April 28, 2013 at 7:54 pm (Improvement, Organization)
Tags: Avoiding distractions
I used to joke that if you wanted my dorm room, house or office to be spotless give me a deadline that I didn’t want to meet. In an effort to avoid meeting the deadline, I would do most anything, including cleaning anything and everything. Of course, eventually, I’d have to meet the deadline and I’d have even less time to do so, although I would have a neat space.
I now employ a few tricks to force myself to focus. I’m using one of them right now as I work on this blog.
1. Set a time limit. I’ve procrastinated all day writing this blog — and not because I didn’t want to but because I couldn’t figure out which topic I wanted to address. Finally, I picked one and employed this technique. I now have 45 minutes to write, edit and post the blog.
2. Play a CD. Sometimes when I can’t motivate myself to tackle a house project — whether it’s actually cleaning the house or cleaning out a closet — I’ll pick a CD and work until the CD finishes playing. I get to enjoy my music and often get lost in the tunes and before I know it the project is finished, and almost always before the CD has finished. If, by chance, I still have work to complete on the task, I am now motivated and will continue — usually with another CD. I also will listen to a few songs while I clean out e-mails. It makes the task much more enjoyable.
3. Promise yourself a reward. Sometimes the task is just not something you want to do. In that instance, I promise myself a treat, which ranges from a Starbucks to dinner out with friends depending on the challenge of the task.
How do you help yourself to focus?
April 3, 2013 at 9:06 pm (Career, Organization)
I’m as guilty as the next person for working long hours. However, I’ve learned to recalibrate whenever I begin to slip into that mode. I’ve learned a few good tips from others that help with that calibration.
Quality not quantity: I once worked with someone who liked to brag about all the hours they worked. Unfortunately, the person seldom completed assignments and she certainly wasn’t giving more than 100 percent. That’s always stuck with me. I try to deliver quality. When I need to focus I close my office door. If you don’t have an office door, stick a note on your cube that you can’t be disturbed or put on headphones (even if you aren’t listening to anything). For me, the act of closing myself off focuses me to concentrate on the task at hand. With concentration I can deliver a good product in a few hours, rather than taking 10 hours.
First Things First: Each evening before I leave, I note the one assignment I must complete the next day. Ideally, I start my day working on it, although sometimes, I confess, I get sucked into my emails immediately. When I stay focused on my priority, I feel better, in part, because the completion of the assignment usually means I’ve advanced a strategic initiative. Once it’s completed, I move onto other tasks on my ongoing list.
Five Days: A work week has five days, yet I often try to cram all of my meetings onto Monday. Once I started thinking about a 40-hour week and not an 8-hour day, I was able to make the calendar work for me. I space out meetings so that I have time following each meeting to provide the follow-up I agreed to and to type up notes.
Take Vacation: At some point, we all need an infusion of energy. In college, breaks were built into the academic calendar but that doesn’t happen in the work world. Sure, there is a day here and there for a holiday, but I’m talking about a week, or at least a few days, away from the office. In December, I plan out my days for the coming year. I like to provide myself a break every three months. I may alter the days some but just knowing I have time off scheduled makes it easier to plow throw the work.
What are your tips to prioritize your work?
November 14, 2012 at 6:29 am (Career, Organization)
Tags: Taming Email
I recently spent a week out of the country on business. Usually when that happens, I return to an inbox that has exploded. By that, I mean that it’s brimming over, and I don’t even know where to begin to tackle the emails. I was determined on this trip to not have that happen, and it didn’t.
What worked this time?
Set Goals. I checked the number of emails in my inbox before I left on my trip. My goal was to return with that same amount in my inbox. This required spending about an hour each day, either before or after my meetings, reviewing emails. I responded to critical emails. I deleted emails that were not relevant. When I returned to the office, I only had five additional emails than when I had left. Goal reached.
Create a Folder. I created a file folder within my inbox where I moved emails that I needed to handle back at the office. Those emails all needed to be printed for various reasons or they required me to confirm with someone that the action had been completed. Having them in a central location made it easier to find them. As soon as I finished, I deleted the item, and by day two in the office, the folder also was deleted.
Schedule Email Time. I know that when I am out of the office, the emails will pile up. I also know that I will have numerous meetings when I return because updates need to be shared and projects need to be advanced. Before I leave, I block the morning of my first day back so that I have time to respond to emails, review project plans and organize the week. If I don’t schedule the block of time, I end up doing it on the fly, and that never works.
Set Expectations. Before I travel, I turn my “out-of-office” message on a day or two early. Inevitably, that leads to a flurry of emails that I am able to handle before I leave. That allays everyone’s concern and the email flow slows. I also alert those with whom I communicate the most that I will be traveling and indicate any time zone differences so people will know when to expect a reply.
Mix It Up. I often group my emails by “sender” instead of “date.” This allows me to handle all emails from my boss and from those with whom I’m working on tight or critical deadlines. I also can quickly identify junk email and delete.
It was nice to return to my office and not feel overwhelmed by an avalanche of emails.
March 25, 2012 at 10:16 pm (Organization)
Tags: spring cleaning
My grandmother used to make a big deal about spring cleaning. She would scrub cabinets and clean rugs and get into areas of her home that weren’t touched any other time.
It always seemed to be a bit much. Why not just keep up with it throughout the year?
The answer is simple: Who has time?
When my life is feeling chaotic I find cleaning and organizing extremely helpful. One of my friends and I joke about how we end up with the neatest closets during the most difficult times in our lives.
This year already is proving busy for me and adding to the chao is that I’m moving my office — twice in the next 30 days. At first I was frustrated because I like a calm environment. Then I realized that the move was nothing more than a forced spring cleaning. I’m thinking I need to spring clean each year. When I do I’ll tackle the following:
1) Pull all the files out of the cabinet and determine if I still need them all. I’ll recycle the paper that I don’t need and reuse the folders for the next projects.
2) Look at how I accessorize my office. Do I need lots of tchotchekes or can I keep just a few? Another option is to rotate them throughout the year to always have something new to look at.
3) Toss any pens that don’t work or leak. Pencils that are missing erasers should be tossed.
4) Eliminate any folder that says “Miscelleneous.” You will waste time looking for it. You are better off with a folder with only one piece of paper in it.
5) Toss magazine articles about leadership, social media, time management that I have not read in a year. Do the same with books, only donate them to your local library or school.
When I move into my temporary quarters, there will still be some chaos, but there will be a lot less!
Do you have any spring cleaning tips to share?