It’s 8:00am and you are sitting down to read over your email for the first time today. Of course you checked it a couple of times on your iPhone before you actually sat down in front of your desktop computer to read it, but you haven’t actually responded to any of them yet. As you start to scan over your in-box you glance to your right and notice a pile of papers sitting on that side of your desk. Yesterday’s unfinished administrative stuff. Your eyes scan your desktop to the left and they lock on three envelopes yet to be opened. One of them is American Express bill. You’ve been meaning to go paperless on that bill but haven’t taken the time to go on-line to take care of that task. The second envelope is junk and you pitch it. The third envelope is from your local grocery store and contains a bunch of coupons. You open it, scan through it and find something that might be of use the next time you go shopping. You pick up your phone and remember those two phone calls from yesterday that you need to return. Well, it hasn’t been 24 hours yet, you still have time, but you jot down the names on a scrap piece of paper. You’ll get to that, later.
Before you know it, it’s 9:30 and a second cup of coffee sounds really good right about now. Although you haven’t really done anything yet, you already feel way too busy today and although it’s only 9:30 you realize the day is going to go by way too fast, and will probably be over before you even have a chance to get started. The coffee tastes good as you look over the handful of business cards you picked up at the networking event last night. You’ll send your new contacts a handwritten note. On second thought, an email would be much faster, so you pick up one of the business cards and start to compose an email. As you look to your computer screen to compose the email, you notice nine more emails have come into your in-box. Uggggh, you seem to be going backwards, getting nothing done, losing traction and destined for finishing the day with more items on your to-do list by the end of the day.
No better time than now to check your social media hotspots. Facebook, the ultimate social media time suck pulls you in, 26 more minutes gone. Well, you are scanning your competition’s wall, so it really is considered competitive research, right? A check of LinkedIn, 2 new connections and a scan of the job postings yields another 12 minutes gone. Twitter feed, 4 more minutes lost and before you know it, you are hungry for lunch. Half of your day gone and you have accomplished absolutely nothing, but man, you are busy.
Does the above scenario seem familiar? You’re not alone, Salary.com reports that nearly 9 out of 10 employees either waste time or misdirect their time during their work date. Businesses in the U.S. are spending billions of dollars a year on wasted, distracted or nonproductive time. Lost time can result in lost business, lost opportunity and possibly a failed business. With so much time focused on the wrong activity, how can you possibly manage to get back on track after being derailed for so long.
Here’s how -- Studies show that if you can get your brain focused on shorter, easier to obtain goals, you can trick yourself into action. Short, attainable micro goals will do the trick. Set a 5 minute goal to take notes about the activities you need to accomplish during the course of your day. Don’t look at the overall day, 42 emails, 4 phone calls, 2 projects, a partridge in a pear tree and counting. Tackling all of those tasks is overwhelming and thoughts of too many tasks will create negative energy. Erase the thought that in five minutes you can accomplish nothing, so you may as well hop onto social media to do some looking around. I’d rather have 5 minutes to focus on something important and productive than waste 30 minutes on YouTube. Once you hit the 5 minute mark, go for another 5 minutes. Keep beginning until you reach the end of a big task. You will find stringing together 10 tasks of 5 minutes each is much easier than taking on one 50 minute task.
Here are a several other “tricks” that will help you get back on track:
Stop multitasking. Try to avoid the temptation of doing many things at the same time because your day is filled to the max. Focus on one task at a time to help you manage your time better. Turn off your email or put your cell phone in the drawer while you are working on a project. Unless you are fully focused on a task you are not being your most productive self.
Half baked is half assed. Complete each task before you move onto the next one. If your task isn’t complete it is going to stay on your to-do list and that is not good news for anyone. Get it done, check it off the list and move on.
Look at where you are going. Success is a huge motivator. The more you have it in your life the more you want it in your life. Success makes you happy, helps build your self esteem and puts you in a proper positive mindset. You don’t have to cross the finish line in first place to feel satisfied, but you do need to cross it to be successful.
Delegate where you can. We all know that no one can do it better than you -- or can they? Give someone else a shot to run with ball. You do not need to go it alone. Ask for help, you will be amazed at how well other people will rise to the occasion when given an opportunity to help.
You need to realize that along the way you will have urgent matters that pop up, problems that need to be fixed and people that need your time and attention. It’s ok, don’t get overwhelmed, it will all get done. Once you are able to start ticking items off of your list, 5 minutes at a time, your days will become less stressful, much more productive and you will feel much better about yourself.
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