We’ve all got the same 24 hours in a day, but some people seem to get much more done in a day than others. How do they do it? Laura Stack, America’s Premier Expert in Productivity™ and Wednesday morning’s featured speaker at this week’s PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference in Denver, Colorado, offered tips to help listeners sidestep the four biggest categories of distractions in the workplace: technology, yourself, people and environment.
- Manage email. Checking email constantly will stymie your productivity, whether it may be out of curiosity to see who sent you a message or a way to procrastinate about doing some other task you don’t want to do. To keep this distraction at bay, disable the email alerts on your computer and enable alerts for only emails from those people you must hear from immediately. Next, set up a specialized sound your computer will play to notify you when email from those on your short list come through.
- Write it down. When you write down ideas or tasks on a to-do list as they come up, it frees your brain to focus. So, don’t stop and do things as they come to mind—just add them to a list for later.
- Use a reward. When you stay focused for a certain amount of time or finish a project, reward yourself with a short break, piece of chocolate, etc.
- Use a timer. Set a kitchen timer for 10 minutes, for example, and work hard on your project for that amount of time before you allow yourself to stop.
- Use a signal. Hang a sign on your door or put a flag on your cubicle to alert co-workers or subordinates that you don’t want to be interrupted. Don’t leave it up all day—just use it to notify others that you need to keep your head down for a period of time.
- Plan in advance. If you are frequently interrupted by subordinates or a boss, let those people know in advance you will be unavailable for whatever time period is needed.
- Schedule catch-up meetings in advance. Set up standing meetings with key people in your office to create a time they can ask you questions, get updates, etc.
- Don’t be interrupted. Position your chair so you face away from your office door. It’s natural to look up as people walk by and that makes it harder to stay focused.
- Wear a headset. A study showed 64 percent of those who wear a headset are less often interrupted. You don’t have to listen to anything on the headset—just wear it. People will assume you are listening to something and will be less likely to interrupt.
- Hide. Avoid interruptions and distractions occasionally by leaving your office and seeking another place to work such as at home, at a Starbucks, etc.
Stack also suggested seven additional ways to better manage your time by learning to say no and set appropriate boundaries with others:
- Stop being so nice. Make your needs as important as anybody else’s.
- Negotiate. If someone asks to do something, check the priority by saying, “I will have to put this project on hold to do that—is that okay?”
- Compromise. Perhaps you can only do part of what someone is asking of you. Don’t be afraid to let them know what you can do.
- Don’t assume the deadline is now. Ask when a task or project has to be completed.
- Simplify. Don’t over think requests from others.
- Educate. Let others know what you can and can’t do to help them.
- Stop being a professional volunteer. Let others have a chance to help out when needed.
“If you are the only one who can think it, do it and solve it—you deserve it,” says Stack.