What you choose to do with your time directly impacts what you accomplish by the end of the day. I know. That sounds so obvious. And yet I hear this so often: “Wow, it’s been SOOOO busy today, but I have no idea what I did.” In our world of constant stimulation and distraction, disruptions and complexity, it’s easy to be off-the-chain busy and not accomplish anything that pertains to our priorities.
The constant barrage of emails popping into the inbox, text messages dinging, voice mails blinking, cell phones buzzing and other electronic notifications can feel like an assault on the senses and most definitely on the attention span. While the tools that deliver these messages are necessary to our modern way of doing business, we don’t have to be slaves to them. We can manage them, rather than being managed by them.
Building a few habits of how you approach your day can help reduce the busy-ness and increase your focus on your few and most important priorities. Here are several tips to consider:
- Know your top few priorities for the year and keep those close at hand. Confirm those with others you work with to be sure that there is alignment and agreement.
- Make sure you block your time each day for doing the things necessary to achieve those priorities.
- Create time limits for distractions like social media and chatting with friends and co-workers. Spending unplanned time on these types of distractions can be like spending your money on impulse items and wondering where your paycheck went.
- Learn to say “no” to requests, and help others find their own answers, other resources or some other answer if you are the person they believe always says “yes” to whatever is requested.
- Use the features of your email to decide what you need to address immediately, what can wait until tomorrow, and what, frankly, just needs to be ignored.
- At the end of each day, take a quick look at where you spent your time and how you will adjust for tomorrow and beyond. Focusing on priorities is a discipline that takes daily attention.
- Celebrate the wins, and learn from what didn’t work as well. Judging yourself isn’t productive; acknowledging and adapting is.
We all face distractions and those days when we aren’t as productive or focused as we had planned. We also all have conscious choices about how we spend our time, which is a responsibility that needs to be managed. Leaders who are successful model the discipline and the habits of evaluating what’s working or not, and shift their habits to adapt to what works best.