I have to ask myself, "Are you productive, or busy?" several times a day and have discovered my benchmark of productivity is that day before vacation. You know, you want all those little things off your plate so you can enjoy those days off without thinking about work. That last day of work I am laser focused, I have a list, I don’t respond to the ding of messages on my cell phone, it is all about getting those final tasks completed.
To be that focused I have found a few tricks to keep myself from being distracted. (This coming from a guy that has called his office the time machine. I get to work in the morning and the next thing I know it is time to head home. When I look back at the day, it was just a blur). Here is a list of things to reduce distractions:
- Turn off notifications. (Email notifications on the screen or noise from your computer)
- Postpone Instant messaging. Remember you want to stay focused. Just turn it off for a few hours.
- Block distractions. Close your door, put headphones on; Do whatever it takes to block off the world for a little while.
- Be prepared. Make sure when you sit down you have everything you need. (coffee, snack, pen, etc.)
It is not enough to stay focused, you must know what you are focused on. For me it starts with a list. I am all digital so that list lives in OneNote. Part my success with a list is adding a date and time that the item needs to be complete. I am very good at sticking with those dates. One thing that also helps me is that each list item has a check box in front of it so that I can mark it off when I've finished. It sure feels good to check things off the list.
Then celebrate! When you get a major item checked off the list take a quick break, a walk around or reward yourself with whatever you find most enjoyable. This reinforces that feeling of completion. To be honest, I need to spend a little more time on this.
Don’t get stuck in that empty feeling of busy where you are constantly distracted, not getting anything completely done, just a little worked on and ultimately not feel like you have done anything. Spend just a few moments focusing on the results and you may find each day to be like the start of a vacation.