Bored at work

The best thing you can do for your business is have fun and enjoy the relationship with your clients.  Without some strong time management strategies, you’ll feel strained and worn out.

Here are 5 key areas you are probably throwing away valuable time you could be having fun with your clients.

1. Starting the Day Without a Plan

Get the boring stuff out of the way in the early hours.  Better still, plan your day before you leave work the day before.  You need to make sure that your key contact times are left free for follow up with your key clients, don’t waste it with a bad case of disorganisation. Set a conscious rule that it’s “tools down” 20 minutes before you leave.  Use that time to plan for the next day.  Your business is reliant on you making the best use of your day.

Allow yourself to set aside time for key goal setting once a week. Just some short term goals.  They’re easier to achieve and more satisfying.   So create some long and mid-range plans and then extract from these all the daily activities you’ll need to do in order to reach the planned goals.

Simplify your processing.  You should have a simple plan for getting organised and prioritising your workload that shouldn’t take you too long through the processing period. Massive in trays or inboxes where emails or documents are handled more than once are a time wasting trap.

2. Procrastination – Too much fun means the boring catches up

If your day’s tasks require an activity that you aren’t fond of, do it first thing. Getting past it will give you a lift and make the rest of the day a pleasure. It’s also best to do those hated things when you’re fresh.

You probably already know what you’re good at, what you enjoy and what’s going to distract you.  We tend to put off the things we don’t enjoy, right?  We don’t enjoy them, because of  lack of clarity, that is, not being clear  about the process or how to do the task..  The secret here, is be clear about what items on your to do list are actually projects and what are tasks.  Tasks have clear action steps.  Projects are outcomes you want to achieve. A project sitting on your “To Do List”  might not have clear action steps and that’s why you’re putting it off, chunk down your project into doable and achievable outcomes.  Or if you simple can’t resolve it, seek to delegate or outsource.

 

When I work with people on procrastination, they’re often surprised by what causes the distractions, what their personality attracts too but it boils down to working with your strengths and being aware of your weaknesses.   You can actually trick your brain into having fun with something boring!  (Ask me how if you’re curious.)

3. Not Using Effective Contact and Task Management Systems

If you’re working with yellow sticky-notes all over the place, you’re creating constant distraction and essentially double handling the information (Well actually, how many times are you going to read that note?) Whether you’re into technology or not, you need to have clear systems to manage your clients right through from lead to completion. Regardless of whether you use physical tools and filing systems or digital tools like Evernote, a good system will free you.  Good systems free people, otherwise YOU are they system.  Yes you, your bogged down brain and your sticky notes are the system running the show rather than allowing a good productivity system working for you.

Simplify your processes and create streamlined systems for task management and effective methods for easily getting things done.  The simpler a system is, the more you’ll get done, whether it’s streamlined and automated email filing or basic organisation strategies

4. Allowing Non-critical Interruptions of Your Planned Activities

If you’ve got an open plan office, this can cause easy access and distraction for you.  Create simple communication tools with your colleagues to let them know when you’re having key focus time and to only interrupt you for emergencies.  I heard about a CEO of a major corporation who wanted to have an open door policy, but found he was interrupted too often to be productive.  So he implemented a red hat policy.  When he was wearing his red hat he was working on a deadline and would prefer not to be interrupted unless urgent but his door still remained open!  But for this kind of communication symbolism to work, you have to be consistent with the rule, otherwise people will ignore it.

 

Email distraction is perhaps the biggest killer.  I work with people to really cut down their processing time for emails.  Typically I can save people 2 hours per day (for anyone receiving anywhere from 40 – 100 emails) by simply modifying how you process your emails and turning off the alerts!  You should be spending time building relationships not troweling through your inbox for a lost email!

5. Not willing to adapt – Killing Your Mojo

You know that quote: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.   You can trust in your instincts, or you can use time tracking tools and techniques to actually look at how much time you are spending on certain activities and projects.  There are any number of tools available to help you be more effective with your time.  Equip yourself with tools, both physical and digital to enable you to increase your productivity.  Enjoy the process of trying something new.  Have fun with it.  If nothing else, time how long you take processing emails or responding to them and you’ll be shocked!

When you are unproductive you are stressed, absent minded and unmotivated.  Mistakes creep in and you see and increase in conflicts around you.  You become distracted, procrastinate and turn into a slug!

If the “fun” is missing from you business and you’ve lost your mojo, you can really benefit from increased productivity.

 

If you’d like to learn more about Time Management & Productivity Strategies join me for a half day recharge your energy in your business. For more information: CLICK HERE

I put off reading things sometimes, because it’s just too hard.  I procrastinate.  I remember through school being forced to sit in a circle and read the school based Readers Digest.  Then through High School English Literature being forced to read A Tale of Two Cities (My mind still sees/hears  “A Tale of Two Titties”).  I guess it’s put me off reading in detail, of analysing the prose, digesting it, contemplating it.

But in a busy world, we need to process information quickly; we need to assess the importance of information as quick as we can, to decide whether we want to digest it further.  (Goodness it sounds like I’m going to eat it doesn’t it?)

But this skill can be used to assess email priorities, newsletters, meeting agenda etc.  Now I’m not saying it replaces the actual digestion but it enables you to prioritise your reading time.

Some Simple Steps

Speed ReadingThere are some speed reading experts out there, offering courses and classes on speed reading techniques, but I’m going to teach you a few tricks that others have taught me, I hope it helps.

Learn the art of scanning.

Our mind mature mind has the amazing ability to fill in the gaps.  Just take those clever, crazy number plates or texting abbreviations that everyone likes to use.  If you can teach your eye to float over sentences looking for key words, you’ll get the general gist or context of the information.  Take a look at this text:

He knew the moment he walked into the singles bar it was a bad idea.  If you’ve been to one singles bar, you’ve been to them all. Yet, it was the flaming red hair of the woman in the corner that caught his eye and only then did he realise how big his mistake was.  Surely that wasn’t his brand new boss?

By just taking in the key words, you are allowing your brain to fill in the gaps.  In fact, your eye can take in about 3 or 4cm so you don’t need to focus on each word at time, you are probably more likely to be able to take in up to 5 words.  It’s really a way of engaging your peripheral vision more, it’s a soft eye technique (not to be confused with a lazy eye).

Read the first Line.

This is not my favourite technique but it is another good one.  You can read the first few words of a paragraph and the last words or sentence.  You can scan read headings of a document or email newsletter, it will give you the general idea.

Tell your internal voice to “Zip it!”

My primary years must be haunting me but I can remember having to read aloud, word for word, the contents of my book; a painful and embarrassing experience for some.  Or I remember sitting in class, the teacher, beautifully and with such expression, reading the story with expression and poetic pause.  And so, we become used to hearing the words, so much so, that reading to ourselves we have the voice dramatise the words on the page.  Stop it, turn off the voice, hear it in a monotone or sequence of brief words, skip and jump across that page! You can do it!  You can actually understand the words QUICKER than you can say them.  If you want to luxuriate over the lusciousness of your prose, by all means, take your time but otherwise, silence that voice and jump on through it.

Follow the bouncing ball.

It’s not exactly a speed reading technique but it is a way of ensuring the reading process doesn’t slow down.  If you find that you are reading something complex and it takes you a few times to read a sentence over and over, follow your reading with a pencil, book mark or ruler.  It helps your eyes to focus on the words and not accidently read a line more than once.  This is a good technique when you are required to study, understand or learn from the reading.  I guess, one good kick back from those primary school reading years is the technique of reading with the ruler under the text.

I’m sorry, what? What did I just read?  – Get rid of those distractions!

I once asked one of the most organised CEO’s that I knew, what were his techniques for staying on top of his work? One of the great tips he shared was that he would dedicate a whole day to reading.  No phone calls, no meetings, no interruptions.  He would use this time to read industry documents, meeting minutes etc.  It was an economical use of his time but most importantly he eliminated the distractions. Don’t try and read something while watching TV! Just don’t.

So why am I here?  Key word searches.

If you’re looking for a key point of information and you are reading in a digital format, then for the love of god, use the search function.  A blog on a website, a pdf, they all enable you to search key words.  Alternatively, allow your brain to be the search function and seek out key phrases, terms, words or terminology to help you pull out the key information rather than reading the whole document word for word.

Obviously these speed reading techniques are not something you should rest on rely on all the time, however it can give you the opportunity to quickly assess information to be able to prioritise your reading workload, or it can give you the opportunity to decide if the document you are about to read has some value or worth for you to read properly in full.

 

If you’ve found a good technique for speed reading, please share in the comments below.

 

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About the Author:


Barbara Clifford - The Time TamerBarbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a  Time Management Expert and Stress Management Practitioner based in Alice Springs, Australia.  She has spent over 20 years working in stressful,  time precious industries such as film, hospitality and marketing.  She has always had a burning passion for making sense of things. She seeks knowledge around systems, processes, gadgets, apps and stationary for whatever will organise the working world.   Barbara is sought after like a beacon in a sea of chaos to provide professional clarity.  Barbara’s professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care and Health Services. For more information visit 
www.timetamer.com.au or follow Barbara on twitter @barbclifford.

 

Click HERE to learn more about my 7 Step System for Time Management & Productivity

Ride the Crazy Train“The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about these circumstances.”

Andrew J. Bernstein

We started a conversation last week with Time Stress, one of Albrecht’s Four Types of Stress. This week we move to Anticipatory Stress that some people feel continually overwhelms them in almost all areas of their lives. We will discuss how to better manage the common pressures that result from being in this stressed state.

Some people carry a label that says “worry wart”, they continually worry about what could happen in the future. It can be focused on a specific future event or it can be undefined or even vague in nature. These people usually see the glass as half empty and continually feel stressed about what COULD HAPPEN in the future.

Positive visualisation sessions focusing on what will be created as the positive and successful outcome you want is an extremely effective and powerful tool.

This morning I attended a meeting in the city at 9.30am and visualised that I would get a parking spot, on the street, out front of the building where the meeting was being held. The result of my positive visualisation was… the parking space was there when I arrived.

Meditation is a wonderful relaxing tool that is extremely empowering and it allows you to relax. For over twenty years I ran 10 km almost every morning, and now I walk 6km three days a week and swim a km three days a week. This exercise has been and continues to be my time to meditate. You do not have to sit with crossed legs in a yoga pose to meditate. While doing exercise I love in a relaxed mode my mind goes into a beautiful meditative state.

Fear of what lies ahead often springs from a lack of confidence and the fear of failure. Setting yourself an action plan as well as a backup plan can greatly reduce any anticipatory stress that you may have felt in the past.

This blog was written by John Hinwood and republished here with his kind permission.  See more at:  Stress to Strength.


You probably  know this scenario well.  Are you like me? I sit down to work on a task.  I just need to get organised!  And suddenly I find a million other things that I need to do. Maybe its walking the dog in some lavish park in Brisbane, cooking a four course dinner, having a cup of the finest tea, or just wandering around in circles in desperation to avoid the task at hand.

Procrastination has found its way into many lives and it tends to weave a web of self-destructive tendencies that take away our chance to be productive. Procrastination might be there convincing you that you’re too tired, too busy, too stressed or in need of something else before you can complete a task. So now is the time to get procrastination under control and take back your will power to complete tasks without distraction.

  • Deadlines and goals

    will help you to complete a task on time. Give yourself a set time frame in which you want to get something done and have goals or milestones to mark out different stages of the self-imposed time frame so that you know when you are achieving goals.

  • Focus on smaller goals

    so that you’re not intimidated by a huge, daunting large task. Break your tasks into smaller time periods and focus on one thing at a time.

  • Change your environment

    if you feel like you are becoming stressed or anxious. Take your work with you to a new place, whether it’s a change of room in your house or office or going to a café. Even taking a small break and going for a walk to get a change of scenery can increase productivity.

  • Tell other people about your goals

    so that you are more determined to meet them. Make sure you are completing goals for your own benefit, but invite family and friends into the process of how you are going about achieving goals. Having support will encourage you to stay focused.

  • Focus on the end point

    and visualise the future you want to achieve. Think clearly about where you want to go and how this task is going to help you achieve that. Keep that image clear in your mind and allow it to inspire you to work hard.

  • Reward progress

    that you make along the way. Don’t be afraid of extrinsic motivation and if that chocolate bar or fun social event on the weekend is going to encourage you to work harder, let it be a way to avoid procrastination.

  • Re-clarify your goals

    to make sure you are staying on the right track. If you have been procrastinating for a while, you might have lost sight of what you were actually trying to achieve before the procrastination. Take another look at your long term goals and get back on track.

Ultimately, the most important and effective way to eliminate procrastination is to find the motivation to just sit down and get it done.

What tips do you have to avoid procrastination?  How do you stay on top and avoid distraction?

Buddhism encourages you to focus on your breathing or on a single principle of Buddhism to calm the monkey mind.   But then the annoying thoughts creep back in. You know what I’m talking about. Boring thoughts, really mundane mental memos. “Did I turn off the iron?” “I must remember to send that email to my boss.” “What was that idea I had when I was going to sleep last night?” “I know I’m forgetting something.”

The reality is, when your mind is full of chatter, you can’t just shut it up by trying to shut it off.  You have to ask yourself, “Why is this on my mind?” and “How can I log my thoughts to release my mind from the burden of remembering?”

Our brain is a bad and unreliable filing system.  Everything big and small is jammed in there.  These thoughts become clutter in our head.  By living a life of distraction (thank you Social Media and smartphones), we are pushing out the deeper and creative thoughts, along with any hope of real calm.

When looking at the effort required to effectively juggle between home, work, finances and other demands, the modern world seems to have forgotten to be Mindful. Becoming more conscious, being more present, in our own thoughts, feelings and sensations may not sound useful.  Yet the principles of mindfulness is to be able to stop, for a moment. To consider things without preconceived judgement, to view things objectively from a different angle. Applying this to a business allows for you to let go of the ‘this-is-the-way-we’ve-alway-done-it’ mindset.

The more you release the burden on your brain, of habitual thinking, of fixed ideas, of remembering and doing everything, the more you are able to be in a state of Mindfulness.  Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to and observing clearly what is happening, right now.

Practicing Mindfulness

As mentioned earlier, Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment non-judgmentally. Mindfulness does not come quickly, but the more you practice, the easier it gets. When practicing mindfulness, everyone will experience thoughts creeping into their heads and it is inevitable. In a business context, this can be allowing past experiences to cloud our mind.

You need a systematic approach to extricate the things from your mind.  Here are some simple steps to help that process.

  • Adopt a reliable capture method to get thoughts out of your head (I love Evernote).
  • Create actionable items and next steps on your daily to-do list.
  • Review regularly your list to decide what must be done today and when you’re going to do it (on the train, at home etc).
  • When you have the time, prioritise as you go and complete the tasks on the list.
  • Develop ways to track and monitor along the way. Was there a good return on your resources? (Time and money)

If we don’t clear our mind of all our business,  we get annoyed for not being able to retain focus, we stop paying attention and get distracted.  Multitasking means that you are not giving mindful attention to the task at hand. Give each task your undivided attention.

Being continually focused on the present and what is happening around us, is the essential attribute of mindfulness. By learning to live the present moment, we build up the ability to step away from habit, from chronic unconscious emotional and physiological reactions.  These may be reactions to everyday events, behavioural habits that have formed over time and stuck with us.  A moment of mindfulness, allows us to be objective, to look at things from another perspective to either find an alternative way of doing things or to value and build upon something being done well.   We are able to respond to things wisely rather than on auto pilot.

Perks of Being Mindful

Mindfulness enables you to live in the present and improves the quality of your work. With focused effort, we can;

  •  Observe, slow down and stop automatic decisions;
  • Respond more effectively to complex difficult situations;
  • See situations more precisely;
  • Balance work and home.

Ways of Being Mindful

Mindfulness isn’t just 10-minute morning meditation. It can be incorporated throughout your everyday life by simply paying a little more attention to your daily activities as you’re performing them. To list a few:

  •  Pay attention to your breathe-Calming your breath is the key to calm your brain. Are you starting to feel wound up?  Are you taking a break, a breather, a walk away for a moment.  Smokers have the misconception that it calms them (it’s actually a stimulant) but the old “smoko” is a method of taking a breather and allowing some mental down time from the job at hand.
  • Multitasking can be the enemy of focus. The time it takes for our brain to switch from one task to another can take valuable seconds away from the task.  We would achieve all the tasks much quicker if we did them one at a time.  A recent study reported in the Journal Of Experimental Psychology found that it took students far longer to solve complicated maths problems when they had to switch to other tasks – in fact, they were up to 40 per cent slower.
    Getting outside- Spending quality time with nature allows you to increase your focus. (It’s that smoko thing again!)
  • Being Happy – Laughter and meditation have similar effects on the brain.

The moment you become mindful and start living in the present, you will become the curator of your world. It is always good to a keep a watch on what you think, how you think or what you say as the world swivels on the law of attraction.

Share with me what you feel is a method for clearing your mind and staying focused?

 

If you’d like to try a complimentary coaching session to see if Time Management Coaching is right for you, CLICK HERE to make an appointment at a time convenient for you.

About the Author:

Barbara Clifford - The Time TamerBarbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a time management & stress management enthusiast based in Alice Springs, Australia.  She has spent over 20 years working in time precious and stressful industries such as film, hospitality and marketing.  She has always had a burning passion for creating order and making sense of things.  She is sought after like a beacon in a sea of chaos to provide professional development in the business environment through workshop training, coaching, mentoring, online training programmes, webinars and as a guest speaker around Australia.  Her professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care, Universities, Health Services and Cruise Ships. Follow Barbara on Twitter @barbclifford.