Are you one of those people who has six million tabs open at once, but at the end of the day, can't point to a single task completed according to plan? Sigh.
Join the millions of people who get distracted by all the dings, alerts, and seemingly urgent notifications popping up on every device and app throughout the day.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by what you never seem to get done, here are some tips on "time-chunking" to keep you focused and productive.
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Chunk Your Time
A Standford University study noted the incredible effects of multitasking. The study observed that "people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time."
With this in mind, it might be a good idea to "time-chunk." This is a way of organizing all of your similar activities at one time so you don't lose focus or productivity switching between tasks. Time-chunking can be done by the hour or by the day. For example, you might designate Monday as your writing day and Tuesday as your email and social media day.
The other alternative is to chunk your time hourly or according to the time of day. I know many salespeople that reserve the mornings for cold-calling and then spend the afternoons on email. If you're not sure which type of time-chunking would work for you, try it a few scheduling variations then settle on the one that makes you most productive. By productive, I mean that you are able to accomplish your goals. Which brings me to the next point.
Have a Goal
Time-chunking might be useless if you don't have goals tied to your tasks. Make sure you understand what the outcome of organizing your time should be. Otherwise, you might miss the point entirely and succumb to the temptation of frantically responding to every "urgent" notification.
Remember, if reacting to every tug on your attention won't contribute to purposeful productivity, you'll need a higher motivation to help you stay on task. That's where goals come in. Take time to create goals that translate into either money, tasks completed or both. Your goals will also guide the plan you need to execute for reaching your ideal productivity levels. So let's talk about that plan.
Plan Your Chunks
Once your goals are in place, you'll want to create a set of tasks that will help you reach these goals. This is called your plan. For example, if your goal is to make $100k in sales for Q2, work backward to the activities that will get you there. The "numbers game" might indicate that for every 200 companies you call on, you close about $20k of business.
Well, now you know how many phone calls you'll need to make each day to reach that goal. Plan your day so that cold-calls get done according to time-chunks designated for that activity. Proceed to create additional time-chunks for separate, unrelated tasks like checking and responding to email or catching up on expense reports.
Schedule Your Chunks
I heard someone once say, “If it doesn’t get scheduled, it doesn't get done." Use your handy-dandy calendar app to block out time for the activities you believe are important to your goals. This is especially important if you work in an environment where others have access to your calendar and can make meeting arrangements for you. Add alerts to your calendar block to prepare and remind you for your upcoming time of total focus on a single, scheduled activity.
Cut Off Distractions
If you've designated an hour or two each day for writing, try to keep all distractions at bay. Shut down other tabs in your Internet browser and keep your cell phone out of sight if you'll be tempted to answer texts or hop on social media. If you must, let friends, family, and co-workers know that this part of your day is protected and other activities will have to be scheduled around it.
Revisit and Tweak as Needed
Let's say you try time-chunking for a week and nothing gives. Maybe you fail miserably and actually get less done than before. Not to worry. That's why it's called practicing self-control. This is a discipline that must be practiced because you might not get it right away and that's OK.
If you've been used to working in a disorganized fashion for much of your working life, then adopting this new approach could prove difficult at first. Try a few things and adjust your goals, planning or time-chunk arrangements accordingly. Find something that works and perfect it until you reach the pinnacle of productivity or until you just get a ton of things done.