Imagine this situation: A friend, family, or team member approaches you and asks you for a favor. It’s a small favor, you think. And without even thinking about it, you say yes.
A couple of minutes, sometimes a couple of hours, later you realize that this small favor is really cutting into your day more than you had bargained for. You start to move your own commitments and responsibilities around to make it all work. You’re angry, and you feel stressed. You wonder why you said yes in the first place.
How do you avoid this situation? Don’t say YES right away. Ask for a bit of time to consider your answer and give it later. This way you can check in with yourself and your calendar what impact this YES will have.
In a previous post I explained why multitasking is impairing your productivity and efficiency and suggested turning off notifications on your devices.
I know this may be easier said than done. We don’t want to miss important calls from a prospective customer or an urgent question from a team member. So, how to go about it?
Here are 3 steps that’ll help you work around this problem:
Ask yourself the question: What is the time of day with the least calls or disruptions? This could mean dealing with kids at home, answering calls from your team or customers, you name it.
This time with the least disruptions is your focus time, time to work on your complex and important projects or tasks. Turn off notifications on all your devices or set them on flight mode, turn off everything that would distract you, and yes, that means TV and radio, and get to work.
Everything that will land in your inbox or on your voicemail will be attended to after your focus time.
Last but not least, don’t allow anybody to “steal” this time from you (emergencies excluded of course). Inform your team, your colleagues, or your family that you’ll be offline for x-amount of time and available afterwards.
I know, it’s far more difficult with kids. But even with kids there are periods in your day during which they won’t need you. Maybe you have to be more flexible. Maybe you have to limit your focus time to 20 minutes instead of one hour. Whatever time you can carve out make sure you use it well.
Remember, there is no such thing as perfect, but there is always the best we can do.
“Oh, I just want what we all want: a comfortable couch, a nice beverage, a weekend of no distractions and a book that will stop time, lift me out of my quotidian existence and alter my thinking forever.”
I subscribe to a newsletter written by Jonathan Fields which is all about living a good life. A couple of days ago I found an email in my inbox, and it started like this: (excerpt of Jonathan’s Newsletter):
“Have you noticed, things tend to keep speeding up?
It’s a natural consequence of life. Compounded in a big way this year.
Our reaction, when that happens, is to speed up, ourselves, so we can keep up.
But, then keeping up becomes the new norm, and the firehose of pace keeps coming.
So, we cope by speeding up. Again. And, again. And, again.
At some point, we can’t handle it anymore.
Keeping up becomes blowing up.
We’re brought to our knees, forced to reckon.
What if your reaction to the quickening cycle of life was not to speed up, but to slow down?
[…] Not in a “head in the sand” way, but in a “I know what matters” way.”
How often do we commit to something because we haven’t thought about the consequences for ourselves or what matters to us? How many times do we agree to do something because it is expected of us, but is not really what rocks our boat? Each time we give away a bit of our time…
The problem with that is, it is not only the time we give away, we also give away our purpose, our fulfilment, our contentment. We become irritated, frustrated, and may even lose our energy.
So, slowing down may be the only way you discern what’s important from what’s a distraction in your life, leading to better decisions for yourself and eliminating “random” commitments.
It’s your choice, and you may be surprised by what you’ll find.
Sometimes the best way to make progress is stepping away from whatever we are doing. It may sound counterproductive, so let’s have a look at why this may be true.
Imagine you are working on a project and have made quite some progress, but all of a sudden you get stuck. You run into a problem and, for the life of you, you can’t figure out how to solve it.
Instead of wracking your brain hour after hour, going for a walk, talking with a colleague, getting your daily exercise in, may be far more conducive to finding the solution because you allow your brain to shift and get a fresh perspective.
How often have you struggled with a task and just because you were called away from it you later realized that the solution was staring you in the face, you just didn’t see it? Or you notice something that has escaped you before?
Don’t wait for someone to call you away. Take the initiative!
Take a break. Do something unrelated. Give yourself some time to look at the problem with a fresh set of eyes. I bet you’ll come up with an answer.
Every time I hear the word “multitasking” I cringe. Why? Because 99% of humans can’t do it. It’s a myth. What we may perceive as or call “multitasking” is in fact the splitting of our attention between tasks. Our brain very quickly moves back and forth between tasks and that is costing energy and brain power.
The worst part? We tend to make mistakes or overlook important details and have to redo our work or correct our mistakes.
What does this mean in terms of our productivity and efficiency? Instead of being faster and more efficient, we actually need more time. This is particularly significant when we’re working on complex problems or tasks. Once taken out of our train of thought by a notification, a phone call, a quick chat, you name it, we need to find our way back to where we have left off.
Do you have time to squander? If the answer is no, I invite you to turn off your notifications on your devices, turn off your TV, and turn off your radio when you need to concentrate on a complex task. Your work will be better for it, and you will be done quicker. If you want to read a little more about multitasking, go to my blog: The Myth of Multitasking
Have you had this experience? You started your day deciding you will finish one specific task, and at the end of the day you didn’t even come close to looking at it, let alone working on it? That’s why it is a good policy to start with the most important task at the beginning of your day.
You are fresh, your brain is in its most active phase, and you get a great sense of accomplishment and boost for the rest of your day.
Do you have a sweet tooth? I certainly do. That’s why one of my favorite things to do in the Advent Season is baking Christmas cookies. I love the smell of the spices used in Christmas cookies, I love the smell in the house when they are baking in the oven, and I love decorating the cookies. But best of all, I love eating them together with my family, sitting at the living room table, lighting candles in our Advent wreath, brewing a delicious cup of coffee, and indulging in the cookies. Yum.
My first batch of Christmas cookies is already gone. That means, I’m off to new baking “adventures” this afternoon. What are you up to this second Advent Sunday?