Work Stress

Be Productive – Reduce Stress By Taking Control

Reduce Stress By Taking Control

Increasingly people in the business world are feeling more stressed and less in control. Mobile technology requires instant response. Projects are constantly changing. Response time expected from managers and customers is getting shorter and shorter. As a result a large part of the day can be spent on unplanned work. And the priority work for our role within our organisations doesn’t always get done no matter how many plans or To-Do lists we create.  Here are some tips on how to Reduce Stress By Taking Control.

Stress and Frustration

The working world can be both frustrating and stressful. And once that stress kicks in it can be hard to think straight. Hard to make the right decisions and hard to be strategic.

Too often we try to reduce the stress by working longer hours. But of course, in the long run that’s bad for us and bad for our business too.

So what is actually going on? Why are so many business professionals feeling this stress? And why is the problem getting bigger as our technology gets smarter?

The Business World has Changed

The way we do work has changed radically in recent years. But the problem is that few of us have adjusted the way we approach work to reflect this. Here is a list of some of these changes:

  • Constant stream of requests on multiple devices
  • Instant communication has created an expectation of instant response
  • Our contactable hours are longer
  • We have decreased downtime to refresh and reset
  • All notifications disrupt us to the same extent
  • Our mobile devices are used in both work and personal lives

We need additional skills to deal with our changed world. And we need to strategically adjust the way we approach the working week.

Different Approach to Work

Most people in business apply good Time Management skills such as planning, scheduling and creating task lists. But these skills were designed for a simpler 9 to 5 working day. A time when we left our work behind us and refreshed when we went home. We read books or newspapers on our commute and the only technology in our bedroom was an alarm clock!

Nowadays because of the constant flow of new work and requests throughout the day, we need to be able to: 1) constantly reassess priorities, 2) stay focussed on planned work and 3) say no to less important work.

  1. Decision Management

To reassess priorities quickly use a simple question: “If I say yes to this new request what tasks am I saying no to”?

In a split second you clarify what work is not going to get done if you take on an unplanned task.

But to make the correct decisions you firstly need to do a bit of background thinking and planning about the overall goals for your business. Then set weekly goals so you have ongoing clarity about your priorities. Then your daily and hourly decisions about what to prioritises will be well informed.

  1. Attention Management

It can be hard to stay tuned in throughout the day to constantly realise what is happening and where your time is going. This is because we often react to new requests without thinking of the time implications or we can spend too long on a planned task.

Who hasn’t done a quick Email check and spent an hour or two longer than planned? The work you do might be important but it may not be the most important thing at that moment in time.

To counteract this use frequent checkpoints. Assess your progress as you move from one task to another. Ask yourself:

  • Am I still on track?
  • If not why not?
  • What (or who) distracted me?
  • How can I stop this happening again?

If you are spending too long on tasks, try using a timer to limit yourself and give yourself a chance to move on.

Be Proactive, Take Control

In summary – the world we do business in has changed so we need to change the way we do business. Reduce stress by taking control:

  • Be clear about your priorities
  • Re-evaluate throughout the day
  • Use your most productive time for your most important jobs
  • Say no sometimes (see Tips on Saying No)
  • Manage your attention using checkpoints and timers
  • Manage your energy by taking breaks and refuelling

By making some simple changes you can take back control of your time. Be proactive and your work life will be less stressful and more productive.

Be Productive

Tips to Be Productive in 2018

Ever wish you had a Time Turner?

In the magical world of Harry Potter Hermione Granger used a Time Turner to turn back time. She created 3 extra hours a day to attend classes that ran concurrently allowing her to be productive and get more work done that everyone else.

Wouldn’t that be fantastic? Imagine your typical busy day. You have a plan but throughout the day lots of new thing crop up. At the end of the day you realise you hardly got to work on your planned tasks. No problem, just turn back the clock and get everything done!

But we don’t live in the magical world of Harry Potter, so we need “magical” strategies instead.

Take Control

In today’s hectic and distracted world it can be hard to stay in control of your day and be productive. The constant stream of messages, alerts and requests often cause us to work reactively. It can be frustrating. Most people make good plans and set clear goals but those plans can get side-lined as new requests and alerts arrive. Below we list 3 tips to be productive in 2018.

It can be useful to remind ourselves what we can actually control. We can proactively manage:

  • What we work on
  • How quickly we respond
  • What we prioritise
  • How often we check Email
  • Our energy levels and focus
  • Our mobile phone notifications

So if you decide to be more proactive and take control, here are 3 tips to be productive that will help you do it.

3 Tips To Be Productive

Tip 1 – Know Your Priorities

To maximise your use of time, it is important to know your priorities. Be clear about what is important for your company, your role, your clients and your targets. What are you trying to achieve; what are your long-term goals? Do some thinking and planning. Then set weekly goals and identify the tasks that will achieve these goals. Now you have your day-to-day priorities. Focus on achieving these tasks and protect your time by minimising your distractions.

Remember, if you don’t set your own priorities, someone else probably will.

 Tip 2 – Understand How You Work

The first step in CONTROLLING how you work is KNOWING how you work. Do you know what you end up working on each day? Do you know why? Are you clear about how you are prioritising your work?

You can gather this information by simply reflecting at the end of each day. Ask yourself:

  1. Did I stick to my plan?
  2. Did I end up working on unplanned things?
  3. Was the unplanned work more important?
  4. Did I make the correct decisions?
  5. What and/or who distracted me?

Consider what time of day you are most productive and when you concentrate best. Then plan the important work for these times.

Tip 3 – Control Your Distractions

Take steps to minimise your distractions now that you are aware of them. It may be phone calls, social media notifications, unimportant message alerts or other people’s requests.

We often let ourselves be distracted if it’s a welcome change from a tough (priority) task we are working on. And a change of task can refresh and help you regain focus. The challenge is to control the time you spend on the unplanned task by using a timer to remind you to tune back into your original plan.

To help minimise digital distractions you can do the following:

  • Analyse all the notifications you receive on your phone, tablet of PC.
  • Are you giving them all the same priority?
  • Are you letting a low priority Twitter interaction distract you as much as the alert for an important business Email?
  • Turn off notifications from low priority apps or Email accounts
  • Check Email at a set frequency, as often as you need to stay in touch for your role or business.

Be Productive in 2018

These changes may require a different way of working. It may not be possible to stick to it every day. But on a day that you have an important piece of work to complete and you need some deep-thinking time, take control and protect your precious time.

Try something new in the New Year and you have every chance of making 2018 your most productive year ever.

Stay productive by staying in touch with beproductive.ie  on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram  @beproductive_ie . And checking our website for regular articles and tips. We want to help you be productive all year round not just the first few weeks in January!

Happy New Year.

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.