We’ve all done it… You have a plan. You have a purpose. You’re going to get ____________ (insert project here) done, and it’s going to happen today. So, you sit down ready to get to work.
But then you decide to check email or check if there are any new updates. You justify this, telling yourself that you won’t be thinking about it – won’t be distracted by it… Just a quick check, speedy update. You see where this is going. Somehow like those cool time-lapse videos that show stars passing through the heavens in seconds, you just realized that an hour (or more) has passed you by. It’s a nasty trap we’ve all fallen victim to. (I wrote an entire post about how NOT to fall prey to your inbox).
But every time we do, we give up our growth, our time, opportunities. If I sound dramatic, I’m getting the point across. Because our lives, our dreams, our very existence can be traded for distraction without our even intending to if we are not intent on being intentional.
Today, I want to share five strategies that have helped me feel like I’m gaining hours instead of losing them! Choose one to start with, or go for all five – but like anything, it’ll only work if you try it.
1. My ‘Stay Accountable’ Hack!
One day I was on the phone with my amazing sister telling her how messy my room was, that I’d been trying to clean it for a week, but that I inevitably would end up sidetracked on a tangent and forget about the cleaning project I was supposed to be conquering. While I was telling her this I got an idea! I told her to call me back in one hour and check my progress. Then I hung up and took a little video clip of my appalling room and bathroom and sent it to her because sisters love you no matter what. One hour later… Before the phone had even rung, I sent her a new video. This time my room was in perfect order and my bathroom was sparkling white again! All because of a little accountability! I decided to take this same principle and apply it to my computer!
What you don’t realize can make you a fool! But when it comes to knowing the truth about our own personal time-wasters, many of us would rather be an ostrich. I wanted my head out of the sand. I wanted to know. I reasoned that if I could see how much time I really was spending on Instagram, Facebook, websites, and email, I’d be able to get a better handle on where I need to prioritize. So I installed Rescue Time. I’m sure there are many others that are great. This just happened to be the one I read some reviews on and decided to try. Now, over the years I’ve made it a game to see if I can keep myself more productive than the Rescue Time User Averages.
2. Sit Down & Plan for Small Bursts!
I thrive under pressure, and I bet it some form you do too. When you give me all the time to accomplish a task… I’m completely indecisive, less creative, and I’m just not at peak performance. But when the pressure is on… I do so much better! Knowing this about me, I started recognizing that if I had large blocks of time for work, distractions came even more frequently because I would reason that I had time for them. But when I gave myself shorter bursts of time, I stayed much more focused and my work was more creative as well!
That’s why I love my timer. I look at that day’s project list and I determine how long I think each task will take me. Then I can add up the hours to see what I planned for myself. You may end up realizing you’re expecting 15 hours worth of work to be done in one day. 😳 With that info, you can prioritize and reevaluate. Then I set my timer and I jump fully in! It’s amazing how much I avoid distractions using this method as opposed to welcoming them when I think I have all day.
3. Only 1 Screen at a Time.
Speaking of distractions… Picture this, you sit down to get to work on that project, the one you’ve been meaning to do. You get everything together and sorted and you’re ready to dive fully in, but just as you inch your way in you hear the ping- a notification is waiting for you. So you open that and click a link which takes you to another link… And then you get an idea so you open Word or a draft or notes… At some point, you hit all screens to find that there are more screens up on your desktop than candles on your last birthday cake. These have all become distractions! I am a repeat offender of this one! Right now I have 10 screens up and that’s a pretty low number for me! So I’ve been trying really hard to finish projects, closeout all screens, and then start new. It’s a lot more enjoyable than the alternative which is that I have so many screens and so many half-finished ideas open that my computer can’t handle it and freezes and all of it waves goodbye as I shed a tear and then reach for more chocolate.
4. Create Your Own Reward System.
If you want to increase your results, do first things first. AKA: Do the most important tasks first and then give yourself a little reward. That’s right, I am using Pavlov’s law on myself and basically reward good behavior! 45 minutes working – 15 minutes of whatever I want. I do this with everything in my life. Whatever I want always has to come as a reward for something else.
If I want to do a little DIY project I tell myself that the house has to be clean first. If I want to read a magazine I decide that it’s my reward for finishing the laundry… Seeing the pattern here? Same with scrolling or Pinterest searching. Once I get this blog post finished, then I get to listen to the latest episode of my friend Heather’s new podcast.
5. Schedule Your Social Media Time!
Pre-scheduling your posts and even your stories with an app like Planoly is essential, but since we all know that the scroll is just as big a problem, I’m going to suggest we take it up a notch. Basically, it’s this: You need to get strict with yourself!
Set a social media schedule and stick to it! Set the timer on your phone before you start and give yourself 15 minutes twice a day to respond, engage, and check-in. That may sound crazy to some of you but spending the equivalent time of a very full part-time job clocking into social media is even crazier! This is your life you’re giving to the scroll.
Social Media could literally be what’s stopping you from reaching the next level in your business. I only check feeds on my phone and during downtime. I keep ALL notifications off! And I keep the biggest time-wasting offender apps buried back in a folder on some obscure page of my phone. That way I have to intentionally search the app to go inside.
So there you go… Five strategies, that if you’re willing to try, will massively increase your productivity – they have for me! I’d love to know if you’re going to try any, already have, or would never dream of it.
As Jim Rohn says, “Either you run the day or the day runs you.” Here’s to you being in charge!
PS Many of you may already know about my wildly popular desktop organizers. They are another fantastic tool to keep you on track! If you want to download your own, check out this previous post.