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You are starting off your day, and it’s going to be a busy one! You have a lot to do today, and your biggest project of the day is going to require your concentration and a couple of hours to get it done. Mentally you have planned out your day and you are ready to go. Just after you get your first cup of coffee finished the phone rings, you automatically pick it up. Someone needs you to “do a favor” and your plan for the day is shot. You find yourself spinning to make this favor happen and you quickly realize that your to-do list is never going to get done today.
How can you eliminate distractions that are going to derail your plans? How can you protect your time and resources to get your priorities finished for the day? Here are some ways that you can put yourself in control and make things happen to reach your goals each day.
“Available” and “Unavailable” time
Run your life like you are a business, and let people know what your hours are. Have you called a doctors office, a car mechanic, an accountant and get a message that tells you their hours are 8 am to 5 pm and we will be closed for lunch from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm. Well, that may be frustrating because you had time to call NOW but it makes things simple because now you know that if you call after 1:30 you will be able to reach a human to speak with. You have every right to do the same thing!
You choose to do errand runs in the afternoon but you are fine with people calling you between 10 am and noon. Let people know that they can reach you between 10 am and noon. Just because you have your cell phone with you when you run errands, doesn’t mean you should be available 24/7. Concentrate on the errands so you make sure that you accomplish everything you need (remember how many times you drove to a store specifically to get X item and you had your mind going in 3 different directions, and came home to realize you never even picked it up!). The caller can leave you a message and you will get back to them when your schedule allows.
A good rule of thumb is to work for 50 minutes and then follow it with a 10 minute break. So when you are looking to block off your available and unavailable time, you can group things in hour increments to make things easy for yourself. And remember, that 10 minute break should be a break for you – not a quick I have to get all my messages. Take that time to relax and get ready to shift gears for your next project of the day.
Eliminate distractions by turning off or silencing devices
It’s amazing how many “helpful” alerts you can get in a day from email, text, alerts from certain apps, etc. Do yourself a favor, and turn all that off when you are ready to start a project that deserves your attention. That alert that tells you a total stranger just liked your Instagram photo, will be there when you are ready to check in after you finish your project.
I have 5 minutes to talk right now
If a person insists that something is an emergency (on their part) and you decide to give them some time. Tell them that you have just 5 minutes to talk right now. If they agree and can communicate their issue in 5 minutes (and do yourself a favor – stick to that 5 minutes so they know you are serious) then that’s fine. If they start to complain and say it will take longer than that, it’s ok to schedule a time when you can both talk. Letting people know that you are protective of your schedule allows them to take you at your word. You can be nice, and still be assertive.
Set a timer to eliminate distractions of watching the clock
Another way to eliminate distractions is to take away the worry about time. If you constantly are watching the time tick by, you are going to cause yourself more stress and the minutes are going to slip by without accomplishing much. Instead, set a timer and just work on your project until the sound alerts you. When I am working for 50 minutes – I usually set my time for 40 minutes so I can get a notice that I have 10 more minutes to wrap things up. (and then remember to set the time for your 10 minute break as well).
Do the hardest work in the morning
Do you have a tough phone call to make? How about a deadline that is looming. Or perhaps something that is going to take a lot of physical energy. Doing these types of projects in the morning will help you in several ways.
First, you will have the satisfaction of crossing that off your to-do list early in the day which will keep you motivated to keep going. Second, if something, beyond your control, comes up you have time to make alternative plans you can still get it done that day. Third, if more steps come up on this project that your didn’t anticipate, you can try to build that into your day to get the project completed and push an easier to-do to a different day in the week.
Make your time a priority and set up ways that you can protect your precious resource. Please let us know in the comments below what strategies you have developed to eliminate distractions and get more done.