There are only so many hours in the day to accomplish tasks, and both offline and online distractions tend to bombard you at every turn. You try to work around these distractions, but stress and annoyance get the best of you. Time management training can help you bring out your inner Productivity Ninja and teach you to be ruthless with your attention.
It’s time to say “No.” Set boundaries, head off distractions and practice ruthless prioritization by following these five critical steps to fiercely reclaim your focus.
1. Say “No” to Yourself and Others More
When the phone rings and Chatty Cathy comes up to your desk, plaster a smile on your face and say “no” with a ruthless, full set of teeth. Say “no” when faces turn to you at the latest meeting, and everyone expects you to take on unwanted work because you’re great at it. They appeal to your better nature where you feel guilty if you don’t say “yes.” Make their heads spin and dare to say “no.”
Stop feeling like you have to be on top of everything, and remember the 80-20 rule: 20 percent of your actions account for 80 percent of the impact. Perfection, just like the phone ringing and Chatty Cathy “just saying hi,” is a distraction. Renegotiate your commitments to yourself and others to prevent burnout. And remember, just because it’s a “No” from you, doesn’t mean you might not know someone else who can get the job done and is happy to say “yes”.
2. Curb Social Media Distractions
Curb social media distractions by cutting them off — you’ve got to be ruthless. Unsubscribe from notifications. Remove social media apps from your phone and other devices. Or, sign up for a social media management app to keep them on one interface. Just remember to hide that app from yourself, too — temptation is an evil thing.
If you’re a social media addict, there’s still hope — consider online time management training to reclaim your concentration, bust procrastination and develop a space for a “second brain” by dumping what you need to know on the cloud. Social media crams your brain with unnecessary information, so reclaim that space to calm your stress hormones and focus.
3. Update Your Computer
You’re bombarded with data offline and online daily. Then, as soon as you try to focus, ads, notifications and computer updates threaten your time and concentration — not to mention your computer itself lags.
Cut off the distraction by getting your computer up to speed. Go to your “control panel,” click “power options” and upgrade your power usage to high performance to optimize your battery life. Run a disk cleanup, remove any programs you don’t use and disable unnecessary programs from running at startup. Install a spyware scanner, anti-malware and anti-virus programs.
There’s only so many times you can restart your computer to speed it up. These solutions will keep your computer focused on the right tasks, so you can concentrate, too.
4. Practice Ruthless Email Etiquette
How much time do you think you spend on checking and responding to email? Email takes up 41 percent of the workday for the average person, therefore more professionals could do with email etiquette training to maximize their efficiency and stop wasting other people’s time — like yours. Be a good example, and practice proper email etiquette by using it as a tool for more effective collaboration and communication.
Keep your responses concise, clear and professional, list a specific time frame when you will follow up and always keep your word. Instead of going back and forth in email, take advantage of integrated features such as video conferencing, automatic scheduling to your calendar and more.
5. Tune It Out
Do what you need to do to reclaim your focus. Not everyone respects earbuds, but they’re a compelling “excuse” to put a wall between you and distractions.
Better yet, skip the earbuds and purchase giant 90s headphones. Then, print out stickers that say “busy” and stick them on both ears. You can even place a divider between your work nook and the rest of the world to block out distractions, especially visual ones. A small fan adds white noise to cut out construction and other distracting sounds.
You only have so much time and energy during the day, and you must use that wisely. That’s the simple truth, so dare to be ruthless with your attention. Say “no” to distractions, and “yes” to improved, fierce focus.
By Sarah Landrum
Sarah is a career expert and productivity guru. Visit her at her blog, Punched Clocks, subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on social media @SarahLandrum for more tips to be a ninja in your career!