If you read my blog, you know I sometimes
obsess about enjoy finding ways to increase my productivity. Everyone is limited to the same 24-hour day. As my kids get older and are in school a bit more, I’ve really worked hard to focus my work time to the hours they’re in school so that we can have fun when they’re at home. This means my [still limited] work time is precious. I’ve talked about attention management in the past and my tendency to get distracted and veer off course. Keeping Post-It notes front and center with my top 3 tasks listed has been a huge help in keeping me focused. My struggle has been, and continues to be, attention management. Working in a technical field means it’s easy to open up a new browser tab and hop on Pinterest when I’m supposed to be fixing a web page.
About a month ago, I started using a very simple technique to become more focused on my day-to-day work. Something had been bothering me: I’d get to the end of the day and feel like I had done a lot, but the tasks I really needed to get done often weren’t getting done. I wouldn’t call these days unproductive, but I noticed that some days I was unfocused; just flitting from one task to the next, sometimes stopping right in the middle of a task and jumping into another task. I thought about *why* I had these days and came up with a few possible reasons for these unfocused days:
- I did not have clearly defined tasks
- I started working on non-urgent tasks
- I got distracted from my tasks and never returned to working on them
During the holiday break, my kids were off from school and I put up my out of office email to let my clients know I was working on a limited schedule. I was around, but not working much. I’m assuming my clients were also busy doing their thing during the holidays, because email, text, and phone were quiet. On the days I chose to do some work, I was amazingly productive and I attribute this to the lack of interruptions that seem to occur during a regular work day. I’ve worked hard to regulate email: I have auto send/receive turned off on my laptop and my phone and I only click that send/receive button when I’m at a point where I can read and respond to emails. But, I’ve noticed that I respond to texts and phone calls differently. Unlike email, phone calls and texts are pushed to me and I don’t want to blindly ignore these methods of communication. If the kids are sick or my parents need to reach me, I want to receive important calls. But, often, phone calls and texts come in that do not need immediate attention. Even knowing this, my inclination is to respond to the text or answer the phone call. This interruption is distracting, pulls me away from the priorities I set for myself and my clients, and puts me at the mercy of someone else’s priorities.
I’ve written about how helpful meditation has been to keeping me grounded and sane, especially during stressful times when work and life are busy. For my irregular schedule, I find it easiest and most beneficial to do small meditations – sometimes only two minutes – throughout the day. My husband knows how much I find these breaks helpful and recently shared a website with my that is designed specifically for taking a calm, peaceful break. The website is aptly named calm.com. The site itself is simple and easy to use: choose a background (if you’d like to look at a peaceful image) and then choose a meditation method – guided or non-guided, and finally choose a length of the meditation.
We returned from a great family vacation almost a month ago and I’ve been digging out from a big post-vacation workload. About two weeks ago, things really caught up with me and my regular coaching session turned into crisis management. My mind felt like I had a bouncing ball inside it – I was flitting from task to task, my regular system was not up to date, I was working non-stop with no breaks and I was battling regular headaches – a sure sign of being overly stressed for me. When I reached out to my coach, De, for help, she helped me take a step back to look at what was going on and also to get back to my regular habits of work and stress management.