The first quarter is over, but maybe you feel bad at not accomplishing as much as you would have liked. Sometimes, not everything goes according to plan. Each day, you have to deal with all the “little stuff” you have no control over.
How can you plan for a child to get sick, to accidentally oversleep, for a client suddenly calling for an urgent zoom meeting, the Internet down, a customer with a problem, a PC crash or a flat tire? I know you’ve been there. By the time you get to work on your tasks, hours may have passed.
What’s the secret with those people who can get a lot done, despite all of the above happening to them as well? How can they tune out both internal and external noises?
From my experience and those of others, here is a list of useful mental strategies, tools and techniques you can use to get more done every day.
Re-assess Your Goals
If you aren’t actively pursuing your short or long-term goals, you must re-evaluate these. Maybe you’re not getting much done because deep down, you know these are no longer relevant. It’s no wonder you don’t feel excited when you look at your to-do list. Re-visiting goals you set months ago is the only way to discover if these are still worthwhile.
Also, there are reasons why you might need to revise your goals. Examples are your business environment suddenly changes, there’s a newer technology, your company performs differently than expected, or there’s sudden changes in your life.
Keep Track of Your Goals
Businesses tend to forget what they set out to achieve. Even the best companies can sometimes get derailed. Distractions can cause you to lose focus.
Do you lose sight of your goals too? Are these written or posted somewhere? Many apps help you track your goals. Try Way of Life or Weekdone that offer both iOS and Android versions. Search the Apple or Google Play stores for options.
Make It a 12 Week Year Instead of a 52 Week Year
Unlike yearly goals, which are always too far in the future to think about on a day-to-day basis, think in terms of 12-week years. That is, break down your goals into set 3-month goals, and work backwards to today. Based on this planning, determine which tasks are necessary. These become your daily priorities. Again, try using the apps I suggested above to help out.
We have two articles on a 12-week year that can help focus your mind and grow your business. These have valuable tips on how you can stay focused on your goals, and it’s what I follow myself.
Perform Tasks You Like The Least First
I begin working on the hardest or the least enjoyable tasks when I’m fresh and full of energy. It can be an uphill battle, but once I reach the top and the task is done, I can move on to low energy tasks. Others like to warm up with simple tasks first. If you do, make sure you have enough left for the more challenging jobs.
Deal with Interruptions and Distractions Efficiently
Both are part of daily life. According to the 12-Week Year planning we covered in an earlier set of articles, actually plan for distractions. Build them into your daily calendar and set aside time for them. Return calls and reply to work-related e-mails, social media and SMS inquiries in a specific period.
If you’re working at home and have kids, it’s not that complicated. Attend to your children first and other chores like feeding your pet and making meals. You’ll have a set routine for this (or you should), so build this into your daily plan.
Delegate or Share Work
There are many ways to do a task, and yours isn’t the only one. Others can do a better job if you let them. Have faith in their capabilities. Letting go is not a sign of weakness. Delegating will not diminish your self-worth.
At home, talk with your partner about sharing chores. Schedule ahead of time trips to the grocery store. Take turns bringing kids to school or helping with their studies. Don’t forget to find ways to help each other out. I get many excellent ideas from my wife … just in case she’s reading this 😉
Instead of saving money for the sake of saving, spend money that will earn you more? I’m fully aware that a lot of businesses need to tighten their belts. However, freeing yourself of those day-to-day tasks will help you become more productive. For instance, you can outsource accounting and web coding. These are all time-consuming and don’t further your business.
We have an excellent article on outsourcing to help you plan what to do yourself, and what to outsource to somebody else.
If you regularly send e-mails, why not explore automated solutions like MailChimp? For your website, use chatbot tools like Userlike. Both have free plans for beginners. There are many other options in the market, but the best ones will cost you at least $29 a month. It’s a worthwhile investment.
Automating tasks is like outsourcing. The main difference is that with automation, you employ software instead of people. Secondly, your automated functions continue working 24/7.
Shut Out Social Media
According to Statista, this is the top distraction while working at home. Kids are only in 4th place, while smartphones and binge-watching are in 2nd and 3rd places. Just to let you know, the top distraction in offices are chatty employees.
Anyway, locking your smartphone in a drawer or blocking FB on your PC might work. Turning off notification alerts is also a good idea. Your family and friends won’t mind if you click on the like button at a later time.
It’s okay to check on recent posts if it’s work-related, but you don’t need to do this every 15 minutes. I’ve learned to ignore alerts. Self-discipline is the key.
As an aside, I also recently read a report that social media is actually rewiring our brains and making us more distracted and with shorter attention spans. It’s an actual addition. If you are deep into checking and participating in social media, and find it hard to break the habit, it’s not just you. You’ll have to make a more conscious and mindful decision to ignore the pings of your phone. (All the more reason to turn off notifications.)
Evaluate How You Operate
If you just can’t get things done, there might be something off with how you go about doing things. It could be your workflow or your routine. You might be taking unnecessary detours when you try to accomplish tasks.
Is there a little bureaucracy in your business? Do you take too much time or consult others before deciding? Do you notice any wasteful practices you do during the work day that eat up time and leave you unfocused? (Checking social media updates, hint hint.)
Assess the trivial things in your routine. These might be holding you back from accomplishing more.
Examine Your Work Area
In our article on remote working, we suggested designating a specific spot dedicated to working. Your office should be free of any TV, gaming consoles or anything else that can be distracting. Have enough lighting and ventilation. Windows are great unless you’re living along a busy street.
Use an office chair instead of the couch. If the dining table is the only area available, choose a spot where you don’t normally eat. Find a space at home that is conducive to productivity. We all have our preferences, so these will differ from person to person. Basically, do your best to separate your work life from your home life, even if it’s just a few feet apart.
Get Motivated and Fight Inertia
Procrastination is putting off important tasks. People delay doing these because often, these are tedious and unexciting. On the other hand, inertia is resisting change while at rest or in motion. An example would be refusing to get up from bed in the morning.
There’s ongoing debate as to which is worse. I’ll deal with inertia for now. It’s a common condition with people remotely working. There are no bosses around watching them. So, how do you resist the temptation of remaining in bed for thirty minutes more?
I have a friend who has to log in with their company server at a designated time. It always works. Another wakes up early to take a 20-minute run because of those extra pounds gained during lockdowns.
How about you? What drives you to get up and start the day right? Remind yourself daily why you’re working so hard. For a lot of businesses worldwide, staying afloat is their only motivator now. Maybe it’s the same for you, though if that’s the case, I strongly urge you to plan some inspirational goals (again, refer to our 12-Week Planning article to help). Whatever your ultimate motivation is, keep it in mind every time you wake up in the morning.
Build a Culture of Urgency in Your Workplace
A sense of urgency will drive you to act promptly. You become more engaged and focused on significant tasks. Contrary to what others believe, a sense of urgency doesn’t cause additional stress at work or home. It prevents delays and gives you confidence when you make quick but rational decisions.
Setting time for unimportant activities like checking the latest on social media is one step forward. For others, keeping a list of urgent tasks is enough to get them going. Setting reasonable deadlines will work as well.
Get the Right Equipment
Maybe your 5-year old PC or laptop can get the job done now. But your needs might require a CPU with more processing power or more memory (RAM). It’s wise to invest in upgrades or replacements.
I know the prices of PCs and laptops now are through the roof. Demand is still greater than supply. Did you know that PC component manufacturers are competing against car companies for the same semiconductors? Of course, the auto industry gets the priority.
Other routes are to look for used PCs which still work well and are more modern than what you own. Shop around to see what is available. As well, decent laptops still seem to be in good supply as of this writing.
Eat Right, Exercise and Get Enough Sleep
Nuts, broccoli, fatty fish, dark chocolate and coffee are excellent for the brain. I’m sure there are more. Of course, caffeine is a chemical stimulant, so unless you plan to stay up late, avoid it in the evenings.
Take short or long walks if you don’t have exercise equipment at home. Physical activity stimulates the brain, so don’t be surprised if inspiration hits you while you’re walking.
Are you experiencing sleep debt? This is the difference between the amount of sleep you need versus the amount you get. You don’t recover lost sleep hours by waking up late on weekends, according to this article . Taking 20-minute naps a day will help, but sleep deficit will eventually catch up on you and interfere with your daily activities.
Aside from these tips and techniques to help you stay focused and become more productive, what do you do that you can suggest? Please let us know in the comments section below.