Remove distractions – work intently
Yesterday, I wrote about the choice to go about my day and my work by being deliberate. Instead of attempting to do 5 things at once, do one thing at a time, complete it and move on. Be deliberate about the work, the task or whatever it is you intend to do. Stop multitasking! Here are ways that I have developed behaviors to be more deliberate about the way that I work and ‘seize the workday’:
- Turn off email. This was my toughest challenge. Resisting the urge to constantly clear the amount of email notifications in my task bar was the biggest hindrance to accomplishing a single task in my day. By turning off email and only turning it on when I have the time and ability to answer emails (using email deliberately), I have been able to focus with much more intent on the task at hand.
- Turn off IM. Similar to email, it is an invitation for anyone to interrupt you at any point in the day. While it can assist inter-office communications, IM must be managed. Otherwise, it interrupts your thoughts and workflow. Use the status indicators if you can’t turn it off right away.
- Move your smartphone out of view. My phone is placed at the far end of my desk, and sometimes muted when I have a large task list or intensive project. Similar to email and IM, the constant notifications are a distraction, pulling your thoughts and creating curiosity away from your ability to be deliberate about working through your project.
- Use Time Blocking. If I have a large project that will take a few hours, I usually budget it for after lunch, when I have the most amount of time that can be budgeted without interruption. Mornings are usually busy with catching up, conversations and meetings. If a project will only take an hour or so, I will start it about 10 AM, giving plenty of time to complete it and then explore more in-depth information to improve it if I need the extra time. Small tasks, calls and to-do items are budgeted for early mornings, the hour before lunch or late afternoon when my schedule may more open to distractions. Lists and approximate time budgets are extremely helpful to make these budgeted time blocks.
- Close the browser. Unless I am working in a browser on a web app or researching, I close the browser. This alone saves countless distractions. As you move between applications or windows, that open browser beckons you with the promise of a few minutes of mindless self distraction (you know which sites). You know if you go there for a quick “break,” it can easily turn into 40 minutes of surfing. Turn off the browser unless you are online with deliberate intention.
Finally, here is the challenge that changed my business:
Focus on tasks that are the most profitable. As an analyst, I am always preaching to businesses to know what makes them money and why. In a business, it is vitally important to know which tasks have direct impact on improving your revenue and profitability. By knowing this information, your day becomes much more structured, as you realize those things that you simply cannot afford to do, as they are not worth your time or money.
One of the most difficult things to do early in my business was to pay someone else to do tasks that I had done myself. However, I realized that these tasks, while necessary, were not revenue producing tasks. By paying someone else to do them, I was actually saving money and increasing my profitability, as I was able to focus on more profitable work and dramatically increase my business. That difficulty in letting go enabled me to focus on more profitable work (which I enjoyed much more) and grow my business.