Distractions have a major impact on anything we do at work and at home. Unfortunately, technology has only increased and magnified these distractions.
In the past we’ve had to deal with just the phone and the walk-ins that break down our ability to stay focused and get things done. Now it is emails, social media, and a whole range of interrupters that we have to overcome.
Most people have no agenda to work with each day, rather we check our emails and work on whatever arrives in our in-box giving it our immediate attention.
This results in unproductive days, dissatisfaction at the end of it and a declining sense of accomplishment.
Following is a simple set of habits that can help reduce distraction, stay focused and get the important things done.
1. Think Time
To get away from the chaos, start each morning by spending 10 – 15 minutes thinking and planning your day. Some of us achieve this by meditation, a morning run or walk or just sitting alone with a pen and paper. Practice this habit alone and you will get clarity. There is no better use of your time than to spend some of it in quiet reflection. Turn off your phone/computer/ipad and think on paper. You can always enter it into a digital format later.
2. Set your own agenda
Now that you have some time to think. Ask yourself what it is you do to contribute to your organisation’s success. What does this look like in terms of projects or actions? You will soon find yourself writing a long list – this is your Master List. Every time you think of something that needs doing write it down on this master list.
All you have to do now is prioritise the four or five most important items that need to be done today. This is your daily list. Make this list not-negotiable. Avoid the temptation to get distracted with emails, distractions, phone calls and unplanned meetings until you’ve finished this list.
4. Stay on Track
Be sure to keep going back to this list all day. Every hour if you have to. A good habit is to revert to this list after lunch. So you can re-set your day. Get into the discipline of not going home until this list is completed.
At the end of the day, before you leave your desk, spend another 10-15 minutes on your agenda. Review what you’ve achieved and plan for the next day. Try to have some reflective time again so you can learn from your accomplishments and improve on your failings.
Go back to your Master List and again set priorities and deadlines. Pencil in the next five important projects/tasks that you need to act on tomorrow. Doing this will allow you to sleep on them. You can always re-prioritise in the morning.
There is a great temptation to constantly check emails, facebook statuses and twitter feeds. Discipline yourself to avoid this temptation. All you are doing is letting others set the agenda for you.
If you are tempted to turn to your phone or ipad, go to your Task List app instead. By doing this at least you are working on what needs to be done.
A better option is to carry around your Master List and refer to this instead.
Either way, every time you think of something that needs doing, add it to your Master List. If nothing else, it will free up your mind so you don’t have a dozen nagging thoughts floating around in your head. This will reduce mental fatigue, give you clarity and, most importantly, let your mind focus on the important things that need doing.