Most people I know in business have very good Time Management skills. They set out their goals, they prioritise their work and they make a daily task list to get things done.
In days gone by that was enough. Forward planning meant that work could be scheduled into the time available. By and large, an organised person could get all their work done quite routinely. Imagine that?
The Problem with Time Management
But those Time Management techniques were designed for a business world where people had control over their time. It was a business world without Email, mobile phones, i-messenger, apps, i-pads, tablets and social media. Blocks of uninterrupted time were easier to find and in general the plan for the day could be completed as expected.
Technology has completely changed our work environment. Constant communication brings a steady stream of new requests and ever changing deadlines.
So allocating time to a task doesn’t mean it gets done. As soon as we check our email in the morning, our task list is already out of date! And when everything seems urgent it is impossible to stick to our priorities. As the day goes on the work plan can go out the window.
The steady stream of requests means comes with an expectation of almost instant response time. So we generally work in a reactive, responsive mode.
And this is great for customer service and team cooperation. But it’s not productive for the achievement of the plans and goals. And ultimately this will impact business growth as the focus becomes less strategic and more operational.
So in a way Time Management techniques have never been so important. But we have to supplement these techniques with skills to manage our attention. How good are your Attention Management skills? Is this something you have ever thought about?
Here are some tips on how you can become more aware of your attention and how to manage it as well as time.
Understand Your Attention
Do some initial work to understand where your attention is going throughout the day. Spot some patterns, track who and what distracts you. Use a Timelog for a few days to get the data on this. Make a list of those attention stealers to remind you what to avoid. Visit the beproductive.ie Resource page to access our Timelog template.
Then use a timer so you can check your progress versus your plan during the day. This will help you see where you have drifted on to another task without realising it. But it also helps you get back on track before too much time has been lost. After a while you develop the skill yourself so the timer isn’t required.
Protect Your Attention
We often feel obliged to respond to new requests, new E-mails or interruptions. It can be hard to say no to your customers or your colleagues. But we often end up working on something that has a lower priority than the work we planned to do.
To give you confidence to make decisions about what you should work on be clear about your responsibilities to your clients or within your role. What is a reasonable response time for clients? What has been agreed? Are you doing tasks that are not in your role?
With this knowledge it can be easier to say no or at last negotiate a different response time.
Develop the Right Environment
If you run your own business take a look at how easy or difficult it is for people to focus. Is there a noise level that can be improved? Can you work together to give each person some “Do Not Disturb” time throughout the week?
Encourage people to focus on one task rather than multi-tasking. If your business allows it, turn off the phones at least some of the time. Provide a quiet room as a contrast to the open plan office. Offer your office to your team when you are not there. Allow the use of noise blocking headphones if it doesn’t compromise your service delivery.
Above all, be creative. Come up with your own solutions for Attention Management that will suit your business.
Be Proactive, Take Control and Be Productive
So let’s give some time to Attention Management. It is one of the most important business skills in today’s workplace. Combine this with the classic Time Management techniques and watch your productivity soar. For more information on productivity and time management visit our Articles page. To book a training course or webinar contact our Productivity Consultant Moira Dunne.