond to email after you've tackled the most important items on your to do list, and resist the urge to jump back to your inbox every time a new message appears. Depending on the expectations of your workplace you may need to build in more frequent times to check and respond to email throughout the day, but be intentional about when and how long you address it.
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Make it fab!