Today, the magnitude of information saturation from every direction has surpassed our ability for consumption and it’s easy to allow yourself to become distracted from the task at hand. We have never-ending cell phone notifications, breaking new stories, email pings and meeting reminders to compete daily with our long list of to-dos. It is often challenging to feel like you’ve made a dent in your work, let alone find time to develop your skills or coach employees. These tips are important for time and attention management for success.
1. Turn Off Notifications
This one is probably going to be difficult for each of us. We have push notifications, email, and social media alerts, all ready to be acknowledged and can easily distract throughout the workday. It’s understandable to keep some alerts, such as meeting reminders, handy, but all non-essential notifications should be turned off. By doing this, you can eliminate quite a few distractions, and focus on the task at hand. Even if you only mute these alerts for certain periods of the day, you can improve your overall productivity.
2. Take ownership of your time
We all spend most our work time dedicated to fulfilling others’ requests, and that’s fine. It’s important to block off some of your time each day to work on projects you’ve initiated. Not only will you feel like you’ve accomplished something for yourself, some of our most satisfying work comes from focusing on our own ideas or tasks.
3. Understand busyness doesn’t always mean you’re more productive
Having a full schedule makes us feel needed, and can even be exciting at times. Having a full calendar doesn’t always mean you’re productive. You can easily waste energy because the busyness robs us of our focus on more important tasks.
4. Challenge the “Ideal Worker” Myth
Contrary to the myth of the ideal worker, you don’t have to work around the clock to be productive. Just like recognizing busyness doesn’t always equal productiveness, you can’t expect to maintain a high level of performance for extended periods of time. We all have a limited capacity for attention, and just because you push the envelope, doesn’t mean you are producing quality results.
5. Step away from projects
When do you have your best ideas? Is it really when you’re two hours into working on a project? Probably not. It’s important to take a moment to walk away from what you’re working on. This allows you to regain clarity and come back with new insights that allow you to work more confidently and productively. Research also indicates that we are more likely to find breakthrough ideas when we remove ourselves from the daily grind from time to time.
6. Strategically help others
Even if we wanted, we are not able to help everyone with everything without it being a recipe for failure. It’s important that you don’t say yes to every opportunity to help. To strategically help others, you need to be able to take the time to process your ability to provide the needed help and evaluate if the task is one you can positively impact.
7. Say No
Saying no to be more productive might sound counterintuitive, but the more commitments we agree to take on the easier it will be to not have clear priorities and therefore we become less productive at each task. You should also take the time to have a plan for saying no, demonstrating your priorities and current commitments before adding more tasks to your to-do list.
8. Keep track of Important behaviors
As we develop professionally, we need to track what works for us and what prohibits productivity. Take note of the behaviors that have help—turning off notifications, and stepping away from projects.
9. Delegate when needed
Managers often feel reluctant to delegate and it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you must do everything yourself if you want it done right. Delegation is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strong leadership. When you rely on your team, you’re helping to develop your employees’ skills while freeing up time to take on new challenges.
10. Prioritize your to-dos
All projects—especially large, complex projects—need clear priorities. A well-structured workload is key to good time management and will increase your productivity. You should learn to rank your to-do list tasks by importance or urgency, review your list regularly for changes, set realistic deadlines for your tasks and allow time for interruptions.
Being productive doesn’t always mean distraction free. Not only do you need to learn how to manage your energy and time, you need to manage your attention to be productive. These tips highlight some of the skills we need to develop to be successful, both professionally and personally.