Copyright 2006 GettingAGrip.com
Have you ever come into work bright and sharp, the work at your desk beckons invitingly, you cant wait to get started, and then the day turns to muck? One thing after another claims your attention; the rest of the world is clearly in conspiracy against your productivity, and at the end of the day you collapse into an untidy heap of exhausted humanity. Yes? Try these strategies.
Turn off or divert the phone. If you must have the phone answered by a real person, divert it to a pager service or another colleague while you attend to important high-concentration tasks. Schedule appointments with yourself for the big tasks Theres something about a written appointment it gives you more power to say No, Im sorry, I cant stop. Either shut the door (if youve got one) or make yourself unavailable in some obvious way An hour (at least) of uninterrupted time every day would transform the lives and job satisfaction of most people.
E-mail. Turn off your message notifier. Schedule two or three daily non-prime-time slots for e-mail. A delay of a few hours doesnt matter – email shouldnt be used for time-sensitive matters. If we go there first in the day we run the serious danger of being swallowed up by the addictive world of the Internet. Suddenly the day has vanished and it seems that all weve done is major in minor things.
Skim. If youve been out of your office for any time, skim your waiting mail quickly for peace-of-mind but then get down to the most important work. Unless it really is the most important thing, dont let the new item steal your attention until its the right time. If youve got an assistant or a PA, ask them to sort incoming material into priority piles so your quick skim of familiarisation is even quicker. As with any technique, skimming has both benefit and danger. Benefit you get to your real work with confidence, knowing exactly what lurks and when you need to do it. Downside – if you always skim and rarely or belatedly come back to complete youll soon have a Leaning Tower of Ill get round to it later piles all over the desk. Overwhelm becomes the dominant sensation!
Chunk types of activity as well as specific tasks. Chunking focuses the mind. Allocate a piece of time to one task or activity only. For me, now its writing, soon it will be e-mails, then phone calls. Many people dart like swallows from one activity to another and then wonder why nothing ever seems to get completed.
Keep focus. When interruptions come in, decide whether the interruption is of higher importance than what youre working on. If not, put it on your daily list or today action pile and keep going with the present activity.
A clear desk. The space in which you work (for many thats around your computer) is your potential interruption zone. Keep it clear of distractions. Items awaiting attention should be slightly or completely behind you, out of eye range. Otherwise, while you work the stacks of stuff nearby wave invisible hands, shouting almost audibly Pick me, pick me! This is a huge and invisible energy drain. The interruptions never go away, but we can control them.