This time of year, do you struggle to maintain focus in the midst of all the holiday hustle, bustle and hype? I know I do. After a busy family weekend of volunteering, parties and activities, I sat down Monday morning at my desk already tired, and opened my in-boxes to hundreds of email. Gah! I fought the temptation to run and hide, but it got me thinking about how to Stay Productive and On Task When all the World Seems Like a Distraction!
So here are some tips to help us all out:
1. Clear the clutter in your work space. Spend 10 minutes and file your filing, tidy your resources, clear the trash, wash your coffee mug (and swap it out for a holiday themed one). Take a few deep breaths and enjoy your cleared space. Then get back to work.
2. Clear the clutter in your in-box. Ruthlessly delete emails. A tip from my paper management classes that applies to email, too: Catalogs and email advertisements are sent with the specific intention of making you buy stuff. If you don’t want to shop right now, delete the emails. Or put them in a folder to open later, and put “Review sale emails” on your to-do list with a date and time and time allotment attached (give it 10 or 15 minutes, then move on).
3. Decorate your work space, but just a little. For safety sake, no candles. And for health sake, no candy jar or food-scented anything (it will just make you hungry)! I have a single lovely large decoration hanging in my window. I bought it from a crafty friend, and it is the extent of my decorations around my desk. Remember, any decorations you put out now will be clutter in 4 weeks.
4. Clear the clutter in your calendar and on your to-do list. I started the day with a dozen quick and easy tasks on my work to-do list – send invoices, follow-up with emails / schedule a client for Wednesday, etc. (and I deleted over 200 emails accumulated over the weekend in my personal and business email accounts). Whew!
5. Employ hard stops. We all know when an event will start, but we don’t always know when it will / should end. A friend opened her home to a group of us over the weekend, and served us a lovely meal. It was wonderful. And then we all packed up and left 2 hours after we started, so she could get to her next event. She gave us a hard stop, a specific end time, before we began and we tried to stick to it. We should employ hard stops all year ‘round, but especially when time and productivity are at a premium.
6. Don’t get distracted. Check in many, many times a day / hour / minute to make sure you are on-task and doing what you actually intended to do today, and not mindlessly browsing the internet, watching tear-jerking videos on Facebook, or chatting too long with a friend at the grocery store (a little while was awesome, though, catching up with a friend in the produce section). Compartmentalize, and set timers if you must.
7. Multitask. Put the cookies in the oven, then write your blog (oh, maybe that’s just me – molasses cookies with white chocolate kisses right now). I don’t often recommend multitasking, but sometimes we must. Run errands on your commute, use your time well. I have taken to checking my email remotely on my phone so I know how to order my tasks when I get home.
8. Set professional goals, even though you’re busy with other things. Keep your professional focus, and make one or two more goals for this month, to give you some accountability and keep you on track.
I hope this helps you clear some brain and life clutter and maintain focus on your professional goals this time of year. Merry Christmas! Now get back to business!