It doesn’t matter who you are or what your position is at work, we’re all subject to a constant flow of potential distractions while we’re working. Some may be short, and some we seemingly wake up from and ask, “Where did the day go!” The problem is we all have a finite amount of time each day to accomplish what really matters. If you’re a small business owner then your time is precious and the little distractions in your day can end up having a huge impact on your income, and your chances for long-term success.
The top distractions for most people tend to be phone calls, email, meetings, chatty colleagues and the time-sucking black hole that is the internet. So how do we avoid these distractions and ensure the greatest productivity without relegating ourselves to a sensory deprivation chamber between the hours of 8 and 5 each day?
Firm Schedules and Agendas
Create a default schedule for yourself that is fixed each week then add in the variable items that fill in the rest of your time. Establishing a routine is a great way to create a habit and that’s what you need in order to improve your focus.
If you can, start each day with exercise, introspection and meditation on the day and who you have to be to get through it. Exercise gets the blood pumping, sets you in a good mood, and improves focus and energy. Introspection and meditation allow you to concentrate on the day ahead and think clearly about what it will take to have the most success and to best engage those around you.
Meetings, both internal and external, should have a clear stated agenda. Let people you plan to meet with know what the purpose of the meeting is, the topics to be covered, and the expected start and stop times. That way everyone knows what to expect, is more likely to come prepared, and understands the meeting will end as stated so they can avoid getting off track.
This is a tough one for some people. We are often our own worst enemy, especially when facing a task that we dislike. You can help this by planning the things you don’t like to do early in the day. Get them done so you can move on to what you do enjoy and so finish the day in a good mood. That way if your timeline slides, the important items still get finished. Turn off distracting beeps and buzzes from your phone and computer.
Most calls are unimportant and can go to voice mail. Let people know you only check email and voicemail two or three times a day and to make sure they leave a message if you need to get back to them. Schedule the checking and responding into your default plan so you can stay on track. And stay away from the social networks at all costs! Keep a notepad with you to jot down new items that will need to go into the schedule later.
If you’re a particularly social person, you have to limit yourself each day to how much time can be spent chatting about non-productive topics. If the time you’re spending isn’t adding to your bottom line, then you’re losing money.
Never eat lunch alone. Find people to spend lunch with who can add to your revenue down the road. Bring an employee who needs a boost or to have a confidential conversation away from work. Use the time to build rapport, improve relationships and be productive while you fuel up.
Stay off the internet! It sucks in most people and results in huge amounts of lost time. Otherwise, get in, get out, and save yourself. If you can delegate, do it.
Set yourself a big personal goal or important business goal that you are pushing hard to achieve in the next 12 months. Now place sticky notes at your computer, your bathroom mirror, wherever you end up when you’ve been distracted, and write on them, “Is this worth not achieving my goal?” This is great advice to stay on task.
Make sure you take time to celebrate wins and achievements. It’s important to recognize high performance. We need to take time to pat ourselves and our teams on the back once in a while. A constant state of alertness and stress needs to be broken periodically so we can unwind, recharge, refocus and assess the validity of our plans.
Finally, spend the end of each work day preparing for the next day. Position papers and materials you’ll need first thing in the morning. Review tomorrow’s schedule and understand what’s coming up. Call or email people who you plan to meet with tomorrow to remind them of the meeting and anything they may need to bring or do in order to make it most productive.
Then go home, relax, unwind, stop being on-the-job and find time for balance in your life. Make your business a vehicle for the life you want and not the other way around. Get moving on improving, be the change you want to have in your business.