Your phone dings and you immediately stop your work to check the notification. The next thing you know you find yourself surfing Facebook for the next hour, or watching the fifth YouTube video in a row about how hot dogs are made. We are all guilty of it, especially with the endless flow of emails, messages, and social media -- not to mention the fact that our “work machines” are also our primary “entertainment machines”. Work distractions are hard to avoid and can make your work-day longer AND less productive. While we all continue to get better, here are a few tips to keep distractions to minimum and increase your overall productivity.
1. One Thing at a Time
It isn’t uncommon to jump around from task to task, especially in today’s world where multitasking has taken over. While multitasking has its perks in some scenarios, it can prove difficult to make any real headway if you are switching to a different project every 5 minutes. Distractions are inevitable in the workplace, which is why we recommend keeping a notebook or to-do list next to your desk. Having a physical reminder of the things you’re supposed to be doing helps to reinforce accountability (And gives you a little shot of dopamine when you get to cross one of them off). This will also help you focus on one thing at a time, and when something else pops in your head, you can just write it down for later and remain on track.
2. Specific Start and End Times
Mapping out your tasks throughout the day can be a great way to help you better manage your time and increase your productivity overall! By giving your brain specific instructions, you will have a clear blueprint ahead of you. If you say to yourself that you are going to do your given task between 10 and 11 a.m., you will have clear boundaries around your assignment to help you stay on track. Now, nothing is perfect about this method, and in fact, you won’t always get your task done in the set time frame the way you want it. However, you are still thinking through your tasks before you do them, which is key to a successful time management strategy.
Another benefit of scheduling your tasks ahead of time is that it can free you from the anxiety of what you’re _not_ doing. Most of us have a million things to do every day, which means when we are doing one thing we are not doing the rest of the 9,999,999 things. Whether you feel anxious or not, your subconscious is holding on to those undone responsibilities. This sometimes surfaces in guilt, anxiety, overwhelmedness, or simply poor quality work. But when you schedule all of your tasks for the future, you literally unload them from your brain, and free yourself up to focus on the task at hand. You know that even though you have a lot to do, you have documented it and planned for it.
3. Smart Apps and Tools
There are several tools out there to better manage your projects and increase your productivity overall. We use Teamwork to keep our tasks straight and track our projects from start to finish. As soon as we have an email correspondence about a project, a tool like Teamwork allows us to record it immediately and prevent things from falling into the cracks. You would be surprised how much time you will save when you don’t have to sift through an email thread from four months ago trying to find the information you’re looking for. With a tool like Teamwork, information is all in one place and recorded for reference later on.
4. Power Hour
With new emails constantly coming in and tasks unexpectedly popping up throughout the day, it is no wonder that productivity can be a difficult to achieve. Next time you find yourself in this situation, try a method that we like to call “power hour”. A power hour is where you give yourself one hour to buckle down on your task, shut down social media, and put your phone on do not disturb. In this hour, you are not allowed to do ANYTHING other than work on the one task on your plate. When the hour is finished, you can resume your normal work day and move on from your one task. Many motivational speakers and CEO’s swear by this method, which is actually why we first tried it out, and can attest it does work!
5. Schedule Breaks
As much as we wish we could tell you that our tips will allow you to work a full day 9-5 and not waste a minute of productivity, that isn’t the reality in maintaining a healthy work environment. It’s simple: we need breaks to be productive. If you don’t give yourself time to unwind throughout the day, you will be overworked and overscheduled, which will actually hurt your overall productivity more than taking a few minutes every couple hours to take a break. To ensure that you are allowing yourself to recharge and refresh, try scheduling breaks on your work calendar so that you will ensure you have the energy to push through your day and be as productive as you can be!
Now that we have shared with you our favorite productivity tips, you can catch us taking our own advice and taking a break after finishing this blog :-).
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