We live in a world where almost everyone is in a rush - whether it's getting to a meeting venue on time, submitting work notes on schedule, beating traffic so as not be late to work or school - these are just some of the common scenarios that mirror how hectic our schedule have become. With so many things to do in 24 - hours, we seldom get the chance of getting everything done. When did things get so complicated???
Sometimes you have to sit back and ask yourself honestly: When was the last time you felt good because you were able to clear out your to do list? Can't remember? That's not surprising at all.
Now, if we've been spending hours rushing to get from one meeting to another or working from one project to the next, why is it that we never ever get to finish something up? This is because there are so many distractions in our world now and we are constantly multi tasking. Ultra productive people know that in order to accomplish a massive amount and, importantly, to feel great about their accomplishment & balanced, you have to be single minded in your approach. Eliminate distractions so we can focus on completing the things which really matter.
Here are what I know to be some of the most common distractions many people are challenged with every single day.
#1 Unnecessary Meetings
You know there is a problem in our working culture when there are books out now called 'Death By Meeting'. This is a book by Patrick Lencioni and it is awesome. Have you ever wondered how much time you have wasted being in meetings where your attendance seemed pointless or a waste of time? Where it just seems to be a meeting for the sake of a meeting which goes on for ages made up of mostly dribble and then at the end no real actionable items coming out of it?
Shoot me now. Here are some tips to make meetings effective:
Make sure there is a point and a clear desired outcome that must be reached before you go into the meeting
Try having stand up meetings
Set a time limit, where as soon as that time is up, everyone gets up and leaves - there is nothing like a bit of pressure to get a result
Ask: do I really need to be involved in this meeting?
Ask for the agenda prior to the meeting and that the pre-read materials be sent to you
We are in a culture now where people expect instant responses. Someone sends an email and if you don't respond within 10 minutes they are wondering if you are OK? This is a productivity killer. How many times a day do you check your email, honestly? 10 times a day, 20? Is it open all the time, just desperately waiting for that next earth shattering email to arrive? Seriously, most emails are a waste of time and don't get me started on the need for people to cc the entire world in on emails.
Set specific times each day where it is only then that you check email. For me it is 11am in the morning and 3pm in the afternoon and I check it for about 30 minutes at a time.
Condition others not to expect instantaneous responses from you (unless this is your job of course). If you don't condition others, they will expect you to live by their conditions
Set up rules and filters
Get someone else to check them for you. I have a virtual assistant who manages my email for me and sorts them into one of four boxes: Action, review, Archive, delete. I have given her a clear set of rules to follow and it clears the clutter. (Stay tuned for a later blog on how to do this effectively)
Finally, turn off that bloody pop up you've got mail or the 'ding' or the little envelope. As soon as it is there, you know you can't help but check it. Curiosity will get the better of you
#3 Social Media Sites
Can't resist looking at your phone or logging in to your pc to check your Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube? Social media is fun but it can be a huge time-waster especially when you begin to lose track of how much time you spend updating people with your status posts, reading your timeline or tweeting people back.
You can help minimize the time you spend with social media by designating a set amount of time each day for online social sites.
In 15-20 minutes, you can update your status or send a few tweets and once the time is over, log-out so you don't get distracted by social media notifications and start working.
It will take a lot of self-control to accomplish this, you know it will, but you will thank yourself for practicing restraint especially after you plough through one project to another.
#4 Office Chit-Chat and Random Distractions
Ever noticed how a 5 minute small-talk with a co-worker can stretch into 30 minutes, even a full hour? There is nothing wrong with socializing but when it begins to eat up your time and affect your productivity, then you have to do something about it. Minimize office chit-chat by communicating to colleagues your need for focus time. Hang a sign/symbol on your doorknob or outside your cubicle to discourage people from chatting with you and to send a signal that this isn't a good time to interrupt your work and learn this phrase:
"Bill, I would love to talk to you, but I have an urgent deadline right now, can we chat later?"
People will tend to leave you alone when you say you have something urgent to complete with a deadline. We are conditioned to respond to urgency in this day and age.
#5 Multi Tasking
I should really have this at the top. How big is your to-do list? Massive I bet, if you are like most people. Now I actually don't like to do-lists, they are ineffective and can be very overwhelming, there are much better systems based on outcomes, values and priorities, but this is for another time. Still, even this is better than nothing for most people who just let all of the things they have to get done rattle around endlessly in their heads and live in this constant state of reaction and drama.
I am only going to give you one tip here. There are many more I can add but I reckon that this is so vital that if you did it, it could completely change your life. It is one question:
"What is the one thing I could do right now, that if I did it and made major progress would do more to advance me in my life and career than anything else? "
Now, do that one thing.
Then, you guessed it, ask the same question again, and do that one thing.
Then ask again
You get the point right????
If you let them, these distractions will suck away a major portion of your life and can hold you back from reaching your potential in work and in life.
Here are the 3 real themes to practice in your life:
Focus on simplicity and taking strategic action on one thing at a time.
Set up your environment around you and systems to eliminate distractions and ensure you stay on track.
Remember, that you are not playing life like most people are, you are extraordinary and are not going to follow like a sheep what everyone else does. So condition the people around you to your way of working. If you don't, they will expect you to conform to their way and society's norms which are totally ineffective.
One of the greatest things I learned when I first started out on my growth journey at a young age was to become ultra productive and it is a skill set and habit which has taken me a long long way and allowed me to outperform the majority of others around me. Any successful person loves time management. Do yourself a favour and become a time master.