We’ve all experienced that wonderful state of flow where everything just falls into place and we are able to accomplish even more than we’ve planned to.
Unfortunately, this state of flow doesn’t come naturally to many of us or at least we don’t know how to tap into it on a daily basis when we’re bombarded with tons of distractions and it’s not easy to stay organized at work.
I’m going to split this blog post into two parts: what we will cover in the first part is how to deal with distractions, and in the second part, we will focus on productivity boosters.
If you prefer to listen to the audio version of this blog post, click here:
Okay, first things first.
How to Deal with Distractions
In a world full of distractions, we need to have tremendous willpower to focus on the things that actually matter to us. Studies have shown that one of our top distractions is actually our phone:
“Most people check their phone every 15 minutes or less, even if they have no alerts or notifications,” Larry Rosen, psychology professor and author of The Distracted Mind, tells CNBC. “We’ve built up this layer of anxiety surrounding our use of technology, that if we don’t check in as often as we think we should, we’re missing out.”
Another distraction may be our need to connect with others in the form of chatting with colleagues, watching videos on YouTube, or discussing a topic we’re passionate about on Reddit…
So, how can we stop the neverending scrolling and procrastinating on the things we know we need to do?
1. Put Your Phone in Another Room or on Airplane Mode
I know that’s not very realistic if you’re working at a company where you get calls from clients all the time, but there are always ways to minimize the distractions.
For example, you could disable your Internet access for a short period of time, or delete some of your social media apps. If all of these seem too drastic for you, you can still manage what types of notifications you get on a daily basis and make sure to limit them to a minimum.
There’s also another option for iOS users called Screen Time, which helps you keep track of how much time you spend on different types of apps on your phone, and lets you choose a time limit so that you get blocked out of the app after a certain period of time.
2. Optimize Your Desktop Habits
As far as Desktop distractions go, there are several wonderful apps that can definitely help you take better charge of your time. Newsfeed eradicator can help you get rid of that annoying and highly distracting newsfeed on Facebook; a great alternative is also Feedless.
Facebook is not where all evil lies, though. If you want to stay organized at work, you may need a Chrome extension such as StayFocusd or Nanny that will help you limit the time you spend on distracting websites.
If you want to track the actual time you spend on different websites on your computer, you can try DueFocus or Y-Productive. Toggl is also great if you want to specifically track the hours you spend on a certain task and create an invoice.
3. Take Regular Breaks
One of the reasons we go for distractions is because we’re overwhelmed by all the things we need to do or we’re simply on the verge of a burnout. To maintain a healthy work-life balance and stay organized at work, it’s essential to schedule some time to decompress.
If you’re at work and you have a lot on your plate, instead of scrolling on Instagram or chatting with friends, try something new: get up and take a short walk, do some stretching exercises or simply go to the kitchen and pour yourself a glass of water.
A little bit of movement goes a long way. If you’re a business owner, you have no excuse as well: make sure to take regular breaks and do something that energizes you and helps you decompress.
If you have enough ‘play’ time, you won’t need any distractions to keep you away from your work, because you will have enough energy and motivation to go after your goals.
How to Increase Your Productivity
Now that we’ve covered how to deal with the distractions first, let’s focus on the remaining 5 tips on how to increase your productivity in the workplace.
1. ‘Eat the Frog’
If you’ve never heard of this concept, let me break it down for you:
Mark Twain once said, “eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Brian Tracy’s famous ‘eat the frog’ technique is based on this quote. What it means is to prioritize the hardest task on your to-do list.
Our most crucial tasks are usually the ones we tend to procrastinate on the most. So, how do you summon the willpower to do it first?
Trick your mind into doing it by offering yourself some kind of a reward.
For instance, if you write that important blog post in the morning, you get to spend 10 minutes guilt-free time on your phone. Or you can have that cup of coffee with extra cream that you’ve been thinking about all morning…
Plus, when you ‘eat the frog’, everything else you have on your plate for the rest of the day will be significantly easier to tackle. Isn’t that awesome?
2. Do One Thing at a Time
You’re not a multitasker, stop kidding yourself. Even if you do a bajillion things at once, you’re still not giving your full attention to any of them, which means the quality of your final work will suffer.
I used to believe I was a multitasker. In fact, I was such a multitasker to the extent of hardly finishing anything on my to-do list, which led to even more frustration on my part.
By tackling one thing at a time, you’re not only going to accomplish so much more, but you will also improve the quality of your services. Besides, our brains don’t like to switch between different types of tasks, so you will even finish your tasks faster and have more free time as a result.
3. Try Calendar Blocking or Making a To-Do List
Some people prefer to put actual time blocks on their phones for every daily task, a.k.a. calendar blocking; others prefer the good-old handwritten to-do list on a piece of paper. And there are also those types of people who thrive on organizing, and do them both.
Which one is better? Honestly, I’ll let you decide for yourself. I’m just going to tell you a little bit about each of them and why I find them helpful when it comes to staying organized at work.
Calendar blocking helps you have a visual reminder of what needs to get done and prompts you to do it fast, because you have a time limit you need to spend on every task. It’s useful because it gives you a gentle kick to move into action. If you don’t, you’re falling behind on your schedule.
The most frequently used type of calendar blocking tool is Google Calendar. It’s easy, syncs well with your other productivity apps, and it can even send you reminders to finish up a task and get ready for the next one.
Their biggest strength (to some of us who love our freedom) is the lack of time constraint. For example, a calendar block may give you a boost in productivity, but it may also lead to a spike in your anxiety levels.
A to-do list is so simple to manage: you write down your most important tasks for the day and you cross them off. There is also a sense of accomplishment every time you finish a task. My personal recommendation is to limit them as much as possible (3 to 5 things max), so you don’t overwhelm yourself.
Calendar blocking for better time management; to-do lists for free spirits who manage themselves better if they don’t have any constraints.
4. Use the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is definitely one of the most popular productivity boosters and for a very good reason. It’s a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.
Set a timer on your phone or use the TomatoTimer website to do the counting for you. Once the 25 minutes are up, you will receive an alert to take a short break.
Why is the Pomodoro Technique so helpful?
Because it gives you the initial boost to begin a task, you have enough time to get into the flow, and it allows you to take a short break so you don’t get overwhelmed. Many people continue their work even after they cross the 25-minute mark, which in many cases can lead to an even bigger boost in productivity.
5. Follow the 2-Minute Rule
In his bestselling book Getting Things Done, author and productivity consultant David Allen talked about his ‘two-minute rule.’ In short, if you have a task that can be completed in under two minutes, you should do it right away.
It’s an awesome technique to beat procrastination as well. Every time you feel like slacking off a certain task, just remember to ask yourself: Can I do this in less than 2 minutes?
If the answer is yes, do it immediately. If it’s no, go back to tip number 3 and put it on the calendar.
I hope these tips helped you out in some way. Now, I want to hear from you!
Let me know in the comments below: How do you stay organized at work?