You have a lot going on.
That proposal your boss wants by Friday. Preparing to meet with a client next week. Hosting guests for the Holidays and that darn group text that keeps sending notifications!
Before I turned in my power suit for a (very stylish) baby bag, I was a career woman. I don’t sit in a cubicle anymore, but I vividly remember the struggle of trying to complete a quarterly report all the while battling with distractions that were getting the best of me. It’s unavoidable. Distractions happen. Whether you work from home or in a high-rise with your door closed, distractions will find you.
Many of us don’t mind distractions. If you’re working your dream job or working to make your dreams come true, day-after-day tasks can become mundane and require a little break. Me? I’m usually the distractor. I’ll admit it. I’m very social and the slightest thing grabs my attention; thus, I feel compelled to tell the nearest person and engage in conversation. It’s an illness (but I’m not looking for a cure).
While there’s nothing wrong with a short break, if we aren’t careful, it’ll be quittin’ time and our to-do list will go unattended.
I’ve worked in many settings. A shared office as an admin to a hotel room as a field marketer, and I’ve discovered that there is no distraction-free environment. Now, I’m a blogger and a stay -home mom (not the ideal combo), and finding the discipline to stay focused and meet my goals requires effort … a sleeping baby helps too.
Overcoming distractions require discipline and effort. Meeting goals requires organization. Productivity is the love-child of being organized, disciplined, and the effort you put forth.
Using my own trial and error in the workplace, I’ve compiled 5 simple tips that helped me increase my productivity:
1. Expect Results
Usually in an article discussing goals, this is something you see at the end of the list. But expectation sets the tone for the process and the results. Expectations require accountability. Hold yourself to the same standard you would a subordinate. Start your day with high expectations for yourself. Don’t wear yourself out until you’re dog -tired, instead; Approach your responsibilities with the mindset that you’re going to accomplish your tasks with no excuses.
2. Prepare in Silence
It can be hard to find a quiet place to focus. When I traveled as a field marketer my hotel room doubled as my office. Sounds great, right? It had its perks, but the occasional “housekeeping” knocks, adjacent doors slamming, and that oh-so-comfy bed was enough to interrupt my thought process. This is when I developed the habit of preparing in silence and without distraction.
Before the meeting starts, before the kids wake up, before anyone else arrives in the classroom, show up early to review your agenda and notes while it’s still quiet. I know how hard it is to resist pushing snooze for the fifth time, but having a few moments with a clear mind can make a huge difference in your productivity. If you can’t get into your office early, just sit in your car for 5 minutes with your radio off (and your twitter feed on silent), and prepare there. As your day progresses, and your environment gets noisier, you’ve already embedded your tasks in mind so it’s easier to remember what needs to get done.
3.) Batch Assignments
Batching assignments is a super easy way to stay organized. Simply group like-assignments so they’re easy to navigate. When I worked as an administrative assistant, I used color coded file folders. This way, I could easily grab the category I needed to work on. I like things that require as little brain power as possible. Batching kept me from wasting time sifting through a pile of papers and kept my paperwork organized.
Another advantage to batching your assignments is that it’ll be easier to get back on task after you’ve had to stop to take that important phone call. No need to jog your mind trying to remember what you were doing – it’s all right there!
4. Invert Your Tasks
It’s all fine-and-dandy until you approach the last hour of the day. After hours of focus and creativity it’s easy to lose steam. For me, the end of my day is usually when I started to give up and give into mindlessly ‘liking’ #throwbackthursday posts. The end of the day is also when I waited to do the one thing that I really didn’t want to do. If all this sounds familiar, you might benefit from inverting your tasks like I did. Inverting your tasks is simply starting with the project that you either dislike or that requires the most focus. This way, by the time you hit the sluggish, post-lunch, 4 o’clock hour all you have remaining are the easy tasks that you enjoy. The rest of your day will be breeze!
5. Master Visual Breaks
The term Visual Break is relatively new to the workforce, but the concept is not. If you’re not familiar, a visual break is typically just a few minutes long. Visual breaks are meant to give your eyes and mind a brief rest to refresh. It’s smart to check your company’s HR policy before you take a break of any kind. If your employer allows for a visual break, use this time wisely. It can make a huge difference in how you perform when you return to your work.
If you’re getting a case of writer’s block or you find yourself reading the same line over and over, it might be time for a visual break. Use that time to stretch your legs and take a walk around the office (in a non-creepy way – look busy). You can grab a drink in the break room or make a trip to the restroom. Whatever you do – give your eyes a break! Don’t spend your time reading Facebook posts or texting. Both activities can continue longer then planned and they don’t give your eyes a rest. Once you return to your work you’ll feel a little more rejuvenated and ready to focus.
Work these tips into your day and the next time your assistant barges in with a list of questions, or your baby wakes up from her nap while you’re in the middle of writing a blog (yup, throwing shade at my own kid), you may find it a little easier to get back on task and one step closer to the weekend!
Below are my top 5 tools for keeping organized at home and on my smartphone!
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.