Manage Your Distractions

Be Productive – Manage Your Distractions

beproductive.ie consultant Moira Dunne features again as Expert Adviser on the Microsoft blog. This month she gives advice on how to Be Productive – Manage Your Distractions. Click here to read the full article:

https://blogs.business.microsoft.com/en-ie/2017/08/23/managing-your-distractions/

ManagE your Distractions

As a business owner you value every minute of every day and you know how to get things done. You can respond quickly to customer requests and solve new problems as they arise.

Today’s technology really helps us achieve this. Who could have imagined the flexibility we would possess in a small device that can fit in our pockets. So our working lives have changed but have we changed how we work to reflect this? How can we manage distractions?

Attention Management

We used to talk about time management but nowadays the discussion has switched to attention management. We are dealing with new circumstances that require new techniques and behaviours. This sounds daunting but with a few simple changes we can control what we work on, minimise distractions and make sure we are productive.

1. Take Control

The first step is to decide that you want to change. Are you prepared to do things differently? Will you be tough on yourself?

The key to taking control of your distractions is to know what they are. To gather some real data keep a Timelog for a few days or a week. This may sound like a laborious task but you will be amazed what you discover about where your time is spent.

2. Manage YOUR Distractions

Your data will probably show you that technology is not the only distraction, people are too. This can include clients, staff, colleagues and external callers.

Human Distractions

Let’s take people first.

They can distract us: 1) because of the noise they make, 2) because they sometimes offer a fun alternative to our current work or 3) because they ask us to do something we hadn’t planned.

Here are some tips to manage these distractions:

  • When you work in an open plan office, find a quiet place to focus on important work, a meeting room or an empty office
  • If you have your own office and operate an open-door policy for your team, occasionally ask not to be interrupted. If this doesn’t suit your company culture, spend some time working at home.
  • On occasion when you are asked to do new unplanned work, don’t always say yes. Negotiate based on your priorities and their priorities

Find the correct balance between saying yes and saying no. Use your judgement, always reassessing what is best for your business. But in the pursuit of high productivity, be careful not to damage your working relationships.

Digital Distractions

Technology can push information into our lives whether we want it or not. The list of things that demand our attention is long: social media alerts, Emails, phone calls, text messages. We know this but we feel we can’t stop it.

Today’s “always on” digital culture means we can end up working in a very reactive mode, allowing others dictate our work. We can turn these alerts off but it is often easier to leave them on. We are also inquisitive by nature and we have a fear of missing out if we are not in touch.

The trick is to be strategic. Don’t give all mobile alerts the same priority. Should a “like” on Twitter distract you as much as an Email from an important client?

When you need to really focus on a task switch off your phone or hide it out of sight so you won’t be tempted to check. You can’t always do this but there may be key times in your week when you can.

The term “digital detoxification” has been coined to describe this because it is not easy. So strike a balance – be switched on when you need to be and recognise the times when you don’t.

We have lots of great tips in other posts on how to manage your Email efficiently, click here to read more.

3. Manage Your Attention

Sometimes we feel unproductive even when we have created uninterrupted time to focus on important work. Our productivity is affected by our ability to concentrate. To maintain concentration and energy levels you need to be mindful of: 1) what you eat, 2) whether you take breaks and 3) how much you rest or sleep.

When we run our own business we often compromise these factors. But if you are aware of their impact on productivity it can motivate you to make small adjustments. Even a 15 minute walk at lunch time can help maintain focus for the afternoon. Choosing a reasonably healthy snack can help power through a tough meeting.

It is also important to recognise when you are losing focus so you can quickly get back on track. These pointers can help you develop this habit:

  1. Decide what you want to work on and for how long
  2. Use frequent checkpoints to see if you are still working to plan
  3. If not make a note of what has distracted you
  4. If possible eliminate that distraction so you can return to your plan

Be Productive

So be productive – manage your distractions. When you make changes it can be hard to stick at it. If you find it hard stop and ask yourself why you can’t maintain the change. Then tweak things to suit your work environment better. Best of luck! Let us know below how you get on.

Productivity Tips Business Owners

Productivity Tips Business Owners

As a business owner you are used to working hard. But is your hard work focused on the correct goals for your business? Are you clear about what your goals should be? And even with clear goals, how can you stick to those goals while responding to your customer’s needs? Read on to learn about our productivity tips business owners.

Productivity Tips for Business owners

The challenge is to work smart and be productive. There are simple but effective changes you can make to achieve this. So here are some ideas to get you started.

1)Decide You Want to Take Control

The first step in any change process is the commitment to do things differently. Aim to protect your time for productive work. Be prepared to challenge yourself and your team. This can mean saying no to enjoyable distractions like social media alerts. It can mean pushing yourself to spend more time on the tougher tasks you sometimes avoid.

2)Know Your Environment

And to optimise how you work you need to know how you work. Understand your environment, your challenges and your distractions. What work gets priority, which customers get the most attention, what response time is expected? What percentage of work can be anticipated and therefore planned? When do you work most productively? Is it the same time every day?

You can do this by simply reflecting at the end of each day. But by using a more structured approach, like keeping a TimeLog every day for a week, you can gain further insights. The data you gather will help you decide what needs to change to improve your productivity. Here is a link to our Be Productive TimeLog template.

3)Set Priorities for Your Business

To be truly productive, you need to be clear about what is important for your business. What are you trying to achieve; what are the priorities? Does everything link back to the overall vision and strategy?

By using the SMART approach to objective setting you can ensure that all planned work is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed. This can provide a purpose for every task list or project plan and clarity for everyone on your team. Read more about prioritising here.

4)Get Organised and Plan Your Week

Once you are clear about what needs to be done, develop a plan to achieve it. Have a yearly plan which feeds into the monthly, weekly and daily plans. Make your weekly plan on a Friday afternoon or first thing Monday morning. Use a “To Do” list if you find it useful but make sure it connects to your schedule so that tasks on the list are actioned and most importantly, completed.

Schedule the week using a structured approach that best suits your business and your customers. Different techniques such as batch working or timed working can help to maximise efficiency and productivity. Here is a link to our Be Productive Weekly Planner template.

5)Manage Email, Meetings and Distractions

Your TimeLog data will identify the activities that consume most time in your week.  Emails and meetings tend to be top of most lists while interruptions from colleagues can also eat into your time.

So here are some e-mail productivity tips to consider:

  • Working with email notification constantly switched on can result in the day being controlled by other people’s priorities. There will be days when you need to be constantly in touch. But ask yourself are there other days or time blocks when you can check your emails at planned intervals only.
  • Actively manage your meetings to increase the chance of productive outcomes by using a meeting process. This can include: 1) preparation beforehand, 2) use of a timed agenda during the meeting and 3) post meeting follow-up of actions agreed
  • Eliminate or reduce as many distractions as possible, even if sometimes those distractions are a welcome change from tougher tasks. But remember to be diplomatic when colleagues or clients are involved!

For more detailed advice on this check out our Email, Meetings & Managing Distractions productivity articles here:

Take Control of Your Inbox

Productive Meeting Skills

Tips to Maintain Your Focus

6)Develop New Skills and Techniques

Keep improving to make sure you stay productive in this ever changing world. Nowadays there are lots of free apps available that promote efficiency and collaboration such as Microsoft OneNote. Do some research or talk to colleagues and peers to get recommendations. Make sure you are using your desktop applications as efficiently as possible by learning relevant time-saving functionality and features.

7)Review, Analyse and Repeat

To maintain control of your time and sustain any improvement in productivity, it is important to review and analyse what you have achieved. Return to the Timelog to track what worked and what didn’t. Compare back to the baseline data you collected at the start. Improvements gained from protected blocks of time and fewer distractions can include: reduced email processing, shorter meeting times, higher task completion, increased output and productivity.

Be Productive

In conclusion, these business owner productivity tips won’t work every day or in every business. But I encourage you to take the ideas and develop improvements that will work for you. Send us some feedback in the Comments and keep checking this blog for more detailed articles over the coming months on many of the topics discussed above.