Whether it’s on a business or personal level, the amount of distractions we face is overwhelming: email, texts, meetings, kids’ schedules, keeping up with the house chores – and on and on. So here are some thoughts, apps, resources etc. to help define what you want to achieve, how to think about your goals and how to approach the tasks. Last time we focused on starting your day, this post is about maintaining your momentum during the day.
Do a Time Audit
It’s sort of a paradox that a time audit takes up time, but it’s time well spent, which will ultimately make you more efficient. For one week, log your hours in a notebook, spreadsheet or a program like Evernote. At the end of the week look at the record of what you’ve done, and it probably won’t make you happy. For work, I use a time tracking tool called Harvest to keep track of my hours that has a plugin to Asana, our project management software. It can get pretty grim sometimes, but it helps me analyze how I spend my time. So what did your time audit show? I’ve learned that many of us share the same time management challenges. Here are a few… can you relate?
This is an enormous distraction for most of us. News articles, sales at your favorite site, celebrity gossip, politics, etc. all wind up in our inboxes. So the question is… how important are they really? If they’re not important, do yourself a favor and unsubscribe. Keep a record of the unsubscribes and if you REALLY can’t get along without the cutlery sale at Sur la Table, resubscribe when you can’t take it any more. Another strategy is to direct all of the emails that aren’t critical to your day to a separate account that you only check once a day.
Check your email at set times of the day.
Prioritize – If something is urgent, respond to it right away, if not, let it rest until your scheduled email check time.
Schedule your emails to come in every half hour our (or whatever frequency makes sense for you.) That way you won’t be looking for something every five minutes.
Organize your emails – All of the major email clients have ways to create folders, archive emails, etc.
Did the Mets win last night? Who was pitching? Colon ? How old is he? Who is the oldest pitcher in baseball? What pitcher makes more money? Who is the best paid player?
Got it? Your afternoon is gone. Information and web browsing are addictive, but manageable.
If you don’t need the internet, disconnect – turn off wifi, use airplane mode on mobile devices, pull the plug if you’re hard connected.
There are also software programs that will let you schedule and block specific sites or the entire internet for specific periods of time:
Set a timer to limit your online time.
Save articles to view later – If you find an article that you need, but you don’t need it immediately, save it to look at later.
Create a to-do list – I’ve been using Wunderlist and it works great. I have to do lists for phone calls, home stuff, work, etc. Works on my computer, phone, wherever.
Easy stuff – hard stuff – Tough as it is, do the hard stuff first. Will power and self control are limited and decrease as the day goes on. You’re also fresher in the morning so the tasks that might seem overwhelming at 3:00 might seem more manageable at 10:00.
Take breaks – Try working for 25 minutes and taking a five minute break or what ever works for you http://pomodorotechnique.com/; try to meditate for 10-15 minutes; stretch at your desk or go outside. Brief diversions help you focus.
The afternoon slump – When I was a kid, we’d put our heads down on our desks in the afternoon for a rest period. That’s a luxury most of us don’t have anymore. How to avoid getting sleepy at 3:00?
Have a good breakfast (carbs and some protein to get you started, and I don’t mean a Cinnabon!)
Lunch– Have protein with your salad or sandwich. Avoid fatty foods, they’ll sit in your stomach
Take a walk – it will get your heart going, take your mind off what you’re doing and refresh you.
If you have a snack, have one with a protein-carb combination
Check your to-do list – If you didn’t get everything done, set your priorities for the next day and review your schedule.
Complete one small task – there’s always one small thing you can get done to finish the day so you don’t have to think about it.
Do a final email and social check – It’s tough not to look at email, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc at night, but that’s also a path to more evening stress. Try to close out your necessary communications so you don’t have to think about them until the next day.