It doesn’t matter who you are or what your position is, we’re all subject to a constant flow of potential distractions while we’re working. Some may be short, and some cause us to ask, “Where did the day go?” The problem is we all have a finite amount of time each day to accomplish what really matters. If you’re a small business owner then your time is precious and the little distractions in your day can end up having a huge impact on your income, and your chances for long-term success.
The top distractions for most people tend to be phone calls, email, meetings, chatty colleagues and the time-sucking black hole that is the internet. So how do we avoid these distractions and ensure the greatest productivity without relegating ourselves to a sensory deprivation chamber between the hours of 9 and 5 each day? Start with firm schedules and agendas, self-discipline, unbreakable rules, and incentives.
Firm Schedules and Agendas
Create a default diary for yourself that is fixed each week then add in the variable items that fill in the rest of your time. Establishing a routine is a great way to create a habit and that’s what you need in order to improve your focus. If you can, start each day with exercise, this gets the blood pumping, sets you in a good mood, and improves focus and energy. Also try reflection and meditation, this will allow you to concentrate on the day ahead and think clearly about what it will take to have the most success and to best engage those around you. Meetings, both internal and external, should have a clear stated agenda. Let people you plan to meet with know what the purpose of the meeting is, the topics to be covered, and the expected start and stop times. That way everyone knows what to expect, is more likely to come prepared, and understands the meeting will end as stated so they can avoid getting off track.
This is a tough one for some people (me included!). We are often our own worst enemy, especially when facing a task that we dislike. You can help this by planning to do the things you don’t like first thing each day (known as ‘eating the frog’). Get them done so you can move on to what you do enjoy and so finish the day in a good mood. Turn off distracting beeps and buzzes from your phone and computer. Most calls are unimportant and can go to voice mail. Let people know you only check email and voicemail two or three times a day and to make sure they leave a message if you need to get back to them. Schedule the checking and responding into your default plan so you can stay on track. And stay away from the social networks at all costs! Prioritise your work each day so the high priority work gets done first and the optional items wait until later. That way if your timeline slides, the important items still get finished. Keep a notepad with you to jot down new items that will need to go into the schedule later.
If you’re a particularly social person, you have to limit yourself each day to how much time can be spent chatting about non-productive topics. If the time you’re spending isn’t adding to your bottom line, then you’re losing money. Try not eat lunch alone. Find people to spend lunch with who can add to your revenue down the road. Bring an employee who needs a boost or to have a confidential conversation away from work. Use the time to build rapport, improve relationships and be productive while you fuel up. Stay off the internet! It sucks in most people and results in huge amounts of lost time. Otherwise, get in, get out, and save yourself. If you can delegate, do it. If you shouldn’t do it, can’t do it, don’t want to do it, then delegate it, UNLESS you have to do it, should do it, are the only one who can do it or just plain love doing it and can afford the time. If it’s not worth your time or not worth the hourly rate of what you should be paying yourself, then it should probably be delegated to someone else so you can spend your time on activities that grow and improve the business. A business coach or mentor will help you achieve more by accelerating growth to a pace they would never reach alone. 70% of all Fortune 500 companies and 100% of all pro sports teams have coaches, why don’t you?
Set yourself a big personal goal or important business goal that you are pushing hard to achieve in the next 12 months. Now try this; place Post It notes at your computer, your bathroom mirror, wherever you end up when you’ve been distracted, and write on them, “Is this worth not achieving my goal?” Make sure you take time to celebrate wins and achievements, it’s very important to recognise high performance. We need to take time to pat ourselves and our teams on the back once in a while.
Finally, spend the end of each work day preparing for the next day. Position papers and materials you’ll need first thing in the morning. Review tomorrow’s schedule and understand what’s coming up. Call or email people who you plan to meet with tomorrow to remind them of the meeting and anything they may need to bring or do in order to make it most productive. Set yourself up for a winning day tomorrow and then go home, relax, unwind, stop being on-the-job and find time for balance in your life. Make your business a vehicle for the life you want and not the other way around and get moving on improving.