Distractions are always a challenge, but there’s something about spring that makes it particularly challenging to stay focused. Maybe it’s the weather, or the flowers, or just a general buzz in the air that I must watch out for if I want to keep my business on track and my momentum going. If I’m not careful, it’s just too easy to get distracted on social media or to make knee-jerk decisions to sign up for a networking event that might not be the best use of my time, or I may jump in to create a graphic when I have a VA who does an awesome job for me! All that flitting and wandering is a form of fear leading me away from my scheduled time blocks. Mindlessness takes me off task. Mindfulness keeps me in the moment, focused, and honoring myself and my priorities.
Here are simple ways to be mindful and productive:
- Revamp Your “To-Do” List. I know some of you LOVE a to-do list because you get to cross things off and celebrate that sense of accomplishment. For others, a list can quickly become overwhelming because of the sheer number of things on it, and the amount of time the list represents. For those people, try breaking projects into sections or sessions rather than trying to guess how long the entire project will take. For example, if I have a goal to write a client’s strategy but I only have 45 minutes in a given day to work on it, I can schedule a 45-minute writing session on the strategy rather than trying to complete it in an unrealistic time frame. This works on several fronts because I’m not setting myself up for failure by expecting more than I can do. It allows me to work on the task for a reasonable period and return to it later when I am fresh. I’ll also have a much more reasonable idea of how much time it will take to complete once I’ve seen how much I have accomplished with the first writing session.
- Give Yourself the Gift of Peace. I know this sounds scary but I’m just asking you to try it when you’re working on something that requires your full attention. Turn off your ringer. Close the other tabs on your computer. Silence all the alarms on all your devices and focus. Mindfulness requires you to be in the moment and technology, while wonderful, also pulls us away from our goals as often as it helps us achieve them. I find that I am more creative and efficient when I turn off the dings and buzzes that steal my focus throughout the day. If you can’t go completely silent, begin with turning off the non-essential alerts.
- Get Honest About How Long it REALLY Takes to Complete a Task. It’s amazing to me how often we underestimate how long a task takes, especially when we’re pricing out a job. That’s a topic for another day. For our purposes, let’s just look at how long it takes to write content for social media. If you’ve planned well and have a thoughtful topic, and if you are a strong writer, a solid blog post takes two hours or more to write and edit. After your blog is written, you can turn the themes from your blog into social media posts and can design graphics to go with them. Plan another hour for those tasks. You can reverse the order and create social media posts first and then build a blog around it but either way, you’ll need to plan three hours a week for content creation. Whether that’s you or someone on your staff, you need to be clear on how long the creation takes and remember that doesn’t include posting or monitoring your platforms.
- Pomodoros for Productivity! Most of us instinctively plan in large time blocks hoping to knock out a big project in one sitting. It looks good on paper, but in actual application, that four-hour time block may not be doing you any favors. For many of us, big chunks of those hours may be devoted to detours and distractions because it’s a big challenge to stay on one task non-stop in a marathon session. If you struggle with working for long stretches, try the Pomodoro Method. Set a time for 15 minutes and focus completely on the task at hand. Take a one-minute scheduled break, and then either come back to the task or begin a new one. Try that for two weeks and then extend the work to 20 minutes and then take a 2-minute break. Practice that and expand up to 45 minutes with a 10-minute break. You’ll be amazed by how much this method will increase your productivity. (I’d love to hear about how it improves your work life!)
- Tasks of a Feather Go Together. When building time blocks on your calendar, be mindful about which gear you need to be in for each task. Sometimes it may make sense to alternate a challenging task with something simple but there are often situations when grouping the same tasks will work better. For example, I used to schedule calls back to back without paying attention to which kinds of calls they were. At first glance, it appeared that I was blocking like tasks together, but there’s a big difference in a coaching call and clarity call and switching back and forth was taking more time, energy, and effort than creating blocks for only clarity calls, and blocks for only coaching.
Mindfulness requires practice and discipline, but the dividends are amazing. You’ll find yourself with more freedom and more joy. You’ll find yourself handling challenges more effectively. You’ll find yourself creating better opportunities and serving your clients and customers better. What techniques do you use to keep yourself on-task and focused on success?