Are minor tasks taking you all day?
Let’s face it – it’s easy to get to the end of the day and realize we’ve spend the bulk of it dealing with the minor and minutia.
If you find yourself spending all day to compose an email, write and article, or create a memorable video, chances are that you’re getting very, very distracted.
Rather than get to theoretical about what’s getting in the way of your focus (we’ll save that for another post), I simply want to give you some easy-to-apply distraction-busting tips. Because remember, working better doesn’t mean working harder.
These are simple tips that carry a powerful punch:
1. Kill your internet.
Your mind will be blown at how much more productive you are at a computer with no internet connection. No “research” that transforms into a search for the perfect crazy cat video. No twitter, IM, phone, or any other element that crushes your time. Gather your research materials, and when it’s time to put rubber to the road, cut your internet off – it’s too tempting to write when a stress reliving diversion is just a mouse click away.
When I’m really getting distracted, I grab my notebook and a favourite pen and head for the closest coffee shop or outdoor area. Some of my best ideas have come without a tech boost.
2. Addition by subtraction.
The brain works in very strange ways. The more stuff you can see, the more your brain can latch onto it and create an “urgent matter” in your brain – notice how easy it is to get distracted by trivial things when you are doing something important? So clear the mess off your desk, and get rid of excess files from your desktop. Usually you let stuff stack up on your desktop because you’re trying to get to it quickly. But it’s harder to put those items away once you’re done.
Reduce your visual clutter and enjoy the results.
3. Break it into manageable chunks.
One of my favourite productivity tools is the Pomodoro technique. The idea is that you look at a task, and decide how many Pomodoros (25-minute blocks of time) it will take to complete. Then you start setting a time for 25 minutes, then a five minute break, then another 25 minutes until you’re done.
You undoubtedly will be surprised by how much you can accomplish in 25 minutes when you cut off ALL other distractions (that’s the key to this working). We inevitably over estimate how much time it will take, putting us into overwhelm and then inaction.
4. Don’t multitask.
If you’re chasing down three projects at once, you’re hurting yourself. Especially if those projects require a broad set of skills and you’re losing your ability to niche down and specialize. Devote yourself to doing one task, and if you can use one skill at a time (like writing), even better. This helps you get into a “groove” and become more productive.
Fun fact: did you know that when you multi-task, you’re actually LESS effective than if you were smoking pot? Crazy, but true!
Basically, instead of going up and down and up and down into attention, you want to create a smooth, uninterrupted ocean of productivity, and then take frequent breaks. Don’t let yourself burn out on a single task!
Pro tip: when you break, don’t just sit at your desk and surf the web, get up and walk around. Move your body, stretch and then come back to your desk – get your blood and brain going again so you can maximize your efforts.
6. Work fast.
Get things done as fast as you can. Once you’ve really started to get things humming, you’ll kind of hypnotize yourself with activity, becoming more and more pleased with your results.
This doesn’t always work for me, but when it does, watch out. I usually put on some great music (here’s my favourite Amelie soundtrack) and just put my fingers to the keys and start typing. I can usually catch some momentum, and then next thing I know — I’ve written an entire blog post. This tip works well with the Pomodoro technique.
Mastering your time and efficiency is mission critical if you want to do the work that actually drives business growth. The key is being mindful of how you’re spending your time and what you’re focusing it on.
Yes, there will always be minor tasks to perform in your business but if they’re consuming the bulk of your days and weeks, you’ve got to reengineer your productivity to keep those minor tasks minor.